Opinion: Finding Meaning

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The Way We Were

By Skip Hellewell

Do you remember that explosion of hormones called adolescence? Of course you do. The memories of those years, some sweet, others bittersweet, are ever with us, engraved upon our brains and etched in our hearts. The music of our youth is especially memorable. Certain songs carry us back in time. My music began with the energetic “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets. Later came the romantic songs, like Andy Williams crooning “Moon River.” Sigh.

Ever wonder what became of your high school friends? Thanks to the Internet, it’s often possible to track them down. I’ve been doing that of late, wanting to know how life has gone for them. Occasionally you’re too late—you find their obituary. Saddened by that, I got the idea to track down the group I knew best, hoping to arrange a reunion so we could catch up. Happily, they were willing. So last week, a dozen of us got together for what we called our 65th reunion. You only get one of those.

We grew up in a leafy Sacramento suburb, part of a church group. After high school, we went in different directions and lost contact. My best friend became a dentist, practicing in New Mexico. We’ve stayed in touch, if just by Christmas card. I’ve had less contact with others. I liked the girls, as much as any young man, but was too shy to actually ask them for a date. Fortunately, we had lots of group dances and socials, so their charms remain in my memory.

Shakespeare spoke in a sonnet of the lasting qualities of those we love: “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks / Within his bending sickle’s compass come . . ..” He was right about Time’s “sickle” but also about those timeless charms. Meeting for our reunion, we might not be sure of the face but once they spoke, we knew the person. Though we had changed, we were in endearing ways much the same.

We talked about adults who made an impression in our young lives. It turns out that an adult can have a lasting effect by recognizing and encouraging the nascent qualities of the young. My teen years were undistinguished, yet there were adults who communicated a faith that I might actually amount to something. Imagine that. One was our Scouting leader; he didn’t actually understand scouting, he grew up swimming and surfing Southern California beaches. But he was a remarkable person who believed in our potential and by degrees convinced us.

For preparation, each person submitted a brief biography. Shared themes of our lives included lasting marriages, lots of children and grandchildren, satisfying careers, and meaningful retirement. We weren’t that remarkable really, rather we were fortunate to come of age in a time of innocence before Vietnam and the counterculture chaos of the ‘60s. The advantages we enjoyed of our time of innocence should be the birthright of every child. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected] lovinglaguna.com

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