I recently visited with some high school friends. To say they are high school acquaintances naturally means they are senior citizens. We get together a couple of times a year and their faces are very familiar to me, so they really don’t look old. As they speak, I still visualize them as being eighteen years old. On this occasion, there were acquaintances from the distant past that I hadn’t seen in over 50 years. I didn’t recognize these folks at all. They had grown old, grey, fat and wrinkled and when I compared them to the pictures in my high school yearbook there was no resemblance to the person I once knew. The lack of change associated with familiarity is a strange phenomenon. The same idea applies to many things we live with including furniture and cars. In my case it sure applies to many of the books I own. A high school annual I looked at this weekend seemed like it was issued only yesterday and I expected the people to look the same.
I like to meet with these old high school friends. We don’t brag about our accomplishments because they already know who we are and don’t need to be impressed. We talk a lot about our mutual friends who have passed on and reminisce about the way it was. These conversations bring into sharp focus the difference in life in our small town of today and times past. In the 50’s the small towns built around a courthouse square were the center of activity. Most of the shopping was done in the stores around the square and there was everything, ranging from groceries, clothing and medicines to hardware. The banks, doctor’s offices and even the lawyers were located around the square. The malls and Wal-Marts changed all this forever. The buildings are now empty shells or boarded in front with not even an echo of a solitary footstep. It’s a haunted place, especially after dusk. Not even the homeless frequent the place; even they are afraid of the ghost who occupies the dwellings which stand like the remains of an ancient civilization.
None of my high school friends are wealthy folks. Their greatest wealth is in the richness of their memories and their moral fiber. They have all worked hard and are now retired. Virtually all are conservative in their thinking and represent Middle America. The topics of conversation are not only about the past but about the concerns for the future. They are not especially critical of the lack of government action to solve things like the energy crisis. They are not quick to blame the government like many folks who are from the mold of Huck Finn’s father at one end of the spectrum and the intellectual at the other end. They are more concerned with the loss in the moral compass that America has followed since it began.
Our ramblings are just talk and there is probably nothing substantive that will change anything. Even if we came up with the solution for the energy crisis or a good way to end the Iraq War, I’m sure no one would listen. No one seems to represent us but they sure don’t mind taking or tax money. The best thing we can do is to continue to appreciate what we once had and what we once looked like. I keep the high school yearbook on the porch to remind me of those more pleasant times. I am more fortunate than most, because my partner was also my high school sweetheart and I am reminded of those times daily. I really don’t live in the past. The past lives with me in the present.