Sounds of San Miguel

The day begins in San Miguel just before 5:00 a.m. when the rooster in my neighborhood sounds his reveille. The prolonged whistle of a passing train cuts through the morning darkness ten to fifteen minutes later. At 6:30, a cacophony of church bells fills the early morning quiet. The symphony of the sounds of San Miguel begins.

The church bells of San Miguel have a rustic quality. Like many visitors to San Miguel, the church bells are a mystery. They ring with no discernible pattern. I have been told the bells sound ten to fifteen minutes before Mass to hasten the faithful to worship. Throughout the day, bells ring on the hour and the half hour; but, the number of rings appear to have little to do with telling the time.

The day is filled with the sounds of city life: cars, buses, trucks, quads, the voices of people, and the sounds of shoe soles striking well-worn paving stones.

Between five-thirty and six in the evening, the elote man (corn vendor) pushes his cart up my street. Aaaaay-Looo-Taaaay, he sings, a drawn out and wailing song, with the beauty of a religious chant going back a thousand years. Its haunting sound is a tenor aria in the music of the day.

Evenings in the Jardin Public, there is Mariachi, the sounds of people mingling and children playing. San Miguel enters through the senses and seeps into the soul. I savor it slowly. I do not rush. I have no agenda. When I hear music, I follow the sound and take in the experience.

San Miguel attracts. It does not inflict itself on the visitor. Its people are amable (friendly, sweet) and a delight to be with.

A white-haired old man and his blind wife sit on a street corner. He strums a battered old guitar and sings while his wife blows a harmonica. Later, I see them walking together, slowly and carefully, down the street. He leads, she follows, her hand on his shoulder, characteristic of the intense love in Mexican families.

The sounds of children, playful, happy, beautiful, their shrill voices, like wind chimes, add a soprano descant to the chorale of daily life in San Miguel.

Me encanta San Miguel

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The sun rose to greet us as Luis, our driver, sped across the Mexican highlands toward San Miguel de Allende where my friends, Annis and Judy, and I will spend the month of February.

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘dennis-smaAzucena, our housekeeper, greeted us warmly on arrival at Animas 8, and showed us to our apartments. Once settled, we headed to the Plaza Principal to buy Mexican pesos and to eat breakfast. We chose the terrace of a cafe across from La Parroquia, the cathedral and iconic San Miguel landmark, and the Jardin Allende. When the server handed me a menu, I laughed. My first meal in San Miguel was at La Bella Italia Restaurante. In spite of the name, I enjoyed chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican dish of corn tortillas cut in quarters, lightly fried, and served with green or red salsa or mole poured over the crisp tortilla triangles. Instead of scrambled eggs, I ordered black beans. After breakfast, we walked out into the Plaza. Spotting the web cam that provides the live feed we’d been watching for weeks, we waved to our friends at home.

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘annis-judy-smaShopping and housekeeping chores complete, we went out for an orientation walkabout. Having been to San Miguel several times, Annis and Judy are excellent guides who graciously share their knowledge and experience of the place, covering such essentials as the lavanderia (laundry), grocery store, and mercado (market place). Along the way, they pointed out places of interest, restaurants, and suggested areas I might want explore on my own.

At eight o’clock the next morning, the sun shone brilliantly in a clear blue sky as I walked to the end of Animas to buy fresh tortillas at the neighborhood tortilleria. Passing the bakery exhaust fan as I neared the corner, the aroma of freshly made tortillas calls to the sense of smell like an aphrodisiac. For five pesos, I got a stack of 12-15 fresh, warm tortillas. I hurried home while the tortillas were still warm to enjoy with my breakfast.

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘dennis-annis-smaMexicans have a vibrant street culture that is fun to experience. February 2nd is Fiesta de la Candelaria, the fortieth day after Christmas, celebrating the presentation of Jesus at the temple. In the evening, the plaza comes alive with holiday week-end festivities. Mariachis play traditional, upbeat, happy music as people sing and dance in the street. Food vendors ring the jardin in the center of the plaza. Elote (a corn cob on a stick) is a favorite Mexican street food, complimented with condiments such as salt, chili powder, butter, cheese, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise, or crema (sour cream).  Ice cream is a popular treat of all ages, whether served in a cup or in a homemade sugar cone. El Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day) is celebrated February 5th. Actors from a local acting company, dressed in period costumes, entertained crowds of people with stories to advertise their production of a play about the events of the Mexican Revolution.

