Past shared experiences forge lifetime bonds
September 23, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10
(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved
Grammy's Axioms, Special to the Free Press
By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall
Members of my generation were born before television, penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees and the pill. There was no radar, credit cards, laser beams or ball-point pens.
Pantyhose had yet to be invented. We had no air conditioners, dishwashers, or clothes dryers. I washed and then hung clothes in the fresh air on a clothes line. It was particularly stimulating in the winter when I had a new baby and diapers were laundered either by a diaper service or at home. There were no Huggies. The diapers often froze in the basket before I could get them on the line.
Cars had no air conditioning and a drive through the plains of Kansas or Nebraska during summer months was not an experience to be envied. Jet engines were not yet discovered when I was born and men did not walk on the moon until I was in my 30s.
Our lives were governed by the Ten Commandments -- whether we espoused any religious convictions and affiliations, or not -- good judgment, and common sense.
We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong -- it was black and white in the good old days, not relativist gray. We were taught to be responsible for our own actions. If we failed, the entire neighborhood would help us feel shame with looks of disappointment (or disgust)in us.
We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, yogurt, or guys wearing earrings. Long hair meant classical music. Computers were things about which comedy movies were filmed. We listened to Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, and Kay Kayser on our radios ... political conventions and speeches, too. Our music was about love and romance, not sex and violence.
Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel. Coke was a drink; pot was something I used for cooking.
Last year, I found three classmates I hadn't seen in fifty years. It was a very meaningful experience. Because we came from the same generation, we had built-in reasons for having things in common.
I found them through the Classmates Web site. They have lists of schools across the country and their alumni by years of graduation.
When I found the name of an old friend at the Classmates Web site, I sent him an e-mail. He wrote me back, then put me in touch with three other classmates from Lincoln Elementary, Byers Junior and South High Schools in Denver.
When I went to Denver for a book signing last November, I scheduled lunch with Jim, Dick, and Cliff. Bill now lives out-of-state and couldn't join us. It was one of the most enjoyable times I've had in years. What is there about roots that makes us feel more fulfilled, happier... more connected?
Though I have not seen my friends since our lunch last November, we've e-mailed back and forth. There is nothing that brings people together more than living through historic eras with one another. They knew what it was like to see a blue star surrounded by red and white rectangles. A neighbor had lost a son in the war.
They share the knowledge of childish fear when air raid sirens sounded and lights had to be turned off as black blinds were pulled down over windows. I think none of us realize it at the time, but experiences we share with others make them a part of our lives forever.
We all remember our high school football games at the University of Denver stadium and ice skating on the tennis courts at Washington Park (frozen for us from Christmas until spring weather demanded a melting), the Confederate high school newspaper and our Johnny Reb annual filled with pictures (and signatures) of classmates and friends.
Cliff, Dick Jim and I were not close friends in the good old days. Girls weren't close friends with boys in those days. It just wasn't proper.
It was wonderful to learn my classmates had successful careers. We went around the table, each giving a short biographic overview of personal and professional achievements.
In elementary, junior high and senior high school, Dick was a very bright, somewhat serious person. As a big boy, he was one of Denver's better-known radio personalities. He worked with Gene Amole (a friend of my family's, too) in making Denver's first classical music station successful. As a kid, he seemed a bit intense. The e-mails he sends now make me laugh out loud. I now realize what I perceived as intensity was a very dry sense of humor.
Cliff was a kind of John Wayne -- Silent Man -- type with a Clint Eastwood voice. His career was teaching. All we had to do was listen to him talk about kids and his experiences to know he was good at what he did.
Jim was shorter than I until we got to high school, one of the all-time nice guys. He was smart, friendly and interested (which made him interesting). He was a person who cared. He spent his adult years as a career realtor. He helps prepare test material for those seeking Colorado realtor licenses.
For some strange reason, learning what they had done with their lives made me feel proud to have known them -- proud to be part of their memories and backgrounds all those years ago.
I felt pride. I felt gratitude. I felt satisfaction. On that afternoon we met for the first time in 50 years, we were close. How could that be? How could people who had never been close friends feel so close after not seeing one another for fifty years?
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home