By Kevin Gray
I wasn’t sure last Friday, when I landed in Atlanta for a layover during my flight to Richmond, Va., if the Thanksgiving rush had begun or if this was just extremely busy Hartfield-Jackson International Airport. But I know the folks around Atlanta will be raking or vacuuming and bagging or burning leaves between now and Christmas.
As the plane broke through the clouds, the most beautifully vivid display of reds, oranges, yellows, some silvers and still much green greeted us from below. How’re they going to get their Christmas shopping done once those leaves start falling? I pondered. By the time we landed in Richmond, more brilliant colors, some luminous from the sunshine, greeted me. The city of my youth was absolutely gorgeous, so much more so than I ever remembered.
Back for my 40th high school reunion, I wasn’t prepared for what to expect. The “girls” in our class at the 30th, no doubt, had used the expression “cut and color” when they went to their hair specialists. No gray hair anywhere, except on the guys. This time, I noted more prevalence and pride in gray, silver and white hair, especially among the women.
As for the dress code that night? Those of us, including my old guard in one of the bands, dressed more casually. After all, the high school dress code came to an end with our lobbying efforts in 1970. I had once been teased about being “farmer John” or “Popeye,” when I began wearing to school, as did a few other guys there the other night, jeans and flannel shirts or Hobie surf T-shirts with a floral horizontal stripe around the middle. Keep in mind, the girls couldn’t even wear jeans like the guys. Something about showing too much of the female shape! And mini-skirts didn’t?
Whereas the more college preparatory crowd, meaning preppies, from our shared past chose, for them, a more casual evening dress appropriate for both a country club as a well as the Canal Club, our destination in the bottoms of historic Richmond. This redbrick warehouse right down from the Virginia State Capitol probably housed trade goods and tobacco after having been raised from the ashes after the Confederates left the burning city in 1865 ahead of the Yankee “invaders.”
Brooks, a musician buddy of mine from California, had emailed us on Facebook the encouraging reminder, “Hey ya’ll, you better show. We won’t look so pretty in 10 years.” Were we pretty Saturday night? Hard to say. Everybody kept asking, “Who are all these old people?” Followed by, “I don’t recognize a sole.” We all laughed and shrugged off reality. We were there to enjoy old friends from the school-sponsored events to the questionable antics of another time.
Flying over Georgia from Atlanta and back to Kansas City, I can’t help but smile, while typing this, at how much fun it had been and how little most of us have changed, not really, meaning inside. Sure, it was hard to recognize some classmates, but name tags helped, except when name tags were switched for laughs.
Our two favorite high school bands filled the night with amazing power and unexpected precision, as they ripped through old favorites from 1970 and 1971. The Shevell’s played a lot of dances, and the Emotions (the guys I ran with) played the unsponsored no chaperones 1970 Junior After Prom. To say the least, those were heady days, where most lessons really learned didn’t necessarily happen in the classroom.
Maybe, “We won’t be as pretty in 10 years,” but who cares? Like the leaves – still on those trees way down yonder – we are in the autumn of our lives, and most of us are brimming with knowledge and energy, and still playing music, working in unique situations, or in my case writing and teaching. You can’t beat that.
I know we’ll come together again. We’ll stay networked on Facebook or who knows what future networking system will come along. And besides, not one of us is ready to fall from the tree, only to be swept, vacuumed, bagged or burned. Not yet, anyway.
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