Steve Dixon was the first one I saw. Before we hugged and got to the front door, a million thoughts raced through my mind. Shoot, I remember him in the ninth grade; he and Mike Williamson were going wild over my old cowboy boots and original 501 Levis.
It wasn’t long before they had me out at the riding arena, teaching me how to “sit” a horse, turn on a dime, and rope a steer. I was showing them the “quick-hip, neck-snap” method of long-distance chewing tobacco spitting.
Jeri was standing just inside, smiling to beat the band. Just like always. I thought of the recent passing of her father. What great parents she had! No wonder she turned out so well.
Denise took six pictures of me before I could get to the food table. I recognized her effervescent smile from 50 years ago! John Paul was shaking my hand and grinning from ear to ear, “It’s good to see you, Coach.”
Catherine welcomed me with her beautiful smile. She married the best one of those Collier boys. Murry was laughing out loud as he slapped me on the back. I thought of the White City gang, and some shining times from yesteryear … .Smiling came easy to the Port St. Joe High School Class of 1973.
It was in their nature. I was 22 years old when I met most of them. I was fresh out of college and fairly clueless as to how one went about this teaching thing.
You would think they would have taken advantage of the “new” guy. But it WASN’T in their nature! From day one, every single one of them treated me with the utmost courtesy and respect.
And they taught me about Loretta Lynn, Jane Fonda, country music, West Tennessee, how to spot a Communist in a crowd… and a thousand other things.
They honored me by inviting me to their 50-year reunion.
I shook Doug’s hand and remembered how solid he was in the old days. Two minutes into our conversation, I realized nothing had changed. Talman was the leader of the Odd Squad. Carol was one I had “stayed close to” over the years. I thought of her parents, just super people.
Patti hugged me twice, maybe three times, but I remembered a powder puff football game where she wasn’t hugging me! She was screaming her head off over an “offensive holding” call I made that maybe cost her team the game.
I took one look at Gary, and as I always do, thought of him running down a faster player in an important playoff game because he had more heart than the other guy. Robbie wore number 53, and he knew things that normal people don’t think about. Danny was the “Chief.” He went home with me one Thanksgiving. And I loved his mom and dad. I reminded Ron how much his dad helped me in my early teaching career. Is there a theme going here on good parents for this class….
Lee Anna was one of the prime organizers of the reunion. Which surprised no one, she kept us organized back in ’73. We appreciated her efforts, then and now.
Marshall got his hair cut for the reunion. Debbie married Phil. JK taught me how to ski, and her parents treated me like a son. I often sit and wonder what Emit Daniels and Sandra Jolley are doing these days.
We all miss Sandra Kirk. And Leon, Danny, Brad, Barry, Raymond…. Sandra sat in the first seat on the right hand row against the wall, not always listening to me, but always smiling. As long as our memories live, they live on….
I could keep going here, “remembering” every single one of them, but you get the gist. This was a very, very special class. To say they were close would be the understatement of the century!
They got along with each other in 1973. They leaned on one another in high school. They cared for one another. They pulled for one another… and believe me, that is not always the case!
And boy howdy, did they teach each other! It’s amazing how one’s thoughts, outlook on life, hopes and dreams are fashioned by classmates in those formative years. It’s a special bonding as you chit-chat over tater tots in the lunchroom, whisper in the back of the class when no one is looking, cheer for each other when one of you is in the arena, enjoy a quiet word when passing in the hall….
I may be extremely prejudiced here, but I think they were about as good as it gets in the “growing as you go” game. They lived (and are living) life to the fullest, with malice towards none… and lots and lots of love for all.
Did I mention how smart this class was? They have a great handle on what is important… and what is not. Oh sure, they can be idiots at times. “Robbie, Murry, Gadi, Marshall… I’m not telling everything I know about you guys!” But they knew when and where to draw the line.
The whole group, from an early age, truly understood life comes around only once. There is no reason not to make the most of it!
I saw that live and in living color in 1973.
And I got to enjoy it all-over-again two weekends ago.
Thank you, Class, from the bottom of my heart… for letting me tag along…
With Utmost Respect,