Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sour milk of youth

More pictures--somehow this is blog is becoming a photo-repository. This batch from my stepmother Sioux's grade school reunion, which I helped out at last night. These were students who graduated the 8th grade at Avondale elementary school in Logan Square between the years of 1962 and 1974. Real, old-school Chicagoans, though many have since moved to the suburbs. There were even a couple of multi-generational Avondale families in attendance, including Sioux's--her mother (my step-grandmother) Jule graduated in 1942, and was later a substitute teacher at the school. Sioux graduated in '66.

 We first toured the school, a beautiful building built in 1894 that smelled heavily of hardwood laminate, kid-sweat and sour milk. Many of the aging alums were clearly lost in their memories as they wandered through the school--the gym and the auditorium seemed to have particularly strong associative properties. Then we repaired across the street to the Logan-Avondale VFW Hall, where the school held their dances through the 60s and 70s. How many boys must have felt up how many girls in the dark recesses of that VFW Hall! The hall itself seemed suspended in time, as VFW Halls generally do, recalling an era when guns were considered fine decoration, cigarette-smoking was encouraged, and the signs on the wall read America--Love it Or Leave It. When an Avondale grad ordered a glass of wine from the bar, the bartender struggled mightily figuring out how to work his wine-bottle-opener--this was clearly not a place where wine is often ordered.

But the grads had their fun! They ate, drank, laughed and danced the electric slide, managing to keep their old childhood passions and jealousies at least submerged. I've always had a bit of a fascination with school reunions, where people come to face the ghosts of their pasts, and--hopefully--come to peace with the fart-blowing, acne-scarred, awkward days of youth. I watched two women, old classmates, staring one another in the face looking for a spark of recognition--and then, all of a sudden, wild squealing and passionate embracing as they suddenly remembered. "We're alive!," they exclaimed. "Can you believe it--we're alive!"

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