As part of that reconnecting, I have found my way back to a piece of me in high school. Not just through my classmates (many of whom are on Facebook,) but through the basketball program. A guy who was a local sports writer when I was in high school was a great friend of our basketball program and an unofficial assistant coach - of sorts. He would come to all of the practices and games, and even ran drills and played pick-up with us. He is still involved with the program (I think he even became an "official" assistant at one point) and now posts from time to time about the current team and players and our coach. There is also now a separate page for the girls' basketball program, where updates and pictures are posted.
It was a picture in one of those recent posts that struck me. It was a picture of our friend, Don, being carried by several players, to a birthday celebration. It looks like the picture was taken in a cafeteria, but having never been in the new school building, I can't be sure. What struck me at that moment, was that the high school that I attended - the physical building - was gone. Thomas Wolfe said "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." In this instance, that quote could not be more true, since part of my childhood no longer exists.
I went back to Jefferson last summer, for my 20th high school reunion. My best friend and I drove to the high school and wandered around the new football stadium and peeked into some windows of the new school. (It sits on a spot that was an overgrown field 20 years ago.) The spot where our school building stood is now mostly a parking lot. There are no markers, no sign of what was. I can never go back to that building, its layout etched forever in my mind, and wander the halls. I can't go back to my old locker and see if the combination is still the same: 20-32-10. I can't poke my head into Mr. Mizer's biology class and see if he is still torturing students with frog dissection. (I was his teacher's aide senior year and used to come in every morning with a can of Pepsi and a pop-tart and laugh at the kids in his bio class.) This is one situation when I cannot go back, even if I really wanted to. (And sometimes, I really want to.)
As I looked at the picture in the recent post, of life continuing on at the "new" school, I was a bit sad and I wondered - does anyone there remember me? Is there anything at the "new" school that marks me or my class - that we passed through? Do those kids even know about us?
It is human nature, I think, to expect that people feel the same way about us that we feel about them. When we leave and miss someone, we expect and hope and believe that the other person feels the same way as we do, and misses us just as much. Unfortunately, of course that is usually not the way "life" goes. Consider a couple that breaks up. The girl may move on, thinking that there is something better out there for her and has no plans to come back to the guy. She picks up and moves on. But at the same time, if he moves on and starts dating someone else, she might get angry or jealous. Even though she is moving on, she expects him to sit around and wait. She hopes that she meant so much to him that when she is gone, his life ceases and he must sit and wait for her to come back, in order for his life to begin again.
In some ways, I find myself hoping that the same is true for places that I've been. I left Jefferson, Ohio 21 years ago. I packed my car for college and aside from the usual trips home for the holidays, I did not look back. While I know that life moved on, a small part of me almost wishes that the clocks had all stopped the day I left. For in that, wouldn't it prove just a tiny bit of worth on my part? Would it mean that I was important to someone or something there? That I had just as much impact on the place and time, as the place and time had on me?
I have also reconnected with many friends from college - those 4 brief years that I spent in upstate New York. So much living and so many experiences crammed into 48 short months, and then I packed my car again - this time to LA, where I still am. It has been 17 years, and I have been back twice. And yet, when I see my old friends from college posting about their lives and I see postings on the school's alumni page, I can't help but feel that same tiny bit of a question - what about me? Do you remember me? Does anyone there today know what we went through in that place?
Some of my nostalgia these days could also be blamed on my playing basketball again. Last year I got connected with the Lady Lawyer's League - a group of women from Georgetown Law, who had all played ball in college and decided that it didn't have to end with graduation. They set up leagues and began playing on a regular basis. When some of the group moved to other parts of the country, the league followed. The LA branch had set up a tournament, and I decided to play. (Crazy, considering it had been a few years since I had played.) It only took a few minutes for all of the memories to start washing over me, the smell of the gym, the sound of the ball hitting the hardwood, and the words of the coach ringing in my ears. (Although I played ball in college, I think my high school coach had much more of an impact on me and it has been his lessons that have stuck with me.) I was asked to join the team that I was matched with, for their regular Sunday leagues and have been playing most of the last year. It is almost like riding a bicycle, coming back to play after so many years. There are some things you just never forget.
Going back to my high school team - Don posted a link today to an article he wrote, about the end of the Winter sports season and that feeling for seniors, when you know it is the last time you will be on that floor, with that team, those people, those friends. You can see his article here: http://starbeacon.com/
I have grown up in the 21 years since that picture was taken and have experienced more loss and heartbreak, some of which has been public and some not. I've moved more times than I can remember and have made friends in many places. I can only hope that the people I've met remember me as fondly as I remember them, and that in some small way, each of the places that I have been is changed for my having been there and, without me, won't ever be quite the same again.