Taking a trip back in time
There’s a saying that goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
It’s a proverb which makes the observation that turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the way things are or were all along. I guess another interpretation would be that the one thing that we can be sure of, the only thing that is consistent in life, is that nothing is permanent.
This saying rang in my head as I returned this past weekend to my home town for its 125th celebration. I grew up in a very small town by the name of
Braddock, well actually on a farm outside of town.
Our school closed in 1991, just one year before I was to graduate. Quite traumatic for a teenager, as you might suspect, to finish their senior year at a new school, but it has to happen to some class and it was us – all five of us. So after a relatively unchanging and steady upbringing, our world changed a whole lot in one year. We learned to adapt to change in a hurry.
The celebration this past weekend included the usual delights, such as alumni festivities, a parade, games for the kids, and various other entertainment.
The alumni activities were particularly enjoyable because I hadn’t been back to that school with other alumni since we closed the doors in 1991. The building still looks the same. The furnishings haven’t changed much. The robin’s egg blue paint on the gym walls is still there. The school song is still etched on the wall above the boys’ locker room. The sink on the left in the girls’ bathroom is still out of order. Some things will never change.
Of course, there were a lot of familiar faces, too. It’s so fun to see how some people have changed quite a lot and how amazing it is that some don’t appear to have changed a bit.
It was during a conversation with one of my classmates that I realized I actually miss those days just a little bit. We had a great small school. We were a close-knit group who cared deeply for each other. We were more like a family.
If we had a conflict we learned to resolve it and move on. We had to, since we spent all of our time together. We had solid upbringings with both parents present. We were genuinely happy, not because we had all the material things we wanted, but because we had all the necessities of life, and that was all we really needed. We were a small community who taught their children to help out, pitch in, and do their part. Things got done by everyone coming together for the greater good.
I heard a Bob Dylan song the other day that reminded me of my days growing up in a small school. The song is called “Forever Young”. Even though we’ve all aged a bit and none of us is forever young, it’s easy to harken back to those days when the slate was blank and the future held so much.
Below are the second and third verses of that song, and I think they speak well of a good old-fashioned small town upbringing.
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
Just when you think you are forever young, you go to an alumni get-together and see someone way older than you looking much better. Or you hear of someone not much older than you becoming a grandma. Nothing like an alumni bash to make you feel young one minute as you recall your school days and then old the next minute as your classmate shares a photo of his teenage son.
Going back “home” also reminds you of your roots and what made you who you are. My trip back in time made me thankful for my wholesome, stable upbringing. The foundation on that old school building might be crumbling, but the strong foundation instilled in me never will.
Mullally is a Tribune writer.
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