Conceived during World War II, we 690-plus, mainly blue-collar teenagers commenced in 1962. From Parkville High in Baltimore County, we leaped into careers, college, marriage and the military with an enthusiasm our parents, who tended to be housewives or Sparrows Point workers, didn't quite understand. We were proud rock-and-rollers, having cut our teeth on Danny and the Juniors at various hops. We were the Knights, rebels with and without causes.
Approximately 100 alumni and some spouses were in the ballroom of the Towson Golf and Country Club recently for our 50th reunion. Entering the lobby, I heard "You haven't changed a bit" being said to everyone. If that were true, we still would be residing in developments like Woodcroft or in brick bungalows near Harford Road. We would look 17 or 18, instead of the generally white-haired and/or balding group I saw. For decades, our class has been moving away from Parkville to more upscale areas or other states and dying off — the ultimate relocation. Having turned 68 in July, I considered my attendance at this month's gathering to be heartening. I am still upright and relatively cogent. Perusing the "In Memoriam" list, I read the names of 66 people, such as my boyfriend, Howard, who never reached 40.
In the context of recent political conventions, we alumni could ask, "Are we better off than we were five years ago, at the last reunion?" The first answer coming to my mind is: We are definitely better off than the 66 on the list. The only other reunion I attended was the 45th. By then, I was a retired principal from the other "ville" (Pikesville High) in the Baltimore County Public Schools, working for Towson University and living in Reisterstown. During the past five years, my husband (a former Sun editor) and I moved to Central Pennsylvania and began reinventing ourselves.
I'm not absolutely sure what "better off" means, but in the summer of 1962, we were altruistic adolescents with the world stretching before us. None of us used canes or popped statins. We were not worrying about retirement income or the real estate market. John F. Kennedy was still alive, and the Vietnam War had not yet claimed some of us. We were "Leave It to Beaver" and "The Donna Reed Show." If our home lives weren't utopian, we were the generation that didn't discuss it. In 1962, Steve Jobs was 7 years old as we went to college with typewriters and transistor radios. We were unaware how rapidly Sputnik was propelling us toward the 21st century. By 2012, my husband's smartphone captured me and my friend, Holly, smiling as if we really loved high school. Listening to a recap of the Orioles' game on our satellite car radio as we traveled home on I-83, I sent that shot and two more reunion photos with captions to my Facebook timeline.
It's sobering to consider the future when the majority of your life already has taken place. At a reunion, you come together as a group because of a shared past moment. It is an occasion encouraging reconnection and reconciliation. Some classmates boasted about all they have accomplished since high school; others revealed it was the only time that really mattered. All of us have lost money in the stock market, and many of us have downsized. Conversations drifted into doubt about the direction of America and what effect this might have on children and grandchildren. Becoming a part of the lives of two little boys, the grandchildren of close friends, has changed my perspective on very young children. They have an effortless optimism that adults want to last forever.
Some Parkville High alumni have reason to feel that things are worse now than five years ago. However, most of us embraced our 50th reunion, believing we still have some contributions and adventures left in us. A bit too old to be baby boomers and yet too young to be part of the Greatest Generation, we are searching for a place in history. We are elderly adolescents, trying to find our matured selves within a complicated society that values youth even more than when we were young. We continue to redefine ourselves, facing the future again, hoping it will stretch a while longer.
Dorothy Edel Hardin lives in Palmyra, Pa. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.