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘parque-juarez-smaSunday morning, Parque Benito Juarez was the site of the opening day of an annual month-long flower show, part of the Candelaria celebration. Flowers and plants of every kind and color are artfully displayed with an eye for design and presentation unique to Mexico. Plants, flowers, food, books, pottery, and trinkets are available for sale.  Crowds of people enjoy the festival atmosphere. Later in the morning, I met Annis and Judy for coffee at Cafe Rama before heading off to the annual Art Walk.

While days and evenings can be packed with activities, life in San Miguel is not demanding, allowing visitors to take in whatever they choose and at their own pace.

On our orientation walk that first afternoon, I met Ginny, a friend of Annis and Judy. “Is this your first time to San Miguel?” Ginny asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You’ll be back,” she said. “It’s a magical place. You’re going to love it.”

She is right.

My bags are packed sorta

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘travel-proI am packing for a month-long trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I’m well-organized and an efficient packer. My suitcase of choice is a TravelPro Platinum II roll-aboard which I can pack for a trip of any length. The longest I’ve lived out of my roll-aboard is five weeks. No problem. It isn’t necessary to pack everything but the wallpaper. There are laundry services everywhere in the world. If I forget to pack something, experience has taught me that I can usually buy a replacement, if it’s really needed.

In the “old days,” I rolled my TravelPro  aboard the plane and hefted it into the overhead bin. On arrival at my destination, I’d be off the plane and through passport control before most passengers on the flight found their baggage carousel. I quit rolling aboard a number of years ago because people got crazier and crazier about stowing their bags and other stuff on the plane. Now, I check my bag. Even if there’s a cost. I’m in no hurry. So, I let other people have the overhead space.

Preparing for a trip involves four processes:

  1. Arranging care for Robbie
    When I travel, Robbie stays with Gwen and Mike who adore him and treat him as one of their own dogs. Going to Gwen and Mike’s is like going to grandma and grandpa’s. Robbie is excited to be there and makes himself right at home. When you’re fortunate enough to have someone who cares as much about your dog as you, hang on to them. Thery’re a priceless gift.
  2. Laundry and dry cleaning
    A week or more before traveling, I begin thinking about the clothes I’ll pack, making sure that everything is laundered, dry cleaned, and ready to pack.
  3. Housecleaning.
    I clean my house before I travel because I enjoy coming home to a clean house. My friend, Harriett, shared with me her mother’s admonition: “Always leave your house in dying order.”
  4. Packing
    My friends, Annis and Judy, put a box in their office. As they think of things they will need to pack, they put them into the box so that when it’s time to pack they have everything at hand. I liked their idea and adopted it, with modifications, of course. I start with two lists, one for things I need to buy and the other for things I need to pack. As I add these items to the box, I check them off of the lists.

While I am in San Miguel, I will attend the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Since I plan to write, I am bringing my laptop. I am also doing some photography workshops and a photo safari. That means bringing my camera bag full of camera gear. Here is where I draw the line. I will not check either my laptop or my camera. The rest of my stuff goes into my suitcase. I’m okay with that. I’m not as attached to my stuff as some people.

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Oatmeal Meditation

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘meditation-featheredMeditation is difficult. For me, anyway. I can never find a position comfortable enough to keep my mind from focusing on my discomfort. I can’t sit still. Emptying my mind of all thoughts is impossible. I can’t make myself not think about something; by trying not to think about it, I am thinking about it. Despite these distractions, I have experienced occasional and brief moments of empty mindedness; I just don’t know how I did it.

I like steel cut oats. I eat steel cut oats for breakfast most mornings. I have a high tolerance for eating the same food every day. A couple of years ago, I came across ‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘The Healthy Librarian’s blog where I found “‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘The Oatmeal Breakfast of Champions: Spiced Pumpkin Steel Cut Oats with Berries and Chia” that became my breakfast food of choice. To cook steel cut oats from scratch requires at least thirty minutes. I discovered, though, that if steel cut oats soak overnight, cooking time is cut in half. I mix the oatmeal concoction together the night before and cook it the following morning. A double recipe makes eight servings.

At medium heat, cooking takes fifteen minutes. At the first pffft of cooking, I set the timer. I stand at the stove, stirring constantly. Oatmeal scorches quickly, if not stirred, making a mess to clean up. I stare into the pot, watching the swirling patterns formed by my wooden kitchen spoon as it keeps the oatmeal mixture in motion.

