It was an annual tradition at Wind Point Elementary School. A photographer would set up in the school hallway to take individual pictures of each student. They even provided combs for Dennis the Menace types such as myself. As part of their services, they assembled a class picture featuring every student in that particular teacher’s room.
Last night at the 35 year Horlick High School Reunion some of those class pictures from at least two elementary campuses were floating around the room. As these group photos that dated back to prehistoric 1968 were being examined, I expected commentary about hairstyles or a change in a particular person’s appearance. That was not the case. At all. I heard expressions of affection. There was a genuine longing to reconnect with classmates that have dropped off the radar screen. It felt like we had rediscovered a piece of priceless artwork that had been tucked away in a dark closet for decades. Perhaps that was a pretty accurate perception….
I know that the first 5 years are technically deemed the formative years for a child. In my mind, the formative years include our entire elementary school experience. After all, it is during that time period that children learn to read, write, and do basic math. It’s also a time of learning how to socialize. Friendships are forged for the first time in a child’s life. The playground becomes a place to learn conflict resolution skills. Learning to deal with each other’s differences and shortcomings teaches 2nd and 3rd graders tolerance and compassion. And a handful of memories are etched on our hearts forever.
As we went through the routine of having pictures made every year, we had no clue that a priceless portrait was being assembled. One year at a time… Every year another part of the portrait was completed. By the time 6th grade rolled around, that era in our lives ended. The completed portrait comprised of annual pictures taken in 1st-6th grade was finished and promptly placed in a box in that dark closet.
Last night we quietly dusted off the completed masterpiece. Perhaps there was a reason for the void of cracks about hairstyles or changing appearances. As we looked at the pictures for each year, we intuitively recognized that our classmates contributed to our formative years. Our classmates had a part in the process of us becoming real adults. Those friends contributed to our sense of wholeness.
It has been a long time since prehistoric 1968. The adults that gathered last night for a 35 year high school reunion have all experienced various types of brokenness generated from living a real life. But as we looked at the priceless portrait that is comprised of annual class photos, I think we felt a renewed sense of wholeness. How could that not happen when you are with the very people that traveled with you through the formative years?
I know I was blessed. I moved away after the 7th grade, but the formative experience remained. I will be forever grateful for those that walked with me during that time period. In a broken world, may we contribute constructively to one another’s wholeness. Thank you Horlick Class of 1980. Each of you are a blessing.