Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Blessing of Old Friends

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Graduation (Boy with Teacher), Norman Rockwell
Oil on canvas, The Saturday Evening Post, June 26, 1926

Tomorrow I embark upon a great adventure--the reunion with the Class of 1971 of my high school alma mater, Ruskin High.It's not just any reunion. This year marks the 40th anniversary of our trip across the dais of the cavernous R.L.D.S Auditorium to accept our diplomas. All seven hundred (and then some) of us!

Ruskin High School Class of 1971
R.L.D.S Auditorium, Independence, Missouri

I remember the day as being hot as hell very warm and the ceremony itself as interminably long very inspiring. After the ceremony, my extended family gathered at the local ice cream shop for the traditional graduation party, where we were all treated to the decadent dessert of our choice. I remember very clearly ordering a
"Brown Cow," a huge concoction of far too much chocolate ice cream, carmel and hot fudge sauce, and whipped cream in an enormous glass goblet. It was a thing of beauty.

[Unlike today--with graduates treated to all-nighters at amusement parks or recreation centers, fancy swag bags from vendors around the area, raffle prizes that make Lotto look wimpy, and huge gift checks from friends and family--graduation was taken more in stride in my day. We were appropriately fêted with cards and gifts and cash, to be sure, and there was a modest graduation party at King Louie Bowling Lanes (if I recall correctly), but there were many grads who left the ceremony to return to jobs, and many others who simply looked upon this day more appropriately as the first step into a new phase of life, no Rave  orgy bacchanalia spectacle big bash required.]

I've never been to a high school reunion before. I've been assured that there will be visual aids with the nametags (class photos attached), and even reference books yearbooks for those of us who have lost ours somewhere along the way. Thank goodness for small favors. My current visage is almost nonexistant in my photo as a senior in high school...

...and I think we all were really only embryos of our true selves back then, even though we thought we were so very grown up.

I suspect that even though I won't have instant recognition in many cases, it won't take long for the recollections to start bubbling up. Recollections of adventures in and out of the classroom, friendships forged from years together, and the delightful blessing of sometimes...every once in a while, doing fairly stupid things with those friends.

In a few minutes, I will get in my car and drive to Kansas City for four days of music, feasting, dancing, sightseeing, and picnicking with my fellow Ruskin Eagles. The days and nights will undoubtedy include more adventures, newly forged friendships, the making of memories to be recollected in the future, and almost certainly (if we are very, very lucky) a few stupid things. 

I can't wait to get started.

Today, I hope you'll call an old friend and share a memory.

You probably guessed what the music today would be, didn't you? It's the iconic music heard at virtually every graduation in America, Eward Elgar's  "Pomp and Circumstance Military March, March No. 1 in D"

Elgar wrote 39 marches for this opus, with "pomp" referring to the military pageantry of war, and "circumstance" as the condition of the actual horror of war.

None is more recognizable than the very first, but in fact, what most of us have heard is only one section of the entire march called "the trio" which is usually repeated again and again during the graduation processional.

The entire work is much more satisfying, and I  hope you'll take a listen. I chose this performance by the German Military Music Service conducted by Colonel Dr. Michael Schramm. This version is played the way it was meant to be a military march. It has all the precision, power, and strength that accompanies the military, and even though you may have heard it a hundred times, the ending of this one is enough to make you want to listen again. Enjoy!


  1. I hope your reunion is a happy time, Jo - lots of 'Oh it's you - you haven't changed!'
    I've never attended a reunion (I too graduated in '71) and haven't kept in touch with anyone in my class, except for my brother in law and his twin. I go with The Great Dane to his military college reunions every few years and enjoy those.
    On Wednesday our daughter will graduate from university - a simple ceremony and then dinner out with her boyfriend and his family.

  2. Oh are going to have such a BLAST! I TOO remember how hot it was on grad. day. I remember walking down the aisle through the audience and seeing Michael B. - who made a point of telling me not to SMILE so much. See...I had a crossword puzzle and pencil under the arm of my robe - I was prepared to be absolutely bored. I was wearing a one piece hot pants outfit under the was so darn HOT that day! I also remember being in a total fright walking up ALL THOSE STAIRS to my seat in my first pair of high heels. I couldn't see my feet beyond the robe...oh it was awful! Someone I never could see whispered my name loud enough to direct me towards my seat after getting the diploma. You see...I had refused to wear my glasses and was suffering - no sight - no ability to walk....oh man...preparing for the next 40 years of fun for sure! :>
    I lost the only picture of myself in the gown - given to me by my best friend, Goldie. Seeing this auditorium picture makes me want to enlarge it and scan everyone's closeup picture.

  3. Something stupid? Maybe not - but I do hope you have lots and lots of fun! I'm thinking about all of you with so much love. Live it up!!

    Oh - if your hair was still long, you would be instantly recognizable. You don't look that different. Still gorgeous in every way, inside and out.

    tiny hearts

  4. Wishing you the best time, Jo. Thanks for another beautifully written post that we all can relate to in some way. Safe travels and happy times. Jan

  5. wow jo what a journey - in so many many ways! it's another loop up the helix for you and so the wisdom and grace that you contain will come face-to-face with the wisdom and grace of your formerly silly, crazy classmates. it's a funny piece all-in-all but good for you to let it all unfold. have a blast. report back!!! steven


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