Getting together

Thirty two years is a long time.

Way back then no one had heard of a bff (best friend forever). No one had contemplated a computer or a website like Facebook, where friends could keep in touch on the hour or by the minute. Dial-pad telephones were just being replaced with push button phones and pocket calculators were a pretty big deal. It was a lifetime ago, as far as technology is concerned.

This was also the time of autograph books and point and click cameras. Scribbled notes and amateur poetry lined the pages of booklets meant to capture memories. Most of the photos printed from the film were pretty grainy compared to the professional results most digital cameras offer today. Although those autograph books held the promise of best friends forever, such was not the case, even though scribblers meant it at the time.

This past weekend, the 1980 graduating class from Rockwood Centennial Public School got together for a reunion. It was arranged by Kris (English) Grieder who was back in Ontario for a visit from Alberta, which has been her home since high school. Others helped too, but it was her email invitation that prompted a night out with old friends. Many students of the Grade 8 class attended and Karen (Parkinson) Challinor even had some old photos to share.

In an informal roll call of sorts the following students attended: Alex Weir, George Thring, Neil Simpson, Rick Rowan, Steve Petty, Karen Parkinson, Ken Nightingale, Jamie MacGillvray, Graham Leslie, Jon Griffin, Martin Garbotz, Herb Farr, Kris English, Doug Bertelsen and Dave Adsett. These were the boys and girls of old Eramosa Township. Many of these pupils attended classes together from kindergarten to Grade 8. Some friendships were shorter, since Eramosa Public School students went to Rockwood for their Grade 7 and 8 years.

That particular year, 1980, would be a turning point in most of our lives.

School boundaries for secondary grades meant some would go to one of four high schools in Guelph and the balance would go to Centre Wellington District High School. Other families moved from the area, further aggravating the chances of keeping up friendships. Something else happened too.

Around that age, kids transitioned from boys and girls to young men and women. It was a time of new directions, whether it was types of classes taken, after-school interests, or different social scenes. It’s an important time in life and with guidance from parents, helped along by a dose of good luck, secondary school was the start of grander adventures and new friendships.

Life is about change and things that seemed so important at that age were really not all that big in the grand scheme of things. Accepting change is something we try to share every chance we get with our twins, who coincidentally are in Grade 8 this year. As a parent these epic moments when friendships sour or calamity strikes are times for a hug and instilling the lesson that tomorrow will never be the same as today. It’s always a good time to push the virtues of kindness to others.

As we watched everyone interact that evening, a few things became clear.

Most of us have not changed that much, although the dark venue made it a little hard to pick out from the crowd people who were in our group.

We all had made it one way or the other – as business people, tradespeople, valued employees, nurses, farmers, managers, software-related programmers and entrepreneurs, among other things. Everyone was doing something productive and had accomplishments.

We have also become our parents now in many ways; doing our best to provide for our families and offering something back to the communities we call home. A genuine interest about the well-being of all classmates was apparent too. Somebody knew something about someone who couldn’t make it.

The experiences of our Grade 8 class aren’t all that different from what most readers have experienced.

Those early years and friendships may not have ended up being forever, as once believed, but they remain an integral part of who we all became and the success many of us have experienced.