The Class of . . .
In spring, the year 2001, a class--
Most aged just 18 years--marched forth and passed
From high school halls, arrayed in gowns and caps,
Sustained by strains of "Pomp and Circumstance."
They knew they knew enough to make their way;
They'd grown mature and shed naiveté.
They'd postured independence and strong will,
All poised to fly; all freshly future-filled.
But "future" is a window which is filled
With blinding light. Not one of them was skilled
To see--to even think of decades hence
When they would meet and know time's consequence.
What can we tell this class of what's to be,
Before their dreams must bargain with reality?
Their hearts come packed with possibility--
But little room to sense their own mortality.
About to loosen bonds with parents, peers,
With those who taught them, coached them through the years,
They feel their senior status fade, a phase
Ended with gifts, congratulations, praise.
Their elders, standing by, hope hard that they
Will find acceptance and success, the way
To break away with confidence, and then
To value time for coming home again.
They hope their youth will have the grit inherent
In commitment, strength enough to bear
And bend with change, good work to do, some wealth,
The chance to love a child, the comfort of good health.
And will they learn there's more to learn, to listen
To experience, to heed the lessons
Which come unannounced, to pass the tests
In real world labs, where answers bear no second guess?
Far from such thoughts, this class of teens is fueled
For fun, some brief rebellion, being cool.
Oh, where to fit! "You are too young for this," they're told,
And then they hear, "For that you are too old!"
Those teenage years--the need to follow fads,
To cling in groups, to act alike, be clad
In trendy clothes. All seeking songs to set them free,
All bound in courting sexuality.
Contestants have they been on courts and fields
And stages, uniformed and proud, unyielding,
Honing warrior skills to hometown cheers--
What conflicts will they face in coming years?
Will they know more of victory--or less?
What strategies will prove their best offense
To preempt creeping illness, forestall stress,
To battle ignorance and arrogance?
And what defense will they devise against
Such foes as debt, deceit, entanglements,
Against eroding self-esteem, great loss and grief,
Infirmities of mind, or faltering beliefs?
Uncalloused youth, all veterans-to-be,
One day may carry wounds no surgery
Will heal. They'll cover scars and come to see
Their common bond of vulnerability.
From this class, now, these lives will march away
On widely separate roads. Just how will they
Find common ground again, beyond the questions,
"How ARE you?" and "Do you remember when . . ."?
If they are wise enough in time to see
Beyond themselves, beyond diversity,
They may perceive the core--the family
Of man--whose bonds reach universally.
A different sameness will they speak of when
Reunions bring them briefly back again.
They'll speak of love and hope, of fate and chance,
Of faith, confusion, choice and circumstance.
Here's tribute to the Class of . . . I forgot . . .
Which year was that? It matters not,
For they are we--and we are they
Just forty years gone by since yesterday.
Nancy Hatten Clark
Ottawa IL High School Class of 1961
On the occasion of the 40th reunion
October 6, 2001