Friday, August 22, 2008

Cute and Not-So-Cute

Roxbury High School, Succasunna, New Jersey: Class of 1958 50th Reunion, 28 and 29 November 2008
Go to this 50th Reunion Web Site for more information.

She was one of the cutest little kids the eye could behold. I fell madly in love with her in the fourth grade and made the calamitous mistake of telling her so. For the next 7 years she treated me as the pariah of our class. Oh well, it was my own fault. I must have frightened the beejeebers out of her.

Now she’s putting together the big reunion of our high school class of 1958. Fifty-years have passed since that day that Roxbury High School deemed me eligible for graduation even though I understood virtually nothing about advanced math and less about chemistry or physics. It’s comical the way folks rant today about low science and math scores. Mine were comically low and I was passed along anyway. I believe it was because I did so well in English and history and all my social science classes. I was successful in dramatics, speech and debate. I look at photos today of our wonderful chemistry and biology teacher, Ms. Corby, and I remember how hard she tried to get me to get it; however I was a feckless science student. She was sweet and kind to me and passed me along because she was hopeful and optimistic about my future. Ms. Guerin and Coach Gibble did the same in math. Ms. Guerin, a friend of my sister, spent hours with me in private tutoring and, though we weren’t successful, I’ll always be grateful to her.

A guy (big) who was our senior class president is helping her (little) put the reunion together. He was not quite so pretty, though he was popular, ubiquitous and extremely friendly to most people. He had a wildly crooked nose that made you think he might have gotten into a street fight in the south Bronx. It gave him a mean and tough look. He made me nervous and I kept my distance from him. I had an ugly enough nose myself and if it were made crooked in addition, it would have given me a laughable appearance.

I’m helping out a little bit with the reunion and I often spend a few quiet moments in the morning thinking about my assignment. Always to my mind come images of her and him. I realize that the reunion is in good hands. They always got things organized and accomplished in high school and they’ll do it again now.

He became a Methodist pastor and probably a darn good one. In school he had hands like the proverbial blacksmith – big and powerful. I imagine him standing in the back of the church after a Sunday morning service, shaking hands with his parishioners as they cast off from the sanctuary. Most of them would feel as if their hands got lost within that overwhelming grip of his. He was a better than average student in school and very responsible. He was an outstanding football player and a constant officer with the student council. He’ll be one of the stars of the reunion. There’s no question about that.

And so will she, though she is almost the total opposite of him in every way. She is dainty and delicate and soft and mild of personality. She went on to become a school teacher and, again, I’ll bet a darn good one. She was very responsible in school and involved in darn near everything. She was also one of the senior class officers. Flipping through our 1958 yearbook, one sees her photograph everywhere – on the staff of the yearbook, the nature club, the future teachers’ club and the drama club. In my yearbook she wrote: “I know your mother is certainly proud to see you graduate from high school.” Translated that meant: “I know your mother is awfully relieved and somewhat astonished to see you graduate.” That was the truth!

It would be a few years out of high school before I would finally catch my stride and begin to figure things out. A wonderful professor convinced me that I had a brain and he showed me how to use it.

Unfortunately, in high school, I wasn’t close to either her or him because they both frightened me somewhat. My pals were less terrifying kids who were generally as goofy and irresponsible as I.

I’m really sorry I won’t be there, so I could slide back in a corner and watch the two of them operate so smoothly and successfully – the same way now that they did 50 years ago. When you’ve got that something special, you’ve just got it! And they’ve got it!

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