Graduation for the ‘moms’

Note to readers: As we’re nearing graduation season and I’m about to experience it all from the “mom side,” I have been processing the entire concept of this life moment. This week, I’d like to honor my mom’s experience with a column originally published in July 2005. Her graduation may have happened more than 50 years ago, but I sense the apprehension and anticipation are universal, as well as the feelings that stick all those years later.

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“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” —Robert Southey

During a sticky ’50s summer, a couple of southern girlfriends in pressed poodle skirts bounced out of Hem­ingway High School for the last time.

Beyond their next road trip to Myrtle Beach, Marguerite and Tiny weren’t ready to commit more than a passing thought to their futures. Who cares what happens next week, next year, or in the next 50 years? They were crossing over into a new era of freedom-they were Hemingway High School graduates.

Funny how time flies. Just ask Marguerite (my mom), one of those bobby-sock sporting girlfriends. This past May she took a plane back to Hemingway, S.C., to make an appearance at her 50th high school reunion.

Years ago, she and her best friend Tiny had been inseparable. They had, after all, shared a childhood and naturally assumed they would be a part of each other’s futures.

Mom hadn’t anticipated that one of their beach trips would lead to an encounter with a Marine from, of all places, Kansas. And she definitely never expected to leave South Carolina.

Yet, three years after walking away from Heming­way High, she found herself married and moving 1,200 miles from her family, her beloved beaches, the familiar tobacco fields and the only friends she’d ever known.

One year in Kansas led to a decade, and then suddenly melted into five.

Even if they didn’t spend their adult lives chatting over a shared backyard fence, Tiny and Mom did manage to maintain their friendship-in spite of being separated by so many years and miles.

After growing accustomed to experiencing each other’s milestones second hand, this reunion was a chance to finally share one together.

Unlike my mother, I never faced the challenge of moving hundreds of miles from my hometown and starting a new life in an unfamiliar place. The friends I played four-square with in second grade are the same ones who understand me when I reminisce about “spinning doggies” on the streets of Lincolnville during our high school years.

(Only a couple of people will identify with that comment. For the rest of you, I give my word that no animals were hurt-or even involved-in this act.)

At this point, it’s just as hard for me to imagine attending my 50th high school reunion as it is to comprehend the fact that I’ve already been out for 15 years. I feel both as young as I was and as old as I am.

Knowing there are people out there who knew me then and also understand who I am now, is the saving grace to getting older. And in another 35 years, it will be our turn to go back to “our time”—just as my mom did this year.

The Platter’s “Only You” seeped from the jukebox as Marguerite walked through the front door of The Hop, a local Hemingway diner. Posters of classic slick Chevys lined the walls amid Elvis and Fats Domino albums.

The retro cafe was full of people who recognized this Midwestern mom as the 20-year-old Southern girl she used to be. After a little mingling, she too began to recognize that girl.

Soon after, Tiny walked through the door. All eyes turned to her—then to my mom—and then back to Tiny. They were as surprised as their classmates: As a testament to their lifelong connection, these two friends, while shopping for their 50th high school reunion a thousand miles apart, had purchased identical outfits.

Regardless of where they have lived, the choices they have made, and the other friendships they have had—50 years later, these two best friends are still the same.

They are Hemingway High School graduates.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ven­tures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­press.com.