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.