In elementary school, it was quite normal to spend years alongside a friend (or at least a friendly acquaintance) then to come back one Fall and after a few weeks of research, only to hear from a teacher or classmate, “Oh, his family moved away during the summer.” And what could I really do or say? Those concrete words became the end of it. Even as a kid, the realization was simple: Sometimes friends disappear forever.
All I was left with was an inch tall, black and white picture in the yearbook to remember them by. No e-mail address or phone number. Just gone.
There was the blonde haired, red-skinned Jesse Jackson who sat across from me in Kindergarten and got in trouble for making Debi Owen cry when he called her “stupid”. And Katy Petzold who moved after 3rd grade, whom I never had a class with or ever talked to, but her weird last name always stood out to me when I saw it in the yearbook. And she must have worn her green Girl Scouts uniform to school a lot because that’s how I remember her.
Ferne Taylor- I sat next to her in 3rd grade while we were reading Charlotte’s Web and everyone bugged her because Fern is the name of the girl in the story. And I also remember her flattening a Coke can to decorate it with buttons to look like a woman, then Justin Burt sang, “Ugly woman, walking down the street”, as he walked the tin can woman across his desk. It was hilarious. (That’s always what I think of when I hear “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, now.)
Zack Bain- a cool kid that loved to play basketball and when he had to draw a personalized license plate for his 5th grade homeroom teacher Mrs. Jones’ class, it read “PARTIER”. She hung it up outside her room on the bulletin board and every time I walked by it I thought, “Really? Surely his Ninja Turtle birthday party wasn’t as cool as mine…”
And of course the classic Jon Peterson with his precise chili bowl haircut who moved away after 4th grade, whose dad always smoked a sweet smelling pipe in the den, wore sweater vests, and worked at the First Methodist Church. I’m sure today these 28 year-olds would have no idea who I am, but I remember them clearly.
I have memories of these random people, now serving as wallpaper in the attic of my brain. Obviously, I have already searched for them on facebook and Google, with no results. It’s strange to think that somewhere out there these long lost classmates are living normal lives just like the rest of us. And surely they have to remember spending their first couple of years in that small school back in Alabama in the late ‘80’s. Who do they remember from my school? Would the people they remember in turn remember them?
People come and go. But when they go, they go somewhere. Sometimes forever a mystery.
“If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal.” –Paul Simon (“You Can Call Me Al”)