- Promises to keep in touch.
- Funny quotes.
- Bits of teenage wisdom.
- Words of advice.
- A motto meant to define you for posterity.
And photos. Don’t forget the photos:
- The class photo.
- The club photos.
- The activity photos.
- The candid shots.
All of these things form the landscape of one’s high school year book.
My yearbook photo was taken at Vincent Price Studios in St. Louis. It was done in a sepia tone. My hair was puffy because the photo was taken on a misty-hot St. Louis day and my hair had blossomed in response to the temperature. I’d hoped to get my hair cut into an afro before my senior photo but my mother had nixed that plan.
Do you know where your yearbook is?
When was the last time you pulled it out and looked at it?
Did you even buy a yearbook?
Did your high school have a yearbook?
I ask this last question because my friend Pattie graduated from a public high school in 1981. There was no yearbook for her graduating class because the (adult) class advisor absconded with the yearbook funds. I’ve also heard recently of some schools not having a yearbook because there is no adult committed to organizing a yearbook committee and overseeing the process. Still other schools have decided to forgo printed yearbooks in favor of virtual yearbooks.
I didn’t buy my yearbook because I knew money was tight in my household and didn’t want to burden my parents with the cost. I didn’t get a class ring for the same reason. (I didn’t have a paid job in high school and an erratic allowance so I didn’t have the means to save for my own or the chutzpah to figure out how to get one.)
A few years after my graduation from University City Senior High, my sister picked up a copy of my yearbook at a yard sale. I was thrilled to get a copy because a poem of mine was printed in it. It was a poem about time, written in an English class. When I read it aloud, one of the members of the Yearbook Committee and the teacher thought it made a profound statement and determinedly went through the process to get it approved for inclusion in the yearbook.
When my sister gave it to me, I opened it indifferently at first but then found myself thrilled as I turned the pages and saw the faces of friends, forgotten classmates, faculty and staff. It was nice to see the various clubs and activities, even the ones in which I didn’t participate. I should have participated more. (One excuse was that I came to the suburban high school for my junior and senior years and didn’t know the culture. I didn’t have an adult pushing me to participate and explore. Just my parents expecting me to get good grades continuing the tradition of what I’d done in my previous school. In this I am so different from my husband who participated in nearly everything his high school had to offer.)
This found yearbook sits on a bookshelf, hiding in plain view, but it doesn’t belong to me. The autographs and graffiti in it were written for someone else although, come to think about it, the yearbook isn’t littered with comments so perhaps the classmate it belonged to felt no attachment to it and let it go. There’s no signature in it to tell me who it belonged to.
Recently, my husband had several classmates over for dinner – a mini-reunion of sorts. He pulled out the yearbook and they happily and boisterously looked through it and reminisced. They graduated from Boston Latin School. There were only seven Blacks in his class, the last all-male class before the school went co-ed. Each of them had included the same quote under their photos – a final act of unity and acknowledgment that they had survived the rigors of that school.
I, unfortunately, am not in touch with anybody from my high school class (since the estrangement of my long-lost friend lamented in another post). There is one friend who graduated the year before me who lives in the area. We are long over-due to be in touch so I think I’ll contact her and ask her to bring her year book, pull the found one I have out and compare notes.
As I get older, I have come to appreciate more and more, the importance of records, archives, and rituals. These are talismans that allow us to capture and recapture times and events. Who knows, I may even go to the next class reunion.
A longer version of this post originally appeared in BlogHer.com.