I recently received a notice about my fortieth high school reunion this fall.
Fortieth!!! How can it be forty years since I graduated from high school? I still feel seventeen.
Well, except when my back hurts. And my knees creak.
I remember when I was fifteen and my parents went to their twentieth high school reunion. My grandmother lived in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the town where they had been high school sweethearts. The whole family went to visit, and we children stayed with my grandmother while our parents went to their reunion dinner.
Twenty years out of high school. I thought they were so old.
But now I’ve been out of high school twice as long as they were then. Does that mean I’m old?
Not when I still feel seventeen.
I’ve written before how our perspective changes with time. Now, forty years after I graduated from high school, I look back and think how young I was, how much has changed.
I was a valedictorian of my high school class. I have an old cassette tape recording of the speech I gave. Not from the actual graduation ceremony, but from one of my practice sessions, which I recorded so I could work on my diction and phrasing. I listened to it a few years ago, and it brought tears to my eyes, remembering how young I was. How naïve. How untested.
The theme of my speech was “wonder” or “awe.” I’m not sure my engineer father understood what I wanted to say. He kept teasing me about “twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.” What I wanted to say was that we should take the time to stop and see the beauty of creation around us, the magnificence of the universe and of nature. That was what I wanted my fellow students and younger siblings to focus on.
It isn’t easy to focus on beauty in the drudgery of everyday living, when jobs and chores and getting the kids fed intervene, when one is too weary to do anything more than drop into bed at the end of the day. The magnificence of the universe pales in comparison to a soft pillow.
But it’s still there. And it’s still important to focus on the wonder and beauty around us.
I’ve learned a lot in forty years, about life and love and responsibility. About strength and weakness. About the limits of intellect and the power of emotion.
Mostly, I’ve learned how much more I have to learn. I’ll need at least another forty years to feel wise, to have some inkling of the wonders of the universe.
But I hope after forty more years, there are still days when I feel seventeen.
How old do you feel? What inspires you to wonder?