A half-century of memories
“Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?”—Alan and Marilyn Bergman
Gosh, it just seems so unbelievable when you say it out loud: “50th class reunion.” I guess that’s because the laws of math just don’t give you an iota of wiggle room—if a half-century has past since you were graduated from high school, you can move right on past that “getting” part and willingly or not, wind up right smack at “old.”
But, like it or not, that’s exactly what a healthy number of the respective 1969 graduating classes of Clarksdale and Coahoma County high schools joined forces to jointly do here this past weekend, one, which if forced to sum up in a single word, I would opt for “comfortable.”
Out of the roughly 200 graduates of the two schools — created through the legal machinations surrounding the turbulent civil rights knee jerks of the 1960s in Mississippi — about 100 of us showed up, a number that is misleading due to the distinctly sobering fact that fully a quarter of us did not live long enough to be able to do so.
I had attended our first — the 10 year — reunion way back in 1979, but for one reason or another had been unable to attend another one since and so I spent last weekend in the company of some folks that i had literally not laid eyes upon or even spoken to in at least 40, and in some cases, fully 50 years.
And so there were a lot of mini-reunions among the larger one, some of which, as was to be expected, I found much more enjoyable than others. I observe people, read people and their words and things for a living, and despite telling myself that I was going to just “turn that off” for this occasion, not only was I unable to, but at some point I realized how foolish it had been to even try.
And so what were the trained observer’s observations?
Well, I guess most notably, it struck me that ours is probably not much different any other 100-member group of now going-on 70-year-old folks who grew up where and when we did. Almost without exception, the then boys and girls who were genuinely nice and fun to be around way back in high school still are now as men and women.
Funny thing, isn’t it? Class is not only endearing, but enduring.
Similarly, while there certainly are exceptions, always welcomed ones, to such a generalization as is “once an ass, always an ass,” those exceptions do strike me as being increasingly rare.
As you might imagine, some members of the CHS/CCHS class of 1969 have aged better than have others. Life is most fickle in its effects upon those of us who try to perform some combination of enjoying and enduring it, hence, time has added character to the youthful looks of some, enhancing them in the process, while those same years, at least in number, have served to produce a rather obviously visual, uh, erosion upon some others of us.
Some of us have done quite well in the ways that society measures success, especially of the financial variety, while others of us have been less fortunate and within any group of such size can be seen both the nobility and cringe worthiness with which individuals choose to conduct themselves, irrespective of their stations in life.
And, then of course, there are the handful who try to act and make others think that they have more than they do and appear rather pathetic when they all too obviously sidle up to the genuinely well-to-do in an effort to perpetuate their illusions, which if even self-satisfying, also serve to define them to those who know better.
(This behavior my father used to most derisively refer to as “trying to be a big shot,” and the minute degree of patience he had for it, I apparently inherited.)
But by-and-large, the 50th reunion of our Class of ’69 was a gathering of a group of plain old-fashioned good people who gave the overwhelming impression of being genuinely glad to see each other again after what had been for some, far too many years. Folks smiled at each other and they meant it. Folks hugged each other and they meant it. Old stories, most of them probably true, were enjoyed once again and the phrase “do you remember?” prefaced more of them than you could count.
The food was tasty, the music was good and the beverages flowed with an ease that never reached excess.
From the relaxed atmosphere of hors d’oeuvres at a clubhouse on Moon Lake to the slightly more formal one of a sit-down dinner at a country club in Clarksdale and the deja vu dance that followed it, the 50th reunion of this city and county’s class of ’69 was more than anything else, simply “comfortable.”
And you know, that’s important when you’ve moved right on past the “getting” to sho nuff “old.”
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.