[Addendum: For this to make sense, be aware I’m on vacation]
So, here I am sitting in someone else’s house, in a place where I grew up, but I never knew this house, or the road it sits on, existed in all the time I lived here. Now that’s a pretty weird thing to admit. It’s undoubtedly a bit mind-blowing to me. But in a way it makes sense, since for the majority of the time I lived here, I didn’t drive. I generally rode on a series of school buses, on different routes, through the backwoods and byways of the town, picking up my classmates and ferrying us all to school. Too, my parents, the ones that DID drive, would have places to go, and very rarely did we visit them in their houses. Typically, it would be at some public function in town, at the school, what have you. My parents weren’t really what one would call social butterflies.
The reason I’m here is mainly for my 40th High School Reunion. Which was last night. Prior to that, in the afternoon was a small get-together at the local pavilion, behind the town pool. Just an informal affair, some of us got together in order to socialize and share information in an atmosphere that was a bit less raucous than what was going to happen that evening at the local Legion Hall. I had contemplated not going, but I was talked into it by my friend Andy, who I happened to run into on the way here. What were the odds of 2 people, from the same HS, 40 years removed from seeing one another, just happening to run into one another at a random rest stop on I-90. Damn, I should have played the lottery Friday evening.
One of the organizers of the reunion (John) had brought his old yearbook and another (Kevin) had rifled through his closets and come up with newspaper clippings and memorabilia of our time in school. News stories from the old local paper (that has now gone defunct) detailing our exploits and occasional shortcomings, pictures from the day we graduated, as well as of the rehearsal that occurred a couple of days prior to the actual event. What I most remember about the day was that it was really HOT in the school auditorium (in recent years the graduations have been held outdoors, in front of the high school, on bleachers). I still have my yearbook, it’s in storage back home. I was dreading a little finding the page where my picture was, because of the quote that I picked to have underneath it.
Myself and religion have been at loggerheads for the past 34 years. Ever since my mother started having issues with her liver, from spending a lifetime drinking and smoking, 2 vices that really did a number on her. Then the second shoe with my Dad being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease while I was still in college. The local pastor did what he could to help out, but his platitudes about ‘God doesn’t give us any more than we can handle’ more and more sounded like a con, or BS to be blunt. I don’t know about how you, dear reader feel about religion, but to me, it more and more became very hollow and it didn’t make much sense. So after 1989 when my Mom died at home, and I was left with an ailing father to care for, attempt to work a full-time job and all that came with it, religion and me went our separate ways. For a long time I classified myself as an agnostic, but finally talking to someone about it all I came to understand that I’m more of an atheist. If you’re not, that’s fine by me. You believe whatever you want to. Or not. I’ve had my epiphany, I’ve made my decision and I’m content with it.
So, getting back to the quote under my senior picture. I remember going around and around what I wanted under the picture. There were two options. Some quote, or nothing at all. Even back then yearbook editors and publishers were somewhat savvy, you couldn’t get too cute with what you had in your picture or quote. No special hand gestures in the picture, it had to be approved by the yearbook staff as well as the editors in the publishing house. No hardcore lyrics from heavy metal bands, nothing vulgar at all, since it was going to be a very G-rated affair. If you want to swear, go write on the bathroom wall on the 2nd floor of the HS. And hope that Mr. Cotting didn’t recognize your handwriting.
I finally went with something simple. I really wanted ‘To thine Ownself be True’ but someone else already had that, so I had to have a second choice. I know, why did it matter if 2 people had the same quote? But it did, so I went with my backup, a portion of John 15:12 from the Bible. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you“. Boom, there it is. That’s my quote. That’s what defines me in my yearbook for all eternity. Does it really make all that much of a difference? No, to me it’s the principle of the thing. I was religious back then, I’m not now. Though I suppose it could be argued that I’m no longer the person I was back then. That me was very inward, shy, not willing to take risks and closeted for the most part. There were a lot of reasons for that, none of which make any difference now, and I’m not really going to go into either. I guess it just irks me that I didn’t have the backbone to go with something a bit more topical? Perhaps something more edgy or ‘with the times’ instead of going with the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great quote, but it hasn’t aged well.
Kinda like my senior picture. I’m actually surprised as many people recognized me at the reunion.