Saturday, July 09, 2011

Journey Through the Past

Tonight I spent a few hours with friends from my days at West Rome High School. Each year, an impossibly energetic woman named Deb Joyner Denneman puts together an All Chiefs Reunion (West Rome High School's team was the Chieftains, thus the name). There is no West Rome High School any longer; Rome City Schools sold the land for East and West Rome to Kmart and Walmart respectively, creating a single Rome High School located on the outskirts of civilization so as to be near neither East nor West Rome (it's better to be inconvenient to everyone, apparently).

It was wonderful to see so many old friends again--and in particular, it was great to see some of those I knew best in high school: Pam Astin, Greg Carter, Jamie Cook, Ken Barton, Mike Blanton, and Nancy Corlew. You'll notice that all of those last name begin with the first three letters of the alphabet. That's apparently a side effect of alphabetical seating throughout junior high school and high school: the people you get to know best are the people who sit near you, so we tend to develop friendships with those in our alphabetical vicinity, apparently.

Pam, Greg, Jamie, and Ken were particularly close friends during school, so we spent some time catching up. Jamie is the only person I knew well who was in class with me from the first grade at Garden Lakes through the twelfth grade at West Rome; Pam was my best school friend of the opposite gender; Greg and I were such good pals that he was in my wedding; and Ken and I had about eight million things in common. It's nice to see that life has treated them all well; everyone seemed happy and settled into a comfortable life. That's what we all hope for, isn't it?

I also saw a favorite teacher of mine, Ann Spears; Mrs. Spears was an English teacher who always made English both challenging and fun, and knew better than to let me coast. When I got a job teaching at East Rome High School a few years later, Ann was working in the city school system office, so I got to know her professionally as well. She remembered me as a student and a teacher, and was most gracious in her comments regarding both.

There were many others there, but I spoke to very few people other than those from my class; I hope no one took it as aloofness on my part, because it wasn't. In the eleven years since I quit teaching, I have become less comfortable speaking in crowded situations, and sometimes feel a bit awkward in social situations as well. It's not something that bothers me when I'm around friends, but it results in my sometimes seeming a bit withdrawn.

I've come to the realization that I really loved my high school years. Don't think that high school was all great for me; I had a number of unpleasant experiences, mostly brought about by high school athletes who frequently targeted me for their frustrations when my sports-editor dad picked another team over theirs in his weekly local sports predictions. But I also had hundreds of great experiences, and I have come to realize over the years that everything that was really important in shaping my life I learned in my public school years. West Rome inspired me, educated me, andinfluenced me. I always feel bad for people who talk about how miserable their high school years were; I wish they could have shared my high school experiences instead.

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