“You can go through life and make new friends every year – every month practically – but there was never any substitute for those friendships of childhood that survive into adult years. Those are the ones in which we are bound to one another with hoops of steel.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Like so many others, through the magic of Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many of my early childhood friends. What a treasure. With the opening of that treasure chest, other jewels continue to reveal themselves. I chuckle as I discover little stacks of mementos that have survived years of neglect and the even higher odds of multiple cross-country moves.
Writing today’s story is such an enjoyable way to begin the weekend!
I wish I could put names on all these faces, but fifty plus years and a few adult beverages later, I feel it wise to let the smiling faces speak for themselves. These pictures were taken at the celebration of our last day of our last year in junior high. This day was all about us–a special day capping off a very special time.
These two years are filled with a wide array of memories. Some funny, some sad, and one, to be shared later, I find quite unbelievable. Our days began early because we traveled from Traer to Dinsdale for our seventh and eighth-grade years. These daily trips of about twelve miles or so fulfilled one of my childhood wishes. Being a town kid, I’d always wanted to ride the bus. Our reorganized school district utilized unused buildings for the junior high years. I’m not sure our parents agreed, but their decision felt like a personal gift to me.
Through wind, hail, rain, sleet, and snow, we made our way over hill and across dale to Dinsdale. If we were on the bus where the bus driver allowed us to make noise, a woman driver, we’d sing a whole jukebox full of the most popular songs of the time, practice songs from different school programs, or scream out school cheers. The other bus was the quiet bus. It was driven by a male driver. I can still see his steel-blue eyes reflected in the wide rearview mirror as he surveyed the bus, making sure we were behaving ourselves. From day one he told us there would be no yelling, no “roughhousing,” and no funny business. Loud or quiet bus, it was during these slow and steady rides I learned to play Pepper, failed to learn poker, and realized that this thing called love was difficult and pretty complicated in a small Iowa town in the early 60’s.
Little did I know, like the country song I’ve been hearing a lot lately, there is a “last time for everything.” Shortly after these pictures were taken, my family moved and I would lose my little circle of friends.
These pictures and a few others I clung to from this time, would become very special to me over the months and years to come. I’d look at these faces frozen in time, the tall, backlit windows, and that snippet of crap paper stretched across the walls. I even noticed the arrangement of the tables, who was sitting where, and the scattering of the chairs in the lunchroom. I’d sadly remember the innocent excitement of the day. I’d close my eyes, remembering the songs played, especially those few slow songs requested in hopes of being asked to dance by that one special person. I heard the pounding sounds of bare feet as we ran across the gym floor, the quick and high giggles of the girls intermixed with the embarrassed snickers of the boys, the sweet smells of nervous adolescence.
We were young, full of ourselves and our hopes of future. We could and would change the world. We were unstoppable. The future was at our fingertips and it was all ours.
Oh…that fickle finger of fate…
“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.”
― Lemony Snicket
I love you, my friends.
God bless each and every one of you.