Appreciate the History That’s Made You What You Are Today
This week I discovered a Facebook page launched by a girl (probably more like woman now) from the Catholic elementary school I attended. On it, I found yearbook pictures of me and the 32 eighth graders that graduated with me over 30 years ago. A buddy of mine topped it off by posting our 3rd grade class picture. (That’s me in the top middle wearing a red shirt.)
The exchange of Facebook wall messages between a dozen or so of us over the past several days has stimulated parts of my brain I haven’t used in over three decades. In a matter of days, we have:
- reconnected several disjointed clusters of folk,
- reminisced about very specific events (like our full class detention due to the doings of someone who shall remain nameless) and
- discovered the whereabouts of people I never thought I’d hear from again.
When I drove my oldest daughter to college four years ago (I can’t believe she graduates in just two weeks) I remember telling her her,
“You are kicking off your own personal history. It’s separate from Mom’s, your sister’s and mine. Your personal history is a special and personal thing. Never take it for granted.”
I was wanting her to relate her going away to college with the 25 year relationships I’ve developed over the past 25 years with my Purdue grad school college buddies.
As a part of growing up, everyone shares a common history with their family and friends. Mine definitely included close ties with my Catholic elementary buds. It included:
- a 1970’s 2nd grade picture clad with dated outfits posing in front of the church convent,
- the coffee song Sr. Gertrude taught us,
- a booger picking teacher who would store the discharge behind her ear (I swear I’m not making this one up),
- attending the funerals of the parents of several of us kids whose parents passed during our elementary school years and
- the coolest teacher ever – a female auto mechanic who’s hippy ways led to her premature departure from our lives. (Hippy, 1970’s, Catholic school – it just wasn’t meant to be.)
In those years, we shared so much. Several of us were on the same swim team so we spend tons of time at competitions and grueling practices. I can clearly recall my first kiss first kiss (and maybe the second and third one too). Some of these ladies (now they’re ladies and not girls) know who they are. It includes getting in trouble with several the eighth grade guys and a week of forced labor we got picking up rocks in the school yard. The list goes on.
The good number of us shared nine years together (K through 8th grade) and a few of us even more since we attended high school together. These and many other unique experiences form a part of my own very personal, mental history.
I shared these pictures and a few stories with my wife and daughters this week. Talk about fodder for a few good laughs. My daughter texted me, “Dad, you’re the tallest little kid in the class.” We all cracked up about my “Look! There’s a UFO” clueless stare in my 8th grade picture.
After this, something became very clear came to me. To my wife and kids, this is an interesting peek into the window that is me. They learned something more about my life, but it’s obviously a life that is completely foreign to them. To me, however, it’s “Me!” It’s the vast reopening of a personal world of memories I haven’t explored in such a long time.
I’m feel very drawn to finding out where all these people landed. My exchange with one girl (here I am calling them girls again) led to me finding out she’s a grandma. A second one is also a grandma. Wow! Grandparenthood. It’s not that we’re not old enough because we are, it’s just that it hasn’t happened to me yet. One has a fancy retail store with women’s clothing. Remembering her, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Someone said one of the guys (maybe the one that caused the class detention) is a conservationist they saw on TV.
As I told my daugher when she started college, when you leave the nest you start a new history. That’s just the way it works. What I hadn’t really thought about until this week is that the intersection of histories with my wife (who I’ve known since before we started “going steady” 30 years ago tomorrow) didn’t start until quite a bit of me had already happened. It’s a history I hadn’t spent much time reviewing, but man does it take up a much bigger emotional part of me than I realized. This week I’ve been given the blessing of re-opening and re-experiencing something really intimate. I can’t help but be extremely grateful.
I’m really looking forward to this reunion a few of us have already discussed. Maybe we can even have it at the Sr. Emily Hall. It’s a building erected many years after we all left the place. It honors the sweetest ol’ lady who also played a part in our history and is very much a part of my becoming the personl I am today.