She was beautiful. She was smart. She was the Vice-President of our Senior Class and Co-Captain of the Varsity Cheerleaders. And she was chairwoman for the senior prom. I represented Key Club on her committee and became aware that just six weeks before the big event, she hadn’t been asked to the dance. Even though we weren’t close friends, I asked her if she would like to go with me. And she surprised me when she said, “Yes!”
She was well beyond my pay grade and “ran in different circles,” but we had a terrific time together. We double dated with her best friend and mine. It was an evening of magical fun, as well it should have been. After all, it was the senior prom, right?
Graduation came and went, and we simply lost touch with each other as we moved on to college, careers, marriage, families, and life. It wasn’t until our tenth high-school reunion that I saw her again. She was stunningly beautiful, married to a classy guy, and arrived in a stretch limo!
My wife and I enjoyed chatting with her and her husband as we laughed about being old “prom dates.” The reunion was a gala event, and we spent the evening with classmates, revisiting good times, swapping old stories, and telling lies about our success… Forty “short” years later, my wife and I again drove south on I-75 from Atlanta to Orlando to attend my fiftieth high-school reunion with the Winter Park Wildcats. Wahoo!
On a sun-drenched patio, on a warm April day, I saw my “Prom Queen” again and greeted her with a hug. As we chatted a bit, I learned that she had been twice widowed, and my heart hurt for her. You see, she wasn’t the Co-Captain of the Varsity Cheerleaders in 1968 because she could yell, she was Co-Captain because of her zest for life and natural exuberance. Indeed, she wore a constant smile, and spread joy to her friends and classmates every day.
Despite her life-changing losses, I learned that she continued to engage in local, meaningful community service, and to embrace each day with enthusiasm and as an opportunity to serve others. In short, she hadn’t lost her “zest for life” at all, or her ability to wear a constant smile to lift-up others.
When the DJ queued up “Hang-On, Sloopy,” I asked her to dance. And, when the music ended, she surprised me with a kiss on my cheek. Our prom date so many years ago had ended with an awkward hug and a handshake. You know, it was high school, we were just friends, and we came from different worlds.
Isn’t it funny how life can bring people together in so many interesting ways? We had simply worked on a committee together our senior year, but never lost our classmate connection or friendship, even after fifty years.
As we face this New Year, it’s more important than ever to come together, and to embrace and share those things we mutually cherish. Whether we’re Centennials, Gen Y’s, Millennials, or Geezers like me, we need to dance together, celebrate life together, and move forward together to a bright and positive future for us all.