Sunday, June 24, 2018

We Were Nine

Nine of us. Seniors. Sitting on the front steps of Wyandotte High. We thought we owned those steps. Everyone else did, too. It didn't matter who was on them or how long they had been sitting there, when The Nine decided we were going to sit there, we sat. And no one else did. That was just how it was. Call it some strange hierarchy of the teenage universe, but when the Senior herd is dominant, the underclassmen get booted to the lawn or the hallways or the curb. No one questioned us. They would just get up and shuffle away. Maybe it was because we had our bluff in on everyone, maybe were bullies, maybe...just maybe...we were obnoxious. Probably a little bit of all of that.

This particular picture was snapped on a sunny day near the end of our high school adventure. I know it was May because The Teddy Bear and I were dating. Graduation was looming. We were smiling. Genuinely. There were no duck faces, peace signs, tongues, or goofy faces. It was natural. It was relaxed. It was happy. We were all thin, fit, our hair was dark (and for us girls it was BIG thanks to Aqua Net). We were 18 and we. knew. everything.

There were five guys (The Class Clown, The Aggie, Mr. All-American Nice Guy [who was my knight in shining armor the night I got stupid drunk on Boone's Farm], The Quarterback, The Quiet Guy/Teddy Bear) and four girls (The Most Popular Girl in School, The Athlete, The Ag Queen, and me, The Nerd). Six of us started Kindergarten together. The other three came in somewhere in junior high. We didn't hang out together until Senior year and to this day I honestly don't know how or why we even started. Because we hadn't before then.

After high school Mom, Sis, and I moved to town and I remember one night everyone came over to my new house to watch movies. I think that was the last time we were all nine together. The Teddy Bear and I broke up that summer and he went on to marry one of my best friends a few years later. He doesn't care much for me now. He's a biker with a cool beard. The Most Popular Girl and I moved to Stillwater together. I moved back home about six weeks later. I missed my momma. All four of us girls went out a few years after graduation, got in a huge fight while we were out, and didn't speak for years. Fortunately we grew up and three of us are Facebook friends now. One isn't on Facebook (or maybe she's blocked me) and hasn't lived in the area since shortly after graduation. The Class Clown is a teacher now and he and his saint of a wife own a snow cone business in town. The Aggie bought a fireplace where I work a couple years back. He's a farmer and on the school board. We both live in the 'Dotte. All-American Guy is still around, but our paths rarely cross. He served our country as a Marine. He used to be a golf pro and my husband was so envious of his job. The Quarterback stays to himself. He has a job down on the lake. A few of us have lost children. Three of us are grandparents. One hasn't married. A few of us are divorced.

And as it turns out, we did NOT know everything. I still don't. Maybe the other eight have gotten it together in the past 27 years, but for this ol' gal, I'm still living by the "fake it til you make it" way of life. We sat there on those steps that day never dreaming of the things we'd encounter. Pure, real love and true, deep heartache. Unimaginable joy and unfathomable loss. Ups, downs, and all the in-betweens. That inevitable changeover from cool car to sedan or *gasp* minivan. The expanding of hips and waists, the graying of hair, births and deaths, laughter and tears. I keep going back to that picture a lot lately. I wonder if that girl in the jean shorts and NEO t-shirt would want to know how her life will look in 20-some years.

Nah. She's still trying to figure it all out anyway.

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on June 22, 2018. 

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