Last Monday morning the timer sounded jolting me back to mindfulness before the stove, wooden spoon in hand, stirring my steel cut oats mixture. I had no idea where I’d been. I was only aware that I had been in a state of “empty mindedness” for at least ten minutes. Well, I thought, this is like a meditation. My oat meal meditation.

Why memoir?

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘drusilla-2000-4x4When I retired, I joined a memoir writing group. The ten members of the group meet weekly for six weeks, three to four times a year. My mother was my inspiration for writing a memoir. Mom wrote her memoir in 1991. She and a group of friends took an autobiography writing course offered through a senior citizen program at their local community college. She had the memoir photocopied and bound with a plastic spiral binding. At Christmas, she proudly made gifts of copies to my sister, my brother, and me, to her grandchildren, to her three sisters, and to each of their children. Mom was so proud of her book. In the last years of her life, she enjoyed showing her book to caregivers and others, all of whom found her story amazing and who commented to me about how much they enjoyed reading it.

In 2006, I became interested in Web design and developed a personal Web site. Mom died at the end of October that year. In the process of developing my Web site, the idea of including Mom’s memoir along with old family photographs would be a good way to make the family story available to my fourteen first cousins and to a growing number of first cousins once removed.

I began by entering the text of Mom’s memoir into a Word file. I inherited all of Mom’s photographs, many of which are stuck (literally) to those old stick on photo album pages in binders. Envelopes and old shoe boxes are filled with other loose photos. I began going through the photos, scanning those of interest to me and passing on the originals on to others interested in having them. The daughter of a cousin asked if any of Mom’s photos included pictures of her grandmother, a younger sister of Mom’s. I found several and passed them on with pleasure.

The Web site got built, but maintaining it and keeping it current is a bigger job than I expected. As for the online version of Mom’s memoir, the Word file is as far as I got.

The availability of online publishing applications may have changed that. Without a large enough portion of my own memoir to test, it occurred to me that the Word document of Mom’s memoir would make a perfect trial run. I pulled up the file and loaded it into ‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘blurb.com. Learning to use blurb’s BookSmart application is easy. Next, I added photos that I had retouched and resized in Photoshop.

I was fortunate to stumble on to a blurb webinar about formatting a book with photographs. I got excellent advice on layout and adding photos to a manuscript. The result is a beautiful 7-inch by 7-inch book with black and white photographs that I will give to my daughters, grandchildren, niece, and nephew.

Through the memoir process, I’ve learned that every family’s story has as many versions as it has members. My family’s story has three versions: my sister’s, my brother’s, and mine.

Each of us sees our family’s story through the lens of our position in the birth order and our status in the family system. My sister is two and half years younger than I. Her version of the family story might reflect her position as the middle child and her status as the only girl in the family. My brother, five and a half years my junior, no doubt would tell a story emphasizing his position as the youngest child, the baby of the family, and his status as Mom’s favorite.

As the eldest, for many years I made it my job to keep the record straight, a failing strategy often ending in harsh words and hurt feelings. Becoming aware of the importance of personal perspective led to understanding that the family story is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong. What is important is sharing the family’s stories. Telling our own story is like looking into a mirror and describing our reality reflected in the glass. Our story is how we see ourselves, as we are, as we were, as we want to be seen or remembered. Our individual stories are individual strands in the fabric of the family’s story.

I am grateful to Mom for her inspiration, but especially for her creativity and interest in providing all of us with such a loving gift. Her memoir is a tangible reminder of who she was, where she came from, and what made her the extraordinary woman she was. Her story affirms my love and respect for members of my family I had the joy of knowing, especially my grandfather; it adds depth and dimension to the lives of family members who I know only through stories about them. I am certain Mom would be pleased to see the expanded version of her story.

Oh, For Keep’s Sake!

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘A piece of wood. Birch, I think. Five and seven-eighths by eight-and-a-quarter inches with an ogee beveled edge. An Amanda Bradley Hallmark Card poem, cloyingly sweet, glued to its face. On the back is an inscription written in pencil: “2-14-83. To Dennis and Mary, Two very special people. With love, Aunt Richie.”

It’s in a large manila envelope I come across while searching for a collection of photographs stored in the same kind of envelope.

What’s this, I think, picking up the envelope, feeling its weight and shape. I open the envelope.

“Oh, for chrissake, I say.” I don’t need this to remind me of Aunt Richie. Memory of her is more significant than a piece of birch with a schmaltzy poem glued to it. It’s not even glued straight.

