40 Years Gone By

Forty years. The number keeps staring back at me from the reunion notice posted on the refrigerator. How can it be 40 years since I graduated from high school? In my mind, I still have some young ideas despite my creaking bones sending me other messages.

Didn’t we just finish freshman year when I nearly hurled at the idea of dissecting an animal that could have had a first name? Thank heavens my biology partner wasn’t afraid of a scalpel.

I don’t think I finished that term paper in sophomore year as well as I could have. It was typed on a manual typewriter that had already seen the abuse of three older siblings. Let’s just say I kept Wite-Out in business.

Surely my junior year could not be over. Didn’t we just become the upperclassmen who required the “frosh” to walk on the other side of the hallway? My typing teacher held out hope for me that year. She nor I could ever imagine that I would be able to type dictation over the telephone from funeral home directors calling in obituaries to the newspaper – but I aced that part of my journalism career just fine.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that the school dance in the cafeteria was halted because the live band was playing a song with questionable lyrics (“Louie Louie”)? Didn’t “Doc” just scold us for our naughty rendition of the Wheeling Central cheer?

I swear I can smell those chocolate chip cookies baking in the cafeteria.

Senior year is still a blur of ups and downs. Friendships sealed and lost.

Tests, future plans, college or work, promises never to lose touch – all filled the calendar year of 1973 until that day in May when we threw our caps into the air at the amphitheater at Oglebay Park.

It can’t really be over. I didn’t get everyone to sign my yearbook. I don’t even remember cleaning out my locker. I wonder if anyone found my purple eyeshadow I used to store inside that metal rectangle of my teen life. Have we really gone from knee socks to knee replacements so soon?

I swear I can still hear the chants at the football bonfire rallies and see the Maroon Knight ride by on horseback. Didn’t the kids from Wheeling High just march past our school as they headed downstate for yet another sporting event they would win?

Can’t we run down the street to Elby’s one more time for some Grecian bread or a Brawny Lad? You could hardly get a seat after a school dance or basketball game up at the gym.

Forty years is a long time ago, yet somehow those high school days stay with us. In a community such as Wheeling, it’s not unusual to run into four or five classmates over the course of a week. We talk about having lunch or exchanging phone calls, but we rarely do.

Lately we have been challenging one another to attend the reunion this summer. After 40 years, do we care about the graying hair or who can still master the game of euchre? Time will tell.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at ziegler@theintelligencer.net.