It was only because I had recently been informed of the death of one of my high school classmates that I was prompted to dig out my old yearbook. Michele sure looked a lot different then; then again, so did I. So did we all.
As I leafed through the hardcover volume, staring at all those young faces tinged with innocence and the anticipation of a bright, shining future, I also began to read the short blurbs they had inscribed directly over their photos — words that were “at the moment” heartfelt, funny, sincere, or stereotyped, depending upon the individual.
Immediately, the differences between this yearbook and those of today were apparent. The photos were black and white, the boys all decked out in dark jackets and ties because the school photographer told them that was de rigueur, and back then no one challenged authority or ran and called the ACLU. The girls all had their required “uniform” of black sweaters and pearls. Hairstyles were similar. Most boys had crew cuts, the popular style of the day. The girls had coiffures teased into veritable mountains, highly sprayed with Aqua Net; those with short hair had little spit curls or wings, the ones with long hair had a “flip.” If you don’t know what Aqua Net was, or what a flip is, you probably shouldn’t be reading this column.
As I looked over the various inscriptions, the very first thing that hit me was everyone’s handwriting was legible. Even the boys’ handwriting! More than legible, it was very good — readable, flowing, in perfect cursive.
But it’s what they wrote that got me. Judy Bernstein wrote, “Never forget History II with ‘Teddy Bear.’” I had forgotten it, and who was “Teddy Bear” anyway?
Suzanne Arny penned, “Dear Rona, How can we ever forget Latin with Sue and Bob?” Latin I remember fondly …but Sue and Bob? Guess they are “oblitus personis” (forgotten persons).
I don’t even remember who Gary Durland was or is, but he wrote, “Best of luck in the future to a good person,” and then he spelled my name wrong. Apparently I was equally memorable to him.
Steve Ericsson, who was tall, dark, and handsome, also wrote, “Don’t forget History II.” What was it about that class? I don’t even remember taking it, much less who else did.
Veronica Force wanted me to “remember Driver’s Ed.” I do, believe me. It was taught by the football coach who was terrified to take a bunch of nubile young teens out on the roads, so we stayed in the classroom most of the semester as he drew gear shift positions on the board. On the rare occasion he let us in the car with him, we had to drive to the local dry cleaner a few blocks away so he could pick up his order. He never, ever took us on a highway, which says a lot about the way I drive today; and while we’re at it, just who was Veronica Force anyway?
Anthony Massenzio Jr. asked if I remembered Homeroom 108? Nope, and I don’t remember Anthony either for that matter.
Finally, Jo-Ann Ulrich wrote, “Always remember History II.” By now I was thoroughly intrigued. It must have been one helluva class, but I remember nothing of it. They say “those who don’t remember history are condemned to repeat it.” In that case, I’d be the oldest kid in the class.
That’s the thing about yearbooks. You should keep them and dust them off occasionally because they are a snapshot from a time long gone. They are a compendium of memories, some sweet, some completely forgotten. But they are part of the patchwork of your life. What was so important long ago may be forgotten now, yet it’s good to look at those faces, see what they wrote, and see who you were back then as well.
I returned to Michele’s photograph and saw a serious girl in horn-rimmed glasses wearing a sweet, shy smile. I read her inscription to me. It was thoughtful, sincere, loving, and I will keep that private, but her last line hit home. “The best of everything to the best of friends.”
We hadn’t seen each other for decades, yet we found one another a few years ago and just picked up where we left off, talking long about everything, as good friends do.
Except History II.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at email@example.com or 401-539-7762.