Friday, November 30, 2001
Carlisle Classes of '83, '84, '85 reach back...and forward
Reunion. The act of reuniting. On the morning of November twenty-third, on the steps of the Highland Building, members of the classes that graduated from the Carlisle Public School in 1983, '84, and '85 met to open a "time capsule"a Rubbermaid barrelthat we had buried with the help of our teachers in the spring of 1983. Some of those teachers returned too. They stood in the breezy sunshine on the southwest corner of a school campus which had helped to shape all of our realities. Reunite. To come together again.
The last time I saw this many of my classmates together was at the time of our graduation photograph. The shutter clicked on that day, on that last meeting, the better part of two decades ago. In it we sat where there was once grass fronting the Wilkins building; we girls scrubbed and shining in our white dresses, the boys standing stiffly in new suits, ties knotted in unfamiliar ways under jaw lines still too young for shaving. Now, twenty years later, I scanned the forty or so grown-up faces of my classmates, as well as those who were a year or two younger, for traces of the children that we had been in the adults that we had become.
Introductions were marvelous and confusing moments. Those boys were called Danny, or Randy, or Billy, or Scotty, or Jimmy in the years that they drove bicycles as primary transport. Who were they now, these tall men, Dan, Randell, Bill, Scott, and Jim, who drove cars, who had wives and children of their own? Mr. Trierweiler, Mr. Bober, Mr. Mayall, and Mr. Flannery, were they now just Jim, Steve, Dave, and Dave? Had age and experience changed the dynamic between student and teacher? Class bullies, class beauties, the children who sank low in their desks hoping that no one would notice them, those who leapt to their feet, calling out the answers, calling the rest to action, to motion, to mischief, were they still the same?
For three hours on the day after Thanksgiving we laughed, remembered, talked, and told stories to one another while poring over the tattered contents of a barrelletters, photographs, tapes, tennis shoes, blue jeans, posters, magazines, and Rubik's cubespiled in dusty mildewed heaps on sheet-covered tables. What had survived the melting and leaking snows of many winters sparked memories that were fresh and bright, entirely vivid once again for those who had once lived, or who now told, the stories. Some were boisterous and joyous in their recall; Jim Trierweiler's class filled with controlled explosions, liquid nitrogen, ash from Mount St. Helens, and rocket engines strapped to balsa-wood gliders; David Mayall's mind-puzzles and current event quizzes; Steve Bober who taught us to write with joy and heart; Rosemary Apthorp who let us listen to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" at top volume from a record player set on the fire escape as we played hand ball at recess against the kindergarten wall. Some stories were more troubling; we were inexcusably cruel to our classmates who were slower, weaker, smaller or heavier than the norm.
I walked around the room, trying to speak to everyone, to see them again, just for a moment. In some of them, I saw their parents. In Debby Ives' black hair, pale perfect skin, and quiet shift of shoulders, I saw her mother Natalie. Fritz Schweppe's dad still lived in his son's deep Germanic voice. Grant Wilson had a face that was becoming his father's and brought with him to the reunion a small son who reminded me of the impish boy that Grant had once been. My schoolmates were now grownups, many with children of their own. Dan Sturtz's daughter wrapped her arms around her father's knees as Jay Cantrill pulled a picture of a pixyish six-year-old from his wallet. The girl in the photograph grinned through front teeth wiggled loose. "They change everything," Jay said with a smile. Jennifer Jones, still the beauty that she always was with gold hair that fell to her waist, now shone with a madonna's glow as she watched a toddler running in the hall and laid a hand over a second child growing beneath the loosely belted waist of her coat.
We are different now than we were then, as it is with all children grown up, and perhaps the most amazing thing of all was to think of the similar tools and experiences that we had been offered at the school and to listen to the very different things that we have done with those tools and with our lives. We are engineers and we are teachers. We are social workers, software designers, and soldiers. We are landscapers and we are house-husbands. We have been in the Peace Corps and we have contributed to our own communities. We are carpenters and travelers, poets and historians. We own our own businesses, work for others, and support those to whom we have responsibilities.
The reunion lasted an hour longer than we expected. Addresses and phone numbers were exchanged and promises were made to meet again. Sally Milliken and her husband Jim, Randell Brownrigg, and I were the last ones there, pushing the tables in a building that did not exist when we were studentsback into place. It was time to return the school to the present generation of students and to look again towards the future with a new memory of Carlisle Public School. Reunion.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito