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August 3, 2013

DODD: Reunited, and it feels so good

“Love is blind. Friendship closes its eyes.” — Anonymous

Steve came from Mississippi. Stacey arrived from Colorado. Johnny lives somewhere outside of D.C. And I drove to Jeffersonville all the way from Otisco.

Some I had seen last week. Others I last saw in 1973. Some of them I will never see again.

What did I learn? Some of them had been real successful, and I mean in some cases “own your own jet plane or the president of the United States knows me on a first name basis successful.”

Sure, the good old days in reality probably were not always that good. I know for me I tend to remember fondly the really good ones and tend to not want to recall the bad. As Dickens probably said it best, if we were to be totally honest they were the best of times and the worst of times.

However, on Saturday we were living a bit in the past by celebrating the present. It was kind of a time warp. That’s what real friendship has always been for me. Even if I haven’t seen you for 40 years, with just a few stories and a couple of laughs that time between then and now disappears.

It was really cool to see them. Stacey and Terri are still two of the prettiest and sweetest girls I have ever known. Johnny Kendrick surprised nobody that went to Wilson Junior High or Jeff High in becoming one of the most accomplished of our class. He will always hold a distinction for me as having been the first African-American with whom I ever shared a classroom. He was the only black male in my class in the eighth grade.

Johnny Kendrick in many ways defined my original attitudes about race and equality. Not one of us ever really thought of him as different. That fact certainly is very different now than it was in the year 1968.

 I sensed from our time together that he enjoyed seeing me as much as I did seeing him. Somehow that made me feel real good about the kind of person I was during a time when I didn’t have to be. Johnny was a very special person for so many of us at a time when it was important for him to be. There were so many stories that were like Johnny Kendrick.

Howard McBroom was there from California. He came accompanied by a camera crew filming a documentary about autistic adults who have found happiness and success in life. I talked to the producer at length.

At Middle Road School in the early 1960s, I doubt any of us had ever heard the term “autistic” and there were no special education programs. Howard studied right alongside the rest of us.

We knew Howard was special. But for us, special just meant Howard. He was one of my regular playground friends at Middle Road School. I found him fascinating.

Much like Johnny, Howard taught me a lesson about acceptance, but of a completely different kind. A very special moment happened when 129 classmates sang “Happy Birthday to You” to Howard in the Quadrangle parking lot. He raised his hands, kind of symbolizing his life’s victory and had the most satisfied smile on his face. I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a misty eye or two at that moment among the crowd. Real life moments are hard to beat for that whole feel-good thing.

The group of people with whom I celebrated last Saturday night was the peer group that got me through some of the most awkward and trying times life has to offer. Maybe in five years or 10 years we will compare notes again. There was even talk of getting together at a Jeff High football or basketball game next year for a mini-reunion.

Perhaps one of my favorite memories of last Saturday evening was to see the Hailey twins finally come out of their shell. Sorry for the inside joke. It was one of those you had to have been there 40 years ago to appreciate it.

The photos of one them getting out of the limo (I still can’t tell from the photo which one it was) and walking the fake red carpet made me laugh out loud. Some things never change in a good way.

If any two people for me symbolize the special bond I shared with many of my 1973 classmates, it was and is Lisa and Lynn Hailey. If you can’t have fun with these gals, you just don’t know how to have fun.

Everybody will have their own feelings and reminiscences about the 1973 JHS class reunion. Many of these people are responsible for my being what I am today.

Some can proudly take credit and others should accept some of the blame. I know I did my best to catch up and see as many of the 181 total attendees — which included 127 graduates — as is humanly possible between the hours of 6 p.m. and 12:40 a.m. The Qaud Café staff did a spectacular job of hosting this event on a perfect summer evening weather-wise.

I don’t even know if it is possible to have a perfect high school class reunion. Perhaps it was the genius of its simplicity, but I know for me we sure came close for a class that still has to live with the worst senior class motto in the history of high schools in the world — “We are sexy, we are free. We are the class of ’73!”

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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