“No distance of place nor lapse of time can lessen the friendship
of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each others worth.”
By Gray Bostick
Not sure if you were personally affected, but a Time Machine recently settled down in Bennettsville, blowing dust clouds off age-old memories and, for at least 48 hours, I did a little time travel on a two-day trip four decades back to my high-school days. Yep back to the days of leisure suits and disco boots, of Travolta, Rocky and Jaws.
And. man, what a trip. It was groovy, baby. Sorry…I’m still having flashbacks.
I guess I should first admit that there are those among you who have asserted that I’ve spent the better (funner?) part of the last forty years “still enjoying my senior year” of high school. But I digress. That’s unimportant here, and fodder for another story–plus I continue to maintain that my interest in life’s more interesting turns is totally academic. I’ve simply been involved in an accelerated education in life…with a couple dozen stops along the way.
And in following that path I’ve seen and done a lot, from siestas on the sugar-white, warm sand beaches of St. Croix, to the sideways-icicles of a Chicago ice storm, to a motel room alone for weeks on end, but I’ve never felt the emotions that I’ve felt over the last few months as we’ve planned for, then pulled off, “The Green Gremlin Decade of the 70’s Reunion” a couple weeks ago.
Nothing—nada, zilch, zero—is even remotely comparable to the thrill you feel in your very soul upon seeing people for whom, in all honesty, you suddenly find you still have deep and genuine affection for.
Or the humbling feeling of recognizing how much so many people I once thought I’d forgotten about truly matter. It’s an amazing experience.
Life is funny. You grow up with a group, and they become friends for life. Or so it seems, until college anyway, or that first extended time away from home. Then they get overlooked as you meet new people and experience life, and memories of “the old gang” fade ever more with every passing day. Life becomes chock-full of new family or friends, and before you know it, thirty years have passed and you wonder, “Whatever happened to….?”…but, still, life goes on. And on.
Then one day, thru happenstance, an idea becomes a project, and a committee gets together, and people start to do amazing things and, before you know it–Presto!–you’re eating burgers with a guy you haven’t seen in forty years. Or maybe just not talked with in 40 days. And for two days, it was truly magical.
It was an amazing to see faces I hadn’t seen in forty years, once-dear friends with whom I’d lost contact. And only recognized in my happiness to reconnect how much they truly meant in the first place. Seeing dear old classmates, fond friends, and even favorite faculty with whom I share such now-precious memories is a feeling beyond description.
It’s easy to realize that while life led each of us out onto wildly-divergent branches, we all shared a singular commonality, a time-tested taproot: We were Gremlins.
But seeing all those old faces also played on my emotions a bit; it was hard, at times, to look at a dear old friend and not see those I miss so badly, the friends who were conspicuous by their absence.
I don’t know what I wouldn’t give to, just once more, see those who are now forever young. To see Matthew Covington crash the offensive boards on his home court. Or watch Mitchell Brewington try to slick-talk the ladies. Or golf a round with Dennis “Papa D” Miller. Or visit with Stevie Dupre, pumping gas and sharing laughs—while wearing a Santa cap, in July—up at Lester’s Hunter’s gas station on Main Street.
Or talk to Lee Northam for five more minutes. Or even just one.
“Time marches on,” Tracey Lawrence sings. And ready or not, there she goes. Literally.
Because in all my recent merriment, it also saddened me to have to realize that the world we’ve grown up in has ventured so far off the straight and narrow that it can’t even see the vapor trails of fairness, much less equality, from the muck in which it’s stuck.
My class was not the first in Bennettsville to be integrated. But we could have been. Because to us kids, it didn’t matter. Looking back I can easily recognize that Bennettsville was not Mayberry; and I can’t imagine the indignities or inequalities my friends of color may have endured as a social class throughout my ignorance. But to us kids it didn’t matter, because we just didn’t care. Then, or now.
And this reunion proved it. I can’t recall a single time that I felt even the slightest valid concern about inequality of yesteryear. We all knew the up and up and played it as we were taught, with respect. I couldn’t have been prouder to have worked with a group so dedicated—and who gently forced me to recognize things within myself that had passed unnoticed.
What could not go unnoticed, however, was that we were far tighter from a racial perspective back in the 70’s than we are now, After all the battles, and even election of the first black President, we’ve blown it. After all the strife and sacrifice and struggles to make things better for those to follow, we’ve instead taught them that selfish attitudes and behaviors are not only endorsed, but encouraged. That respect is to be challenged, not extended. That honor is for suckers, and integrity marks a sap.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost. And we deserve it.
What are we teaching our kids? That people of other ethnic or racial backgrounds are somehow suspect and undeserving? That’s insane. Must we stress that Black Lives Matter? Yes. Why? Because they most certainly do, to the point that special programs must be focused on exactly that segment of a fractured populace. Sometimes fair play is simply offering a fair chance.
But what we don’t teach, particularly by example, is that there are NO lives that DON’T matter. ALL lives matter. And if they don’t, then none of them ever will. Period. We MUST look forward, not to some past that has zero relevance today, much less the all-important tomorrow..
Like Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes told us way back in our teens, “Wake Up Everybody.”
If we don’t soon overlook the disrespectful and derisive rhetoric that the MSM blares at us ad nauseum, repeatedly strumming every nerve they can mathematically identify, then another generation is soon to be lost. Let’s make a difference, just like the 70’s demanded. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world. Hold a door, pay ahead a window-order, tell a stranger to have a good day—and then give thanks for the blessings we have.
I’m not the smartest cat around, but I can tell you this: You reap what you sow.
Which makes me all the more grateful for the chance the Good Lord made available for me to reconnect with my old school chums, the opportunity to get together with those who were—and I found, still are—near and dear to me, and the chance to look into my own heart and, by seeing an old friend, learn more about not just him, but myself..
Folks, at the end of the day all we are is kin and kindred spirits, and you really don’t know how bad you’ve missed something until you get a second-chance to discover how much it really matters. So make it matter….make everything matter.
Reconnect with your past, too. It’s the only one you’re gonna get.