My High School Friends.

My Senior Portrait

What is it about your high school friends that creates such a bond? These people who occupy your life, in most cases for a mere 3-4 years, remain in your hearts, your memories, sometimes on your minds and in your dreams for a lifetime. Why is that? The permanency of your high school friends and acquaintances used to be reinforced only every ten years as reunions were the traditional every-decade opportunity to see everyone from bygone days and catch up on things. It was at the reunions that big smiles and big hugs occurred and ultimately led to…..nothing. For despite our fondness of our old classmates whatever it was that sent us in various directions after that final toss of the cap, whatever it is that keeps us from enjoying each others company outside of the every-ten-year reunion most people don’t hang with their old chums even when given the opportunity to do so at reunion time.

My school class 30 year reunion is upcoming this Summer. And of course some very good and dedicated people from my youth have organized and planned events for that time. Good for them. And thank you to each and every one of them. I’m looking forward to it, even though unlike reunions of ten and twenty years I’m not nearly as separated from my old pals.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Facebook has changed everything in this area. Over 800-million people worldwide have a Facebook account and statistics indicate that half of them log on every day. In the United States many, if not most, of these social media darlings made up their “Friends” almost entirely of old school friends. Now our society has gone from touching base with old high school chums every ten years to every ten hours. Remarkable!

In my case, I left

Sammamish High logo

Sammamish High School in Bellevue, WA upon graduation in 1982 and never looked back. I had over 500 kids in my graduating class. By July of that same year the number from those 500 people who I saw regularly was reduced to a small handful. After going away to college that September that number became zero. Over the next 5 years my association with high school classmates included 3-4 people, and only occasionally. My wedding 5 years after graduation brought 5-10 of them together. The succeeding 10 years I occasionally saw the Best Man from my wedding, who was also a high school classmate and football teammate. He then left my life for the past 14 years; until re-emerging only a couple months ago (and not on Facebook).

From my perspective my disappearance from sight from all my high school classmates is not rare. In fact its pretty common. And also not rare, from what I have seen and read, my old school classmates remain dear in my heart and mind and always have. Distance and time has not dimmed my strong feelings for people who only occupied parts of three years of my life.

In the thirty years since that time I’ve found myself employed with at least 2-3 jobs where I worked closely with people for longer stretches than the 3 years high school required. In one case I worked 13 years at an employer with a base of staff that was pretty constant. In each instance of employment I worked with people for longer hours each day than was required in high school, in a field we all shared as a common interest, if not passion. We enjoyed the occasional marriage, and birth of children, and family deaths. Many social gatherings and even holidays have been shared with co-workers. Far more than what I experienced in and around high school. And yet in most cases the people who occupy a higher level of fondness and memory in my mind are the folks who shared three years with me thirty years ago, and then left my life.

It fascinates me.

I know not everyone’s experience is like my own. For instance, my wife hasn’t seen or associated with any of her high school friends in the 28 years I’ve known her. And she is a very loving woman, and loved by ALL who come in contact with her. She went to 3 different high schools in four years, for reasons that in the case of each move seemed logical, but clearly left her much more detached from the people with whom she graduated. Other’s may share her perspective.

English: Downtown Bellevue, WA

In the 3 years since connecting on Facebook with approximately 200 of my high school classmates I’ve learned a lot about some of these people who I didn’t know when we were all younger. In some cases I’ve been left to wonder if I went through high school in some debilitating fog. Oddly, most of the closest friends I had in high school are either not on Facebook or not active on it. So most of those I communicate with were either unknown to me entirely, or were mere acquaintances. And yet that fondness exists. Not surprisingly those who I care most about (generally speaking) from this collection of childhood friends are the few who shared my life before high school. I went to one elementary school, one Junior High, and one high school. I’ve connected on Facebook with a handful of others who can say the same thing.

Bellevue, Washington

Bellevue, Washington (Photo credit: brewbooks)

Perhaps the strong feelings and memories many people feel toward their associates of youth is merely nostalgia like we feel toward a good old movie or song. But I think it’s more than that. However friendly any of my school mates are now or then we’re forever joined as brothers and sisters in a common community, with a common history, and in many cases common experiences, common stories, places.

Headquarters of T-Mobile in the Factoria distr...

Factoria

Interstate 405 approaching downtown Bellevue, ...

Bellevue, WA

Because I write and I often aim to be provocative I know some of my old friends are surprised at the man I have become; just as I am in many cases intrigued by learning what they’ve become. But however divergent our lives now are, however successful some, however troubled others, we came together during the formative years that saw us transition from children to young adults. We had no choice in originally being brought together. It is all our choice to have reunited. And isn’t it beautiful that so many with varied interests and passions have made that choice? Should God bless me with another 30-40-50 years of life I’m looking forward to them knowing I am stronger reconnected with those who helped form who I am when I was being shaped.

