Portraits of youth unfolded like butterflies on Friday night. It started with about 90 polite, well-mannered 60-somethings gathering in Hickman High School’s commons, and it ended on the dance floor of the Columbia Country Club, where their wings, full of life and color, spread for anyone who cared to see.
The class of 1965 were caterpillars at first, awkward and excited, eager to see people they hadn’t seen in years, if not decades — and cautious, too: Who will I remember? What will I remember about them? And what will others remember about me? Who has grandkids, and how many do they have? Who’s a cancer survivor? Who’s a veteran?
Grandkids? Cancer? Vietnam? Who ARE these people? At age 18, most of them would have barely recognized their current selves.
“I didn’t think I’d reach 40,” said Mike Grathwohl, who served as a Marine in Vietnam and saw two close friends die there. “My first reaction is, damn, look at all these old people. And I’m one of them.”
Now he’s a senior designer with British Aerospace who lives in suburban Minneapolis.
That stage lasted most of the first night. It lasted until Wally Williamson, Friday night’s master of ceremonies, dismissed them all with a loud whoop to the Jefferson City-Hickman High School football game. In those stands, waving towels and offering up cheers, some of that awkwardness was shed.
“Kill ’em, boys!”
“Wrong way, boys!”
“I remember when we made those pompoms.”
On Saturday, the Hickman Class of 1965 was treated to a tour of its school, showing off the new classrooms, the new labs, the new media center, the new and newer.
For many, it was the first trip into their school, their teenage homeland, in 40 years.
They paused to remember the six classmates lost in Vietnam; they paused to gasp at the massive additions made in 2003; they paused to remember how little their auditorium had changed.
It wasn’t lost on the six tour guides, juniors and seniors, that they would be coming back for a 40th reunion someday, though what that day would be like was some sort of vague fantasy.
“Maybe there won’t even be stairs, just escalators,” junior Elliott Stephenson suggested.
“Mr. Grupe” — Greg Grupe is the junior class principal — “will be riding around on an electric hovercraft wheelchair,” one said.
“I’m gonna be old,” said junior Corey Purcell. “But I want to be like them.”
The alumni threw themselves a party later that evening at the Columbia Country Club, a richly adorned house with nice chandeliers and ornate mirrors.
The Byrds, The Beatles, George Jones, Jack Green and others forced the alumni out of their seats and onto the dance floor.
Like a good varnish, the songs stripped away the residue of superficial wear and tear while revealing what was really there to begin with.
Jim Brown, dressed businesslike in a tie, khakis and loafers, grabbed his wife, Sonia, for a few dances. He spun around and gyrated.
Shortly thereafter, a slow dance was played. He and his wife held each other and looked in each other’s eyes as The Righteous Brothers sang: “Time can do so much.”