Al Batt: There sure were a lot of old people there

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tales from Exit 22, By Al Batt

Life is a sweet dream.

A high school class reunion is an alarm clock.

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A fine educator at our equally fine local school gave me my old slide rule with my name proudly written on the back. That was awfully nice of him, and it made my day. That slide rule kept my brain from exploding in advanced math class. I made the slide rule in shop class (a lie) and used it to figure appropriate tips (another lie).

I got that pleasant surprise right before my high school reunion.

I’d grown a beard during an extended hospital stay. It was gray, black, brown, white, tan and some other colors not seen in the 120-count box of crayons. I thought the beard gave me a cultured look.

My wife didn’t agree.

It might have been because of all the people walking by me that had offered me their spare change.

The beard was gone before the reunion. I slicked up a bit. As much as a guy can slick up.

A good number of classmates returned to their old stomping grounds. We’d gotten older. Not the worst-case scenario. We didn’t all look and sound like our parents, but most of us did. Everyone was still in high definition. Most appeared capable of carrying in most of the groceries in one trip.

There isn’t much known about the ancient Homo sapiens that made up my class during our shared journey to infinite knowledge, but we’d been a healthy lot as not even the most retentive minds could remember our school nurse. We didn’t consult the yearbook. That would have been cheating. It was no reflection on her and we regretted our diminished powers of recollection.

Our good health was because we’d walked five miles to school each day, uphill both ways, without shoes. Some kids wrapped their feet in barbed wire to keep from falling on the ice.

We were boys who had survived dodgeball and driving cars lacking spare tires, and girls who had survived boys who had survived dodgeball and driving cars lacking spare tires.

We could almost taste the food we’d eaten at the now-extinct local cafes like Vivian’s and Minske’s. This was during a time when if I were given two forks at a meal, I thought one was for eating and one for scratching.

There was talk of teachers and their peculiarities. Mean teacher (only one) and good teachers (many). English teachers who taught us to write right and coaches who said things like, “It’s my job to instill some confidence in you bunch of losers.”

A classmate told of her brother who had grown his hair long and was told that he couldn’t participate in athletics unless he cut that hair. He cut his hair, but wore a longhaired wig to the graduation ceremonies.

Another classmate remembered that 14 of us kids were driven to kindergarten each day in the school’s woodie station wagon. Peanut butter breaths and the pitter-patter of tiny feet. A woodie is a body style for a car with rear bodywork constructed of wood framework with wood panels. We learned our primary colors. I think.

Blackboards taught us well. I learned how to dot my t’s and cross my i’s. I joke that we weren’t the smartest class to graduate from those hallowed halls because our class valedictorian had a C- average. That’s not true. She was and is smart, and worked hard to attain the highest of grades in order to make the rest of us look bad. She knew only A’s. I was familiar with the other letters of the alphabet.

There was no point in anyone bragging at the reunion. Everyone knew better, so we told tales of hijinks and shenanigans.

I reveled in hearing the stories of my classmates and their spouses. I became a motivational listener.

We spread our tired wings to fly home. We looked lost, but everyone found his or her car in the parking lot.

No one in my class is in danger of becoming the next Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, but going to that reunion was a wise investment.

When I was a boy, I had an aged quilt. It was beat up, but it kept me warm. I couldn’t have imagined my life without that quilt. We had a small class. My classmates are my friends. Like me, they may be a bit beat up, but their friendship keeps me warm. I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

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Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.