I think I’ll give it to Mary; but, Mary probably gave it to me for the same reason I want to give it to her. She doesn’t want it, doesn’t like it, but can’t bear to throw it out because it came from Aunt Richie. “Oh, for chrissake,” I say again.

Aunt Richie was the oldest of Mom’s three younger sisters. Her presence is large in my life for many reasons, not the least important of which is that she lived with us for a year. I was on sabbatical at USC. Mary worked full time outside of the house. Susan and Sharon were nine and six years old.

Her family grown, recently widowed, and seeking a center in her life, Aunt Richie expressed an interest in learning photography.

“You could come to Taft to study with John Christenssen at Taft College,” I said. “You could be the governess while I’m on sabbatical.”

Aunt Richie caught Mary and me off guard when she agreed to my suggestion.

“But,” she said, “I don’t vacuum. I do laundry and I love to iron.”

“No problem here,” Mary said.

We gained much from Aunt Richie’s year with us.

“The girls had smartly creased pants, ironed blouses, and even ironed nightgowns,” Mary says.

“Her French braids were so tight you couldn’t blink,” says Susan.”

Having raised five children, Aunt Richie was an astute observer of child development: “Never give up on your children,” she told me. “There are many ways to the top of the mountain.”

As a practical philosopher, she would declare, “Life continues to be interesting. And the merry-go-round goes round and round. People get off and people get on. And the music continues loud and long.”

“Oh, for chrissake,” she’d say when frustrated.

Memories of Aunt Richie are secure. Their roots transcend the need for a physical artifact to bring them to mind.

Amanda Bradley’s keepsake status is revoked. Into the thrift store donations box she goes.

Let me do it!

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘I Can Do ItBob continues to recover from a brutal and horrific assault. He deals with a traumatic brain injury owing to extended oxygen deprivation. Identification of any cognitive deficits will be determined by neurological and psychological evaluations later this month. Dawn and Keith (his  daughter and son-in-law and primary care givers), with the help of Bob’s therapist, work hard to facilitate his thrust for wholeness.

It’s not easy. For one so accustomed to control, physical disability and complete dependence is a struggle. For caregivers, family, and friends, the struggle is to resist “doing” for him at the risk of robbing him of his progress toward independence.

Once a month, I spend a week with Bob to give Dawn and Keith a break. His condition has declined since the last time I saw him a month ago. He appears angry, depressed.

I don’t know how I would feel in Bob’s situation. I don’t push. I let him be. I wait for him.  He tells me whatever he he wants to tell me. Sometimes it’s funny. We share a good laugh. I love to see those flashes of the “old” Bob that remind me of the good times. More often, he’s somber, serious.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” Bob says. “I nearly bled all out. Twelve pints of blood. No wonder I’m a retard.”

“I don’t think that’s the case,” I say. “I don’t know how you feel, but I can imagine it’s frustrating and humiliating.”

“Yes,” he says. “It is.”

“But, the fact that you’re alive says a lot about who you are. That’s why you’ve got to fight the fight.”

“That’s what I try to do,” he says. “I try to do my best.”

“You can only do your  best,” I say. “And the best you can do right now is not the best you used to do. So, you have to do the best you can do where you are.”

“That’s a good point,” says Bob. “Thank you.”

I wheel him to the bedroom, parking the wheelchair parallel to his hospital bed. Bob raises himself to a standing position. I reach out to steady him, turning him with his back to the bed so that he can sit down and roll himself on to it.

“Let me do it,” he says.

Speaking their language

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘Language fascinates me. I remember, as a child, thinking that the best thing in the world would be the ability to speak any language, to be able to talk with anyone whatever language they speak. Wherever in the world I would be, I would speak the local language. We would understand each other. Not surprising, in college I majored in French and studied Spanish and Italian.

Language acquisition comes naturally to me. Some people have “an ear” for music. I have an ear for language. That “ear” lets me slip easily into the rhythms, patterns, and tones of the language or dialect spoken around me. I’ve been asked by French-speaking visitors from France how long I’ve been in the U.S. Whether with friends in New York or Yinglish-speaking friends in Los Angeles, I’m one of them. In the late 70s, when I had students from Iran, I began to learn Farsi. I will never forget the thrill of being in a group of young students and becoming aware that I understood the conversation. I was one of them.

