My tweunuuishth year high school reunion isn’t far off. Actually, it’s tomorrow. Which, of course, has me thinking and remembering and wondering.
On thinking, it’s mostly about who I know will show and how much
torment fun my wife and I will be able to endure before the practicing drunks make bad use of the evening. In the words of one friend, “We’ll visit as long as we can, and hopefully time our exit before we’re designated drivers.”
On wondering, it’s mostly how many names I’ll forget/botch. I have TERRIBLE name-face recognition skills. A salesman I’ll never be.
On remembering, it’s mainly about those fantastically wonderful and confusing and freaky years spent in high school. And of the three, this is the one that’s been bugging me most.
About a month ago, my nine-year-old daughter asked, “Dad, what were the nineties about?”
I didn’t have a good answer. I didn’t really have any answer. One innocent question and my high school experience was invalidated. So I did what any self-respecting 30-something does when they need to save face. I Googled it.
I Googled my teens because I couldn’t really remember many of the significant events. And it’s not due to the common excuses folks generally have for not being able to recall high school or college. I was/am a straight-laced guy. And that on top of being a big nerd and late bloomer.
So I’m looking at the stuff that happened during those years. Much of it, very ordinary – Middle East violence, political scandal, yadda, yadda. But then I see things like, the tumbling of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall came down while I was in 9th grade. That’s huge stuff. What was I doing when that happened? I dunno.
So I read on.
1990: Nelson Mandela was freed from prison.
1991: The Soviet Union dissolves; Desert Storm (I did remember this one)
1992: Rodney King / LA Riots
Stuff was happening. Big stuff. How could I not have remembered this when she first asked? What was distracting me from these news-making events happening while I was alive and vaguely attentive? Passing Algebra, getting a drivers license, my first job, girls, zits. Important stuff too, just not so news worthy.
When I read and then remembered these things happening, I realized how significant those years were. I was a bit ashamed for not having recalled them without help. But the more I thought about it, I realized that one of the privileges of being a kid, especially an American kid, is the ability to be oblivious – at least in part. I know what I risk in making that statement, but it’s true. What parent, or society wishes to have children fully engaged in every complexity of life, trying to get them to understand the implications of every news-worthy event? Maybe some due. Count me out of that group though.
I know that my own kids will become mindful of how wonderful, evil, nonsensical, soul-stirring, wretched, and amazing this world is but I want them to have the opportunity to do it slowly. Not every kid is afforded that shield. And while the absence of a shield of innocence doesn’t equate to a life lost, the presence of one allows a kid to do what kids do best; just be a kid.
The reunion is still a day away, but I think I already got from it what I needed. Thanks be to the class of `92.