Photo by Eryn Snowden-Rawley--it's the real thing
Growing up in the SE quarter of the US, I've lived a fair number of places and traveled throughout. As a consequence, I attended five grade schools (and I skipped first grade), two junior highs, and three high schools. By the time I got to my senior year, I was in a small, NE Texas school, with 60 in the graduating class. Now in addition to being 45 years ago, the only students I knew at all were in band.
I've since communicated with less than a handful of those folks, and I can barely associate the person with the matching school, let alone their names. I certainly wish them all the best. What I remember, of course, are clips of extraordinary events, and I haven't reviewed those particular tapes in a very long time.
Three very different bands, marching 8 to 5 and 6 to 5. No rifles or flags back in them days--twirlers and cheerleaders all the way, an occasional pep squad, which morphed into flags/rifles rampant on the gridirons of today. My loyalty and school spirit was based on the music. The color of the uniform didn't much matter.
In a way, it was difficult, considering the teen-age angst, the post-war cookie cutter existence. On the other hand, I really loved being a fringe dweller. Imagine--three dramas for the price of one adolescence. Spread over several states, I had the most delightful opportunity to see new things, hear new voices and music, and participate in distinctly different communities. I learned the value of observing and enjoying life from many perspectives. I learned to appreciate honesty, minimize the superfluous, and to step into the void, knowing that it would at the very least be an exciting adventure.
I didn't particularly like my senior year, going from a 4A to 3A band (I didn't give a shit about football--too busy in the stands and on the field), I had just gotten the piano chair in the jazz band, and I was going to be the sr. correspondent to the local newspaper. Poof--that all disappeared, and there was a twist at the new school. Something called "senior date" pretty much locked down the pairing up for the boy-girl events well before classes started. It was pretty grim, kind of like being on lockdown. I didn't mind not having a date, but I did get a little annoyed that somehow someone dumped someone else, and someone convinced them to invite me to the sr. dance, sort of like a "save face" scene for the boy, what with me being the safe, proper preacher's daughter, damsel in distress 'cause she didn't have a sr. date, who was rather taken aback that it was such a political thang, because the after-graduation party was a different story. The preacher's daughter got dumped, and the boy went to that party with someone else. Ho-hum. One of my five shortest relationships.
Notice that I'm hardly bitter about that--we graduated on a Friday night, and I started college Monday morning. Never looked back. The next two years were amazingly liberating, as I undertook to make up for lost time.
Sitting here in Austin, surrounded by some of the most open-minded thinkers in the world, I wonder what those former classmates are thinking about the current conditions of our country. Would we recognize kindred souls? Could we withstand the clash of radically different ideals? This is one of the primal issues that concern me about every class reunion: how far have we really come from violent racial hate? I use those words carefully. My grandfather told me tales of tarring and feathering black people, barely 20 years earlier. There was a sign that hung over the main street for decades. "XXXX, Texas. Blackest Land, Whitest People." As I recall, it was neon. It was still in place for several years after I graduated. New college friends plotted with me to take the sign down. One plan included something with a convertible and deep sea fishing tackle.
Two subsequent events make this issue particularly sensitive for me. My family is mixed. I only think about it when we run into a biased individual. The first incident involved a photo Christmas card of my daughter holding up her new baby cousin. A few years later, I was visiting an elderly in-law, and saw that she had carefully cut out the baby boy and stuck the remaining defaced photo of my daughter on her dresser mirror. I was gobsmacked. A tiny, premature, 4-pound infant was so difficult for her to accept she excised her denial and disposed of it. I get that it would have humiliated her to her friends. I also get that she was eaten up by hate.
The second incident was when I recognized disgust in the eyes of someone who visited me in my office. I have photos of my family around me to help de-stress at work. This person asked, "Who are those guys?" and when I told him, a wall slammed down. It didn't matter that the photos were professional comps, and that the gorgeous boys were models. That old sense of Texas tough guy, really only a mean bully, using disdain and contempt in an attempt to dominate the situation, especially when it involves a female, or persons with darker skin pigmentation. It was sickening and more than a little scary. Been through way too much of that shit to put up with it ever again.
So while I try to have as few preconceptions as possible, I would much rather go to my college reunion, which just happens to be in northern California, in an idyllic setting, full of peace-loving liberals, friends and fellow musicians with whom I'm still connected, and the very best place in the world for a little girl to grow up. I'd just as soon take a walk on Dillon Beach, hike up to the esteros, see if there are still scars from Christo's running fence. Buy a fresh abalone off a local diver, pick some dulse off the rocks, and build a fire in the shelter of a cliff. Greet old friends of nearly a decade, warm hugs and outpourings of humanity, caring, catch up on the 5 kids who were born at home in the bicentennial along with my daughter. Be free. Not worry about Americans plotting to kill other Americans.
I can't go back to those old shackles of high school.
Photo by Eryn Snowden-Rawley--it's the real thing
at 11:37 PM