In the fall of 1973, 21 children started first grade at St. Joseph School. In May of 1985, 11 of them graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School. Those 11 kids spent more time together than they probably will spend with anyone else, ever, other than the members of their nuclear family. Eight years in the same room for seven hours a day, nine months out of the year. Eight years of crab soccer, swinging statues, wooden kneelers, chocolate milk, Elmer’s Glue, singing on stage, three-legged races, film strips, overhead projectors, and lectures from Sister Janice. Every word I write unleashes a torrent of memories.
I’m thinking about this today because this afternoon I was a guest at a baby shower for the niece of one of the 11, my friend Amy Wilson. After many, many years of not seeing each other at all, we’ve reconnected through Facebook. We were marveling over the fact that we’ve known each other for 40 years. How many people do you know for that long that you aren’t related to?
None of us chose to spend all that time together. Not all of us were best friends. We hated each other from time to time. But we shared so much. Without necessarily knowing each other well today, we know so much about each other—who was a fast runner, who got picked last in gym, who had a crush on whom, who had trouble reading, who got what kind of grades on tests, who liked what music, who got paddled or smacked with a ruler, what everyone’s parents looked like when they were young–and so much more.
Six of us see each other on Facebook, some more than others. Another one I see most Sundays at church. One is my sister’s husband’s sister (is there a less awkward way to put that?). Another I got to spend time with at a funeral last year. I’ve written letters and shared pictures the old fashioned way with one friend for years. We lost one of the 11 suddenly 15 years ago due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Several of us were at his funeral.
We are connected to some people by birth and to others by choice. But this feeling of connection to my schoolmates, which only seems to grow stronger as I grow older, is an unasked for, unexpected blessing.