Larry Efird: Homecoming games, class reunions and growing older
Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 6, 2022
Of all the many things that have helped to shape my life, being a part of the Class of 1973 at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis is one of the things I’m most thankful for. Growing up in that tight-knit, mill town atmosphere was almost magical. And now I have the good fortune of helping to plan our 50th high school class reunion. We’ve attempted to plan this significant milestone around our beloved alma mater’s homecoming game next fall because those two events are clearly synonymous.
When I was younger, high school homecoming games seemed to focus on honoring former classes of proud alumni along with the crowning of a queen at halftime. Today, high school homecomings continue to be about a queen and her court but little or no mention is made of alumni or storied former generations of students. And I’m not sure if anyone wears those ubiquitous mum corsages anymore so what is the world coming to?
Class reunions are the primary venues where former classmates can gather to chat about fond memories, and homecoming games remain highlighted on annual school calendars. Not having been able to attend one of my own high school reunions to date, being on a planning committee for our 50th has been extra special. It has also afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with friends with whom I navigated mind blowing current events from first grade to twelfth during the 1960s and the early 1970s.
We could not have known as innocent–and oftentimes not so innocent–school children back then that we shared one of the most culturally significant decades of the 20th century. We had a front row seat to the introduction of the Beatles, the first moon landing, a presidential assassination, integration, Roe vs. Wade, and Watergate. We may have been first hand witnesses of those momentous events but we were more preoccupied with going to football games and going on band trips to stop and ponder how the world was changing right in front of us. And there was certainly no thought that we ourselves would ever change.
I remember when my Texas father-in-law was getting ready to attend his 50th high school reunion when my wife and I were visiting her hometown one fall. He was looking forward to seeing lifelong friends from Abilene HIgh School, the same Abilene High School of “Friday Night Lights” fame. It is true that everything is bigger in Texas. Even reunions–and especially high school football. The first time my wife showed me her high school stadium, I knew that even the annual 10,000 plus Concord/Kannapolis crowd would have trouble filling it up! Being a proud North Carolina boy, I kept that information to myself, however.
Knowing my father-in-law graduated from high school in 1937, I distinctly recall thinking how he was in the “fourth quarter” of his life in 1987, but I was barely beginning the “second quarter” of mine. He was getting old; I was staying young.
I’m sure one common experience has been shared by all class reunion goers, and that is how shocked some are when they notice the physical changes of their former classmates. More and more people keep telling me I look more like my dad every time they see me. That is code language for “You look older.”
Maybe when I retired because I realized I was old enough to be the grandparent of my students, I finally accepted my age. Maybe when the polite young ladies at Bojangles started giving me senior coffees without even asking I should have known I was headed in this direction. But maybe it was as recent as today when I attended a seminar for state retirees at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. I immediately texted my wife to tell her I was surrounded by a whole bunch of old people and consequently wondered if I should be there.
A high school reunion or an annual homecoming game just might be the shock therapy needed for a person to acknowledge that growing older is a privilege. Knowing over 60 of my former classmates have already departed this life for another is also a stark reminder. Perhaps the best part of being in the fourth quarter of life myself is that now I am able not only to celebrate class reunions and homecoming games but all the little moments in between.
Larry Efird is a retired educator from the Kannapolis City Schools.