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By Staff | Jun 25, 2010

When I walked into the room my first impression was that I’d come to the wrong place.But had I? The people gathered there seemed to know me, but many of the faces were only vaguely familiar.

That’s what you get for not seeing someone for 35 years.

The Baby Boom reached its peak in 1957 with 4.3 million births that year. You sort of lose your sense of specialness when the numbers tell you that more than 11,000 other Americans were born on the exact same day as you.

Thanks to a bizarre quirk of our numerical system, most of us born in 1957 graduated from high school in 1975. This means it’s been 35 years since we donned those silly gowns and those funny hats and strolled across the stage as the strains of ”Pomp and Circumstance” reverberated throughout that stifling and overcrowded high school gymnasium.

Whatever happened to all those hopeful zit-faced teenagers? And from whence did all this gray hair and these gleaming pates come?

The answer is that we are all now solidly ensconced in middle age, our collective youth now just a fading memory. The big battles of early adulthood are well behind us. We’ve celebrated our victories and accepted our defeats, made some compromises and broke a few promises and learned to live with our choices. At least we should have by now.

Many of my male classmates have developed that ”middle age spread,” commonly known as a ”beer belly.” But in some cases it might actually be a ”potatoes and pork chops” stomach or a ”second helping of pie and ice cream” tummy.

So long abs of steel! Hello abs of jello!

A few of my classmates, I noticed, seem to have not gained a single ounce since graduation. Some of us have aged incredibly well, with hardly a gray hair or even a single wrinkle. Those sort of people aren’t normal. They also make me sick.

I suspect that perhaps such folks have easy access to plastic surgeons and personal trainers. Which, in my book, is cheating.

Others of us now closely resemble our grandparents. Well, let’s face it: many of us are grandparents.

Not all of us were at the class reunion. Over the past 3 O decades the Class of ’75 scattered to the four winds, to the west and east coasts and everywhere in between.

Others never got very far; a good number of us still live in or near the old home town. A prime example would be me: I reside two miles from the farm where I grew up. Both my farm and my parents’ farm have been in the family since homesteading days, so there must be an awfully strong ”stay put” chromosome paddling around in the ancestral gene pool.

I visited with several of my classmates, including one whose family had owned a typical (for that era) small-town service station. It was the kind of place where locals would hang out and sip on sodas and share the latest news, the manly perfume of grease and gasoline heavy in the air.

It’s also the type of place that now only exists on reruns of ”Mayberry RFD.” My classmate and his wife took over the service station from his parents, but events conspired in such a way that the business was forced to close. This thing we call ”progress” often comes with hidden costs.

I asked him if he missed the service station and he instantly replied yes, very much. This prompted some reminiscing about the Good Old Days, when the gas was pumped for you and they checked your oil and aired up your tires – all for twenty-five cents per gallon.

A few conversations revolved around aches and pains, insomnia and artificial joints. Hearing these sentiments issue from my compatriots caused me to think ”Whoa! We really are geezers!”

There are some classmates whom we’ll never see again, guys who prematurely reached the ends of their roads. I guess you could say that for them things didn’t quite work out as planned.

A radio tuned to an ”oldies” channel played softly in the background, evoking a mess of maudlin memories. I recalled the after-graduation gathering at our farmhouse. The place was filled with cake-snarfing old folks – people who looked much as we do now – and all I could think was I wish they would just get out of the way so I could get on with it. Whatever ”it” might be.

‘Tis the bane of youth, I suppose, to be impatient, to forever hurry the future. But you young people just bear this in mind: the faster things go, the sooner you’ll attain geezerhood. If things work out as planned.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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