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January 4th, 2004

Nostalgia Trip

Back to High School at the Niece's Recital

 
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Last week I returned to the high school from where I graduated.

The occasion that drew me to my alma mater for the first time in several years was a Christmas recital consisting of the local elementary, middle, and high schools. I had attended all three and now my 12-year-old niece, Meggie, was following in my footsteps. She plays the flute in the middle school band.

Wave of nostalgia

So there I sat in the familiar bleachers, hit with an unexpected pang of nostalgia as I looked around the gym and recognized pennants and memorabilia from days when Donny Osmond ruled and Lynyrd Skynyrd rocked. Had it really been so long? How could the years slip by like a mere blip on the radar screen? I felt like a bad cliché as I wondered where the had time gone.

I’m HOW Old?
Not having children makes it difficult to gauge that definitive crossover from youngster to adult. Children are constant reminders of the youth we once had and the differences that exist between generations. Without children to mark the passage of time, years tend to melt into one another much like a double scoop of Ben & Jerry’s on a hot August day. Yes, chocolate martinis have replaced my Boonsfarm Strawberry wine, but life doesn’t really feel all that different.


Maybe that’s why this event caught me off guard. As the various bands performed, fresh-faced youngsters, ranging from seven to seventeen, goofed around and giggled, and suddenly I felt my age. That doesn’t happen very often.

Looking back
Over where the jazz band sat was where Tricia Bunting, Kathy Jessup, and I took square dancing for P.E. during junior year. We kept crashing into each other, dosying when we should have doed, and laughing so hard we wet our pants and were banished to the locker room.

And over where the choir was singing “Jingle Bells”—that’s where Ms. DalPorto had made her P.E. class do endless leg lifts and jumping jacks to Carole King’s Tapestry
album. To this day I can’t hear “Jazz Man” without remembering, “We must, we must, we must increase our bust“.

By the way, Ms. DalPorto, that exercise doesn’t work.

The Frederikson band was now about to perform, right over the spot where Rafer Johnson had once danced The Robot to the Jackson Five’s “Dancing Machine” during a pep rally. The entire gym had burst out in wild whoops and applause, much like the kids were doing tonight every time a classmate was introduced.

Meggie turned around and flashed me a smile before bringing the flute to her lips. The band began playing “Silent Night.” Or was that “Silver Bells”? It was difficult to say.

Mirror, Mirror
And as the band played this sweetly indistinguishable tune, I couldn’t help but muse what the future might hold for the children in this auditorium tonight. Would life turn out as they expected? It rarely does, you know. But when you’re a child wiggling in your seat and giggling with your friends during a Christmas recital, that thought never occurs to you.

I looked at their beaming faces and wondered what hopes and dreams they had for that day when they made the journey from youngster to adult. How many would fall in love, create works of art, break hearts, bring forth new life, or maybe not be around at all? How many might make a difference in the world they occupied? To hundreds of people, millions maybe, or perhaps just one. How would they make their mark, somewhere, somehow?

And, I wondered, how many might one day find themselves sitting in this very spot on a brisk winter’s eve during a Christmas recital, wondering where the years had gone.

 
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The Author : Eileen Mitchell
Eileen Mitchell writes from Northern California.
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