Recently, I began thinking that this ability may be about more than language. It may be about understanding, being aware of and sensitive to the feelings of others. It’s called empathy. I gravitate to the person in a group who is marginalized for any reason. I connect with the outsider—not because I try, but because it happens. The outsider’s story often has a depth and breadth that enriches my life. If I share what I’ve learned about the outsider with others in the group,  changes in the group’s attitude toward the outsider begin to take place.

Joe Hansen was vice principal at the high school where I had my first job as the school librarian. Joe was viewed by some of the younger teachers as rigid, narrow-minded, conservative, old fashion, and out of touch with the students of the early 70s. Joe dropped by the library often. We became acquainted. I learned he was a Marine Corps officer in World War II. He told me how he lost his left arm in an explosion. He told me about growing up in Pennsylvania during The Depression. He told me about his early days as a history teacher at the school after the war. I laughed at stories of his experiences with students. He regaled me with tales of his exploits and escapades with a group of ex-GIs, all of them now teachers.

Bob McRitchie, one of  my colleagues among the “younger” teachers, thought Joe was irrelevant. Bob and Joe had clashed in the past. As a result, Bob had little use for Joe. Bob taught U.S. history and asked me to help him locate and organize resources about The Great Depression.

“You should talk to Joe,” I said. He grew up in Pennsylvania in The Depression and knows a lot about it. He has great stories that the kids will love.”

Bob was skeptical. I related one or two of Joe’s Depression era experiences and a couple of his young teacher escapades. Bob was impressed. He invited Joe to talk to his class about The Depression.

“He was fantastic,” an enthusiastic Bob told me later. “The kids really got into it. He made The Depression real to them.”

Joe was equally pleased. “They loved it,” he said. “I had those kids eating out of the palm of my hand.”

It was a win for everyone.

Everyone has a history and a story (or stories) to tell. No matter where I’ve lived or worked, my life has been blessed by people who talked to me about who they are, where they’ve been, what they saw, heard, did. I don’t know how or why it happens. I just listen.

Maybe I speak their language.

Crossword Meditation

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘ I’m a word person and a wannabe writer. Not surprising, then, that I love crossword puzzles. I solve the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle every morning. Although the puzzle can be solved online, I print the puzzle from the ‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘LA Times Games page and solve it by hand. I’ve been doing the LA Times crossword puzzle for more than twenty-five years. In addition to the LA Times puzzle, I subscribe to two crossword puzzle clubs, I buy books of New York Times and other newspaper crossword puzzles, and family and friends often give me crossword related gifts, like the Mensa 10-Minute Crossword Puzzles Page-A-Day Calendar. I always have a crossword puzzle on hand. I carry crossword puzzles in the pocket of my shoulder bag along with glasses, checkbook, business cards, and cell phone so that I can work on a puzzle when I am waiting for a medical appointment, for my car to be serviced, traveling on an airplane, or for any other reason I find a few minute’s time.

I solve crosswords with a pencil; though, for years I used a ballpoint pen—a problem whenever I entered the wrong letter or word. If I had to change a letter or word several times, the letters became impossible to decipher. So, I went back to using a pencil. I keep an eraser handy, too.

Over the years, my crossword solution technique has evolved. When I began solving crossword puzzles, I started with the first across clue, then moved to the next across clue, then the next. When I got to the last across clue, I went to the  first down clue, working my way to the end of the down clues. Later, I changed the technique: I solved the first across clue, then attempted to solve the down clue beginning with the last letter of the clue I had just solved. Currently, I solve the crossword in a pattern where I solve the first across clue, then the first down clue, then solve the across clue that begins with the second letter of the down clue I just solved. When I get stuck, I move to a new spot in the list of across clues.

I love the the way I feel when I solve a crossword, especially when I haven’t had to look anything up. Is looking things up cheating? Not according to the late Margaret Farrar, editor of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle from 1949 to 1969. Looking things up, Farrar contended, is how people learn.

What’s best about crossword puzzles is that when I am solving a puzzle I am in the “moment,” in the “zone.” Crossword puzzle-solving is the one time during the day when I am focused on a single activity. Everything else fades into obscurity. I am there. Being present (there) for me—and, I suspect, for many—is a problem. Many times, no matter what I am doing, my head is somewhere else. I’ve tried various forms of meditation, all of which proved unsuccessful. One morning, not too long ago, I realized that I had worked on a crossword puzzle and been oblivious to my environment and the passage of time. This is a meditation, I thought. My impression was confirmed when I read  Natalie Goldberg’s Zen master’s advice about sitting meditation: “Why don’t you make writing your practice? If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.” There’s the challenge: to transfer what I’ve learned from my crossword puzzle experience to writing.

