“J-O-H-N-N-Y,” I said.
Mrs. Walker looked across the desk at me and smiled. She thanked me for telling her how to spell my name. I liked Mrs. Walker from the start. She was nice to me.
It was 1968. Johnson was about to leave the White House and Nixon was soon to be elected. It was a tumultuous year for the country, and it was my first year of school.
This particular day was registration day. I said I liked Mrs. Walker, and I did. But hindsight, anyone who can herd and teach a room full of six-year-olds with empty brains is obviously a saint.
In 1968 in Ashdown, Arkansas, there was no public kindergarten. You started the first grade, and off you went. I would turn six just in time to start school that year. My mother was glad that the start date came just after my birthday. She felt that I was ready to start even though I was almost the youngest one in my class.
She was correct. I liked school. We got our own compartmentalized lunch trays with paper straws and cartons of milk. We learned the alphabet, numbers, math, and of course, there was recess.
Structure. There was structure. There were also new friends to make.
I made friends in first grade who would travel with me for the next several years. Some for only part of all 12 years, some for all of them, and some far beyond.
Lisa, Jeff, JayLynne, Cathie, Henry, Kim, Cindy and many others were all there at the beginning. Most of them were also with me on that hot, humid day in May a dozen years later when we all donned purple, received our diplomas, and took the next step. We stepped off of the one path we had all walked and chose our own paths. Each path would be different. And some would be shorter.
An unfortunate few who attended Burke Street Elementary with me would never see their 30s. Some not their 40s, others, their 50s. I attended services for a handful, others I learned about after the fact.
When you’re young, you rarely think about mortality. When a grandparent or other older relative passes, it’s briefly in your thoughts, but soon you return to what lies ahead and where you’ll go next. You talk with friends about their goals and dreams and where they hope to be one day.
There’s a bond that forms between schoolmates. Much of it has to do with shared experiences. Shared experiences at school, but also in our lives as a generation. Man’s first moon landing, Nixon’s resignation, the Bicentennial, and the Iranian Hostage Crisis are just a few of the things that brought my class together.
There’s a reason that they are called the formative years. We learned how to color inside the lines, interact with others, how to respect boundaries, how to help others, and how to accept assistance when necessary. We also learned to respect our elders, pledge allegiance to our country, and thank our God.
All of this came to mind recently as I looked at the calendar and the words ‘May 2015’ looked back at me.
It’s impossible to think about some of the major events of the late 60s and 1970s without thinking about those who took that journey with me.
Happy 35th, Class of 1980.
All of you will forever be my friends.
©2015 John Moore
To read additional blogs, visit johnmoore.net/blog