Nostalgia. A sweet and keening sharp ache for what has gone before, a world not lost, but lived, memories filed away in scrapbooks and dusty boxes, the ephemera of the passing of time.
I am flipping through my senior scrapbook, cognizant of how in the present time line those precious last three months have now been taken from so many students in their final year. I find myself wanting to walk the halls of my high school again, as if to prove it actually existed. In fact, it is not long for this world – a new building is being constructed, and the old one will be torn down, and soon it will recede in memory.
It takes a crisis to underscore the charmed existence I have in so many ways lived up until now. Thirty-five years ago, I was finishing up high school with a perfect 4.0 GPA, despite taking some of the most challenging courses on offer. Being a ‘brain’ was a huge part of who I was (and to some extent, still am). After a miserable year in the seventh grade, when my best friend dumped me, I had rebounded over the last five years, finding my ‘tribe.’ We were all ‘brains’ who took the harder classes, but many of us were also musicians (band, orchestra or choir), or writers, or artists, and we shared a goofy sense of humour grounded in Monty Python, Bloom County, and Saturday Night Live.
In 1985, as part of the orchestra, I was prepping for a concert the following week that we’d play along with our counterpart orchestra from Worthington High School. We were playing a Haydn symphony, and then, along with the other orchestra, the Beethoven Egmont Overture and one of the movements of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. The following evening after that concert was the Academic Awards Night.
Meanwhile, I was enjoying Shakespeare Seminar, zero-period Physiology (where we dissected just about everything), and building the Physics Violin in physics lab, where I took violin strings and determined how much weight was required to tune them to the correct pitch. An orchestra concert with just our own orchestra took place on April 18. Later in April would be the Senior Celebration — I have a shot from a photo booth with seven of my friends from that one. Another concert–this time with the bands–was in early May, followed by prom on the 11th. There were senior pranks–all the chairs from the Learning Centre stacked in a stairwell–but the most memorable event was a bomb scare perpetrated by a couple of underclassmen.
Then came the music recognition banquet on May 15, where I got my senior letter, and soon thereafter, the Batelle Scholars dinner, where I was recognized for the scholarship I had earned to OSU. There were, of course, exams, and then graduation itself on June 7 at the Ohio Theatre–ours was the only class to ever graduate there.
I bring this up because those memories are that strong after so many years, and I ache for those final-year high school students who will not get the chance to experience them. The world has certainly changed in the past 35 years, though–had we been hit by this pandemic in 1985, the home isolation would have been brutal with no videoconferencing, no Internet, no streaming services, no online concerts. This year’s Grade 12 and senior students can still see each other, can still keep track of friends, can still continue to learn. But even so, I mourn for those cancelled concerts and proms and awards banquets.
And at the same time, I wonder where those friends I said goodbye to in June 1985 are now. Some I never saw again. Some I kept touch with for a few years before we all moved on with our lives. Some I’ve reconnected with over Facebook, and marveled at where our separate paths led us. Very few of us became who we thought we would be, for better, for worse.
Life has a way of going in unexpected directions.
Almost ten years earlier in Mississauga, I recognize that tribe because we had a similar one. The advanced English and French classes, which included a bunch of choir and band people and even the captain of the football team. Just early enough I can find only a few of them today.
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