GREASE REVISITED – SAFELY BEING BAD
16 September, 2013
I love Charleston; but I have to acknowledge I also love my home town. Just recently I returned from a high school reunion in my hometown, Glens Falls, N.Y. What I find surprising is a warm comforting enduring glow. That glow emanated from the reunion and is still working to keep me happy and refreshed. It seems almost mysterious how classmates with differing life paths and distant geographic locations can come together for a weekend and have fun as if no disruption in time had occurred.
A favorite movie of mine is “Grease”. If you have not watched this fun musical, it relives the shenanigans, puppy loves, relationships, foils and adventures that occur during high school. My high school, St. Mary’s Academy, could easily qualify as a real life example for that movie. There are many stories to tell. Some made newspaper articles. Some will make it to the Chapman Historical Museum. “I know one such story has already been accepted and more are on the way!” Mostly the stories will remain untold and simply be revived at our reunions.
But, there was also something about being ‘raised’ in Glens Falls. Look Magazine gave the city it’s moniker of being “Hometown, USA.” Quite possibly, Glens Falls may have been the best town in which to be raised during that time.
As an example I recall neighbors that were mentors as well as friends. They purchased boxes of Christmas Cards from me which most certainly they did not need. My brothers and I pulled a toy wagon of fresh off the farm eggs to our obliging neighbors. My guess, now, is that they likely already had eggs and a preference for specific brands. When I determined it was time to start a lawn cutting business, again it was my neighbors who contracted my services. When it was time for electronic components such as rheostats and capacitors for my science fair project, a neighborhood employee of General Electric supplied the components. Our neighbors came to our school’s athletic games to cheer our team. Always neighbors had helpful supportive advice, invitations to parties, and good jokes to share.
It was not just the adults. The children were also friendly. We were always playing ball in the local lots. I remember the smell of grass stains on our clothes from sliding on the ground. In the chilly fall I remember figuring out the scientific basis for what appeared like steam coming from our lungs. We played hard until dark and on arriving home there was a warm meal waiting. At the table everyone in the family would trade stories from their day.
Thinking about the fall, have any of you dunked for apples on Halloween night, or been given cider and doughnuts while trick or treating? One Halloween night, my mom dressed up as the hunchback of Notre Dame and came to our own door unrecognized by us. What a scare it was to see this big adult looking and acting strange. That was life growing up at that place and time. Life felt exciting and inviting. Life was rich and it never failed to be intoxicating with novel and adventurous experiences.
Naturally, our school environment was a major formative factor. Our school had a moral code and a good bit of discipline. We wore uniforms. It had female and male figures of authority. It was also an academic and athletic power house.
With all that rigidness, you know we had to test our own limits. As a result, events and stories were generated in the process of “being raised up.” The risks we took were often shared with other involved classmates. Or, if not involved, classmates would learn of the event later and have admiration for those who participated. Perhaps it is important to note that many of us were classmates for a number of years prior to entering high school. Our escapades centered around competing for social stature, attention of the opposite sex, stretching the limits of the “rules”, and competing in sports with other schools for the best conference standing.
To my way of thinking, high school represented a preparatory experience for “grown up” life. We were still not fully grown. Yet, we understood the future was looming. There was clear uncertainty as well as excitement about who we were, what we would become, and what challenges would be facing us going forward. It was this realization that motivated us to get into mischief. High school was our last chance to safely be bad, to experiment with alcohol, to explore sexual urges and to act on erupting volcanic hormones. It was our last chance to “show off” – which we did in a variety of ways. Sometimes this manifested as athletic and academic prowess. Other times it was manifested by skirmishes with authority and the law – including both legal and moral law sets.
My feelings about the benefit of growing up in Glens Falls, NY, and attending St. Mary’s Academy were re-affirmed this past weekend during yet another of our high school reunions. What a great bunch of classmates. What great times we had. To the outside world, however, those stories will mostly remain untold.
The reality of people making time to show up for high school reunions must have universal appeal. For certain showing up is honoring the reality of having enjoyed and shared great experiences at a special time in life. More than that, I think it underscores the importance that relationships play in our lives. Despite the passage of years, those relationships persist. At these reunions, the relationships are reinforced and old memories re-activated. Years of separation are reduced to mere seconds and immediately the magic blend of friendship and mischievousness returns.
I’m still not fully grown regardless of my age. But as a psychiatrist that’s lived long enough to have a good bit of experience, I understand that relationships are a prime source of genuine happiness. Further, I want to personally thank everyone having a part in my development. I am also thankful for the chance to have been raised in Glens Falls, NY, at a wonderful time.