Friday, May 1, 2009

Eighth Grade and Beyond

The season of graduation--that most cliched of all thresholds--is once more upon us. Whether or not the graduation is our own or that of a sibling, child, friend, or even parent, the event inevitably brings to mind the question, "What happens next?"
By one of those odd confluences that Fate is so good at creating, this past weekend held two back-to-back events for me that simultaneously raised and answered that question.

On Thursday evening, I was privileged to watch a particularly talented group of eighth graders from Oak Grove School perform the musical Bye Bye Birdie. These kids were amazing. They sang, danced and acted at a level far beyond their years.
The other event of my weekend happened to be the 41st reunion of my own eighth grade class. Jeez, where did that time go? As the teenagers in Birdie sang, we had "a lot of livin' to do."
We lived through Flower Power, Woodstock, Watergate, the BeeGees, Travolta and disco, Dynasty, detente, Clinton and Lewinski, Oklahoma City, two Bushes, and 9/11. Our personal histories are a panoply of travel, careers, marriages, and divorces. Our children reflect the complexity of our lives: some are beautiful and accomplished, some are severely troubled, some are all, or none, of the above. Most, but not all of us have survived to our mid-fifties in spite of stupid decisions, alcohol and fast cars, drugs, and our own genetic time bombs. We are, by our shared history, a group who love and quarrel and ignore each other by turns. Oddly, at least in my case, the bond seems to grow stronger with time so that I am compelled to write a blog perilously close to cheese level about people I consider as an extended and rather eccentric family. (Yes, even you Mary and Martha who were so mean to me in sixth grade.) (Penny, forget it. You can still go to hell.)

So what I would love to say to the eighth graders of 2009 is: remember, you do have a lot of living to do. Live wisely, live well. Because in a nanosecond or two, you will look around and say, "OMG, I can't believe our eighth grade play was 41 years ago!"

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