In retrospect

33 years later, an email from a high school classmate, one I hadn’t heard from since graduation. Married, grown son, graduate degree, responsible position. Some of us did turn out as it was hoped we would.

She’d been reminded of me by a mutual business acquaintance and reached out as people sometimes do when the past unexpectedly pops out of the present. I replied in the same vein. A bit delighted, a bit dismayed.

I’m thinking now about how different I felt we all were in high school. Different from everybody who wasn’t us. We attended the real private academy, the one that wasn’t sports-obsessed. The one that wasn’t about money.

Still, there was the history teacher who talked derisively about the “Japs” and who intentionally mispronounced Toyota as “tye-ota” (rhymed with “high-ota”). There was the board that disallowed the band I wanted to hire for our senior prom because one of its members was black.

But my memories of the place and the people, taken as a whole, are positive. Songs on the radio. A fast car. A white leisure suit. Dances. Dates.

It was home in a way that no place has been home since. I’m reminded again of what Emily says about the living after she’s died. She says, “They don’t understand, do they?” And Mrs. Gibbs, who’s been dead a little longer, says, “No, dear. They don’t understand.”

Try as we might.

Try as I do.