Well, I did not think the girl
Could be so cruel
And I'm never going back
To my old school
It was a Sunday afternoon in early June, 1970. Highland Park, Illinois. High school graduation day.
I didn't like high school very much. The memories are more bad than good. By graduation day, I had already checked out of school and was ready to move on whatever was next.
What I remember most about that day is my clunker of a car broke down on the way home after the ceremony. I can picture a classmate driving past me as I waiting for the car to get towed. As she drove past, I thought I would never have to be in that school or building again.
Well the never again didn't quite happen. In fact, it lasted less than a week. One of my teachers called and said I needed to turn in an assignment to get a passing grade in her class. I remember thinking "are you fucking kidding me?", but I did bring her whatever she wanted because my plans for the fall of 1970 didn't include taking one class at Highland Park High School.
It's close to five decades since that June day. I've been back in the old school a few times. Back in the seventies, there was a swine flu epidemic scare. The high school was the place to get your vaccinations. I walked into the building, saw a long line starting at the entrance. It was winding past the old glass hallway into the cafeteria. I made a decision that I didn't need a swine flu shot and the whole thing was just a scam. I left the high school. I was right.
I've been there one other time. It was for a basketball game about twenty years ago. I went to see a friend's son play.....grudgingly.
Okay, so it's three appearances in forty-nine years. Yeah, it's not never, but pretty close.
For some reason, I've felt an urge to see the old school. I can't tell you why. There have been other chances to go. Every reunion comes with an opportunity for a school tour but I've never been interested.
Last Friday was the night!
My old school, Highland Park, played a basketball game against it's crosstown rival, Deerfield. I'm in a relationship with a woman who is a Deerfield alum (hi honey). I called her up to see if she would want to go to the game with me. She surprisingly said yes (thanks honey).
Friday night hoops in Lake County! Date Night USA!!! Life in the fast lane in the burbs.
Now here's where it gets interesting.....
Every time I enter this town, I think I'm going to know someone. It could be at a restaurant, a grocery store, the train station. It rarely happens. I figured this would be the same thing.
Honestly, I didn't want to know anyone at the game. I was hoping...praying...that most 65-70 year olds weren't regulars at their old high school basketball games. I was hoping....praying we were more evolved than that.
It took less than five minutes for me to find someone I knew. We made eye contact, waved to each other and then I started to look around. Hmmm...there's a former classmate of mine. Hey, there's another person I recognize. As the gym started to fill up, I saw more and more people that I knew.
What the Hell is going on here tonight? Did all these people know I was coming and wanted to welcome me back home?
Turns out that the school was honoring one of it's former coaches for fifty years of service. A lot of his former students/players showed up in support. And I thought it was just going to be me. Pfffft.
I ended up spending most of the game looking around and trying to put names to older faces. I was much more interested in that than I was the game....and that's okay.
As the years go by, people change. We grow up. We mellow. We get better as human beings. We have more in common with the folks we went to school with, than differences. We've been through the same experiences. Marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren, deaths. It turned out that a lot of the kids I disliked in school, I like as adults. If we aren't really friends, we're at least friendly. That's a good...a great thing.
Even the former classmate who drove past me on that June day. We were friends until she died about five years ago. I wish she could have been there Friday night.
The score of the game...well, that doesn't matter. The night ended up being about relationships and memories. I guess I really could go on back to my old school.
So take me away, I don't mind
But you better promise me, I'll be back in time
Gotta get back in time
*song lyrics from Steely Dan "My Old School" and Huey Lewis "Back In Time"
Related Post: I never thought I'd be a reunion guy
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