Half of my hometown’s still hangin’ around
Still talkin’ about that one touchdown
They’re still wearin’ red and black
“Go Bobcats” while the other half
Of my hometown, they all got out
Some went north, some went south
Still lookin’ for a feelin’ half of us ain’t found
So stay or leave, part of me will always be
Half of my hometown. -Kelsea Ballerini
The country club is decked out in red and black, the colors of the Clinton Arrows. In the entrance, there sits a table with name tags. “Whew. That’s a relief.” I say to myself . It has been 20 years since I’ve been to a reunion. At that reunion, our 21 year old was just a toddler and our other two children weren’t a glimmer in our eyes. Most of the class of 1992 were just getting settled in careers, marriages, parenthood, and the like. And here we are twenty years later. A little older. Maybe wiser. Experienced. And middle-aged.
I find my nametag and hand my husband’s to him. The room is already pretty full considering we are a little late. As my eyes adjust to the dim light, I instantly recognize a few people. We exchange hugs and seem to gravitate towards conversations about our children. It’s always about the children, right?When I was in high school, it was about who was dating, what people were driving, wearing, and the like… but my dad has always said that life is the great leveler. I look around and I don’t see cheerleaders or popular athletes. I don’t see “nerds” or the shy, reserved classmates. We all either have careers, kids, spouses, or a combination of these. We probably all wear glasses or contacts, as well. I continue to greet former classmates and apologize to a couple for having to look closely at their name tags.
There is a table that catches my attention. A basket that contains our high school annuals is on one side, but beyond that I see senior portraits that are framed. The boys wear tuxes and the girls wear a black drape. They look timeless, not as if the pictures were taken in 1992. There are eight of these pictures, each illuminated by a single candle. This is the memorial table. These are the friends that have gone on before us these last thirty years. I will always remember them as being eighteen somehow.
A slide show highlights photos of dances, get togethers, parties, pep rallies, graduation, and dozens of other memories. At the time, taking pictures in the parking lot of the high school must have seemed trite, but now these are irreplaceable moments frozen in time. The wall on one side of the country club is covered with some of the same photographs. I see young people with their whole lives ahead of them… the girls with sequined gowns and pouffy hair and the guys sporting tuxes and cumberbunds to match their dates. The kids in the photos hadn’t had to pay bills, worry about children, jobs, health issues, or faced many of life’s hardships yet. But as I look around at all of us thirty years later, I see resilience, strength, and joy.
As the DJs play songs that take us back to simpler times of tight rolled jeans, teased hair, and Thursday night high school bonfires, we all gather outside on the twinkle lit patio to take pictures. The men take a group picture. The women take a group picture. Then we all take one together. I’m reminded of a time when we took these pictures in prom dresses and last day of senior year shirts that everyone signed. It can’t REALLY be 30 years ago that we graduated to real life, can it? But it is. And I’m blindsided with the profound reality that time really DID go by that quickly. We graduated. Grew. Made our own lives. Moved on.
As I take in the faces, sights, and sounds of this night, I almost feel transformed back to my youth. I look at each face and instead of seeing middle age adults that have come together for a few hours of reminiscing, I can still see those young people who had the world just waiting at their fingertips. I see parking lot conversations before school, pep rallies, Sonic runs, Blockbuster rentals, date nights, Jitney Jungle park lot meets, and 1000 other snapshots in time that maybe we just took for granted. We know better now, though. Time and wisdom seem to go hand in hand. And as I return home to the Coast, I know that I take part of my hometown of Clinton with me, too… the black and red. Go Arrows. And to the Class of 1992, all my love and best to you.
Thank you to all who worked so hard to plan our fabulous 30th reunion. You are appreciated. This blog is dedicated to the memories of our classmates who have left this Earth but remain in our hearts.♥️🖤