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War on the Middle Class is all Friendly Fire.

“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”- George Santayana, 19th Century writer, philosopher

Have you ever driven through an old neighborhood where the houses were mostly constructed in the 1920’s?

Old Neighborhood

Seattle's Queen Anne Hill

What did you see? What you saw from that era of American consumption is very large homes; Bungalow styles, Colonial revival, Ranch style and others. In Seattle the Leschi neighborhood and the area east of Franklin High School give adequate representation of the kind of opulence home owners enjoyed in the time of Prohibition,

Calvin Coolidge, President of the United State...

President Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge, and a rising stock market.

History being our teacher we look back on that time and know what followed; a record stock market crash, increased taxes from the Federal Government and a depression that shook the foundation of our country. So what do you see in the neighborhoods where the houses were constructed in the 1930s? The answer is nothing. There are no neighborhoods built in the 1930s. Like today construction ground to a complete halt because of the depression leaving nothing to look back on.

World War II took us out of the depression, but because of the diverting of resources home construction didn’t recover in this country for five more years. When it resumed in the late 40s and continued through the 50s and 60s what was being built? The Lake Hills community in Bellevue, WA is a fair representation of late 50s early 60s construction. I grew up there.

Small homes from 1950s

With very few exceptions it’s a community made up almost entirely of ramblers with a size seldom exceeding 1200-1500 square feet. They were easy to construct and inexpensive. And the Eisenhower and Kennedy 50s and 60s gave America a universal image of happiness and wealth. In my case I thought my house was a palace growing up. After my parents divorced our single parent home, led by my Dad, became a 1100 square foot rented duplex. The whole neighborhood was duplexes, so once again I didn’t feel deprived.

Slowly through the 70s the houses got bigger, introducing the God-awful split-level

I always hated Split-levels

. But even these were generally no more than 2000 square feet.

By the time the 90s come around everything has exploded.

A 1990s McMansion

Newly constructed homes have to have a minimum of three bedrooms, laundry room, office, play room and foyer. The home I grew up in would be swallowed by my current homes downstairs alone. And with the added size came an awful lot of opulence too. Granite countertops now are staples in even the most humble abode. In the past 20 years we’ve furnished these McMansions with leather furniture and tile floors. And if our home didn’t have the amenities we desired we would refinance our mortgage or get a second mortgage, taking equity out of our personally largest investment. Taking equity out of your home was something our parents and grandparents wouldn’t dream of doing except in the most dire financial emergency. Now we do it to finance a trip to Cancun.

The 2008 financial collapse was largely caused by an increasing number of Americans failing to pay their mortgage; mortgages for big, opulent homes too many flat-out couldn’t afford. But creative financial instruments were put before us and Presto! We could suddenly afford these ridiculous houses. The dreaded ARM loan became a buzz word and the source of all our consternation. Nobody put a gun to anyone’s head asking them to sign these unwise financial documents. But like lemmings lining up for our own fatal plunge Americans from every corner of our nation made the dive.

The expenses our parents faced on a monthly basis included a rent or mortgage payment on a fixed-rate 30 year mortgage. They included heating bills, water, sewer, life insurance, car insurance, phone, food and gas. It included little else. Today all those expenses have exploded. Gas prices have doubled just since Barrack Obama became President. Also now our monthly expenses include all of what’s just been mentioned PLUS cable tv, internet, DVRs, cell phones

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

, workout-clubs or gyms, video game networking, 50 inch TVs and more. And these are just regular monthly expenses. These are expenses earlier generations couldn’t fathom; nearly all of them unnecessary extravagances. Can you say with a straight face that you honestly NEED 200 different television channels? Is it really necessary that each individual in the household be available for a telephone (cell phone) call 24-7? We have five different telephones in my four person home. We could have six but I fought my wife against getting our 13-year-old daughter her own phone.

When dollars are tight and the bills aren’t being met too many enviously scream at those who have more and shout “No fair!”. But when you look around at what even the poorest in our society enjoy compared to our forefathers, and compared to the rest of the world, for that matter, shouldn’t the finger of blame be pointed at the man or woman in the mirror when cash flow is not there for you? Doesn’t history show us that when you build up and up and up and live beyond your means a correction is inevitable? And doesn’t history tell us that living humbly coincided with happy times and progress for our society?

I don’t wish anyone to live uncomfortably. I want us all to have a rich and fabulous existence. I want us all to thrive. I’m just saying thriving could be a lot easier if we look back from whence we came.

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