I never imagined a crossword puzzle could be a tool for self-awareness, a source of enlightenment. Margaret Farrar would be pleased.

Class of 1962 Fifty Year Reunion

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘When I was in high school, I heard people of my grandparents generation talking about fifty year reunions. It seemed impossible to image. Fifty years was so far into the future.

The future arrived last week-end when I attended the Santa Rosa High School Class of 1962 Fifty Year Reunion.

High school reunions are a part of life. Like family reunions, they are important because they connect us to our past, reminding us of who we are and from where we come. A fifty year reunion is a significant rite of passage because we’ve pretty much arrived at where we were going, or thought we might go. It’s an opportunity to celebrate our common history, to remember and to be reminded of the things we did and the plans we had.

Many of my classmates agree that we were fortunate to have grown up in a Father-Knows-Best-Leave-It-to-Beaver world. We hadn’t heard of Viet Nam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. We had all seen The Man With the Golden Arm and though we knew about marijuana and heroin, there was no drug problem. Guys went off to college, got a job, or enlisted in the military because it was an excellent way to  learn a trade or to make a career. Girls went to college or to work, but in those days their choices were limited by the expectation that they would grow up to be June Cleaver.

I’ve known some of the members of the class of 1962 since the fifth grade. I’ve stayed in contact with a few of them all those years. Having lost contact with many, I reconnected with some at the ten and twenty year reunions. I missed the thirty year reunion. We didn’t have a forty year reunion.

 

With Susie and Sheri, friends since junior high days.

The reunion week-end festivities began with a reception Friday evening. Lots of hugs, kisses, laughter, and tears as classmates reminisced and caught up with each other. My friend, Sheri, and I had talked about and planned for the reunion for months. We were thrilled when one of the first people we ran into was our good friend Susie. I invited my sister to come with me as she knows many of the people in my class. She was delighted to run into a couple of her colleagues she hadn’t seen since she retired last year. A high point of the evening was seeing my friend, Jim, who I haven’t seen in about forty years. Jim and I had plans to bicycle through Europe after graduation. I purchased ruck sacks and a copy of Frommer’s Europe on $5 a Day. The Navy, the Army, and college thwarted our plans. We talked about the possibility of a future trip to Europe. “Probably not on bicycles.” I said. Jim’s wife, Tessa, reminded me that three of my DeMolay brothers and I escorted her to a program/dance because Jim was too sick with the mumps to take her. “You were all such perfect gentlemen,” said Tessa.

A happy and long overdue reunion with my friend Jim.

Saturday morning, members of the Santa Rosa High School Foundation conducted a tour of the school. The main building, built in 1934, was extensively remodeled the year following our graduation. New buildings and landscaping create an inviting campus environment. A thriving Career Technical Education program includes Agriculture, Viticulture, Veterinary Technician, and Welding Technology programs. The school has a vineyard and makes wine from its own grapes. Many of the traditions we remembered are alive and well. At the end of the tour, we enjoyed singing the Santa Rosa High School Fight Song that dates from 1936. Santa Rosa High School enrollment crossed the 2,000 mark at the beginning of this year’s fall semester.

Saturday evening included dinner and dancing at Fountain Grove Inn. Class members were invited to introduce themselves, their spouses/partners, and to summarize the past fifty years in twenty-five words or less. The class is spread across the country, represents an amazing array of careers and achievements, and an impressive number of marriages in the forty to fifty year range. I didn’t hear an actual count, but I estimate between 100 and 120 people attended. The actual number of class members was probably about 60-80.

Seventy-seven of our classmates are no longer living. Shocked by the number—about twenty percent of our class—on my return home, I sat with the list of the deceased and paged through the yearbook stopping to look at the graduation photo of each deceased member. It was an emotional experience, but one I felt I owed to the memory of those people who were a part of my life for so many years.

Leaving for home on Sunday morning, there was a flood of memories and emotions. I felt like the little kid who, having enjoyed a marvelous adventure, feels overwhelmed with joy and yet is on the verge of tears and sobs because it’s over.

The Class of 1962 Fifty Year Reunion was a thrilling and heartfelt celebration of who we are as classmates and friends and as alumni of the school that brought us together. I am grateful I could be a part of the celebration.