Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

Hi, Boomers,

I just returned from my 50th high school reunion.  I’m still in a euphoric state.  Fifty years!  I can’t even comprehend that much time has passed since I graduated.  1961 – Go Wildcats.  There are those who hated high school.  There are those who loved it.  There are those whose memories are crystal clear and there are those who have forgotten on purpose.  But those who refused the joy and challenge of participating in the class of 1961 reunion at Marin Catholic High School missed an awesome weekend.  “The neck bone’s connected to the colar bone…”

We came together for a weekend of fun and camaraderie.  We came for a weekend of renewal.  We came to fall in love all over again.  There were no outcasts this time around; there were no popular cliques.  We blended in joy.  It was a dream moment for everyone.  “The colar bone’s connected to the shoulder bone…”

I got instant connection that first night – a mixer that was amazing at the Marriott Courtyard in Larkspur Landing.  The first hugs with the old friends were like heaven sent.  We were 18 again.  We were in love again with old boyfriends.  Our best girlfriends were better and funnier than ever.  One of my best friends was still Betty White on steroids.  The other was as warm and feline as a young girl could ever be in high school.  “The shoulder bone’s connected to the backbone…”

We went to high school in Marin County, in a little burg called Kentfield, at a private co-ed Catholic school called Marin Catholic.  It produces geniuses today.  In the 50s and 60’s, it produced smart people, highly functional young men and women who went to college.  Some got pregnant along the way and dropped out; some completed their studies and made successes; some just dropped out like Steve Jobs because they succumbed to their creative nature, morphed from beatniks to hippies, lived in communes or dropped a lot of acid and did time in rehab.   “The backbone’s connected to the thigh bone…”

The backdrop to this high school campus was a wonder of nature – the wonder called Mt. Tamalpais  was our backdrop.  We could even see the outlines of  the switch back trails in vivid relief.  The girls were taught by the Holy Name nuns and the boys were taught by diocesan priests – cool men who were secure and brilliant.  We’d call those priests nerds today but they were nerds who imparted knowledge beyond what was expected of men of the cloth.  These guys were straight shooters, dedicated teachers who educated with a passion.  Our lay female faculty were some of the best teachers one could hope for and they left the nuns in the dust with their knowledge and humor.  There wasn’t a memorable nun among them.  But we got what we needed to get to college.  The rest was up to us.  “The thigh bone’s connected to the leg bone…”

I felt it all in chapel where I read words of wisdom.  Chapel and Mass were ironies to me  – I was raised a Catholic who was really Jewish who loved Buddhism.  I didn’t have the right to speak.  I was the default because I could.  I didn’t know if I was up to the moment, but I wanted to be more than anything.  I didn’t want lightening to strike me dead.  But that was not possible because the chapel protected me.  It was completely inspiring.  It took my breath away for its beauty and simplicity. I sat in awe in my pew.  I almost knelt but didn’t.  I began to see my role on as a badge of honor and felt it my mission to deliver the best that I had in the moment I was given.  “The leg bone’s connected to the thigh bone…”

But the Monsignor gave me a reading that I literally couldn’t understand it.  What did that stuff from Ecclesiastes 3, 14 – 15 mean to our class? Who cared if it came from Bible – Greek or Latin – but it wasn’t appropriate to honor our class of graduates or to honor those who had died.  In the middle of a martini at the Friday night mixer, I wen to the lobby computer and Googled psalms.   There it was instantly: Ecclesiastes 3 – plain old 3 – and that was the psalm I was looking for.  “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be born and a time to die…”

The Monsignor came up to me beaming outside of chapel and asked me if I was ready with the passage.   “No, Monsignor,” I responded.  “I changed it.  I didn’t understand the reading you picked out and I found a psalm I thought was more appropriate for our class and those who died.”  “Okay,” he responded with some disappointment as he looked it over.  Thank God, it wasn’t the King James version, which I actually preferred.  We’d get into that Protestant argument that Catholics love so much.   “I understand.  It’s your call.”  Of course, he introduced me and the reading with the change and the caveat that “Joan thought she had a better take on the moment than I did.”  If that was male pride, I couldn’t care less.  “The thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone…”

Yes, I had a better take because I was beginning to feel more emotions than I could control in the course of less than a day.  It was blowing my mind that 50 years had passed and I was standing before a group of people who had lived so long and done so much.  The Monsignor actually surprised me with his dead on sermon.  It was elevating, joyful and insightful.  The tone was what we deserved after 50 years.  It was what we needed in this moment of connection.  He put our lives into perspective.  “The knee bone’s connected to the shin bone…”

That was it!!  Days later, after seeing my old houses and schools, and familiar streets in San Rafael and visited old,dear friends, days after I recounted and relieved the events of our three day weekend, I was struck by the idea of community – a community that had values and those values mattered in our lives.  There was truly love all around our high school crew, and I knew I had missed something in my life for the past at least thirty years.  I lacked community.  It was so simple.  So clear.  It wasn’t just about high school memories; it was about community and I was sad but happy that I recognized that moment.  And I knew what I had to do to give my life more meaning.  These old best friends – male and female – were going to stay a part of my life until…  “The shin bone’s connected to the ankle bone…”

At the charming and convivial picnic on Sunday afternoon at a ranch in Napa owned by one of our classmates, all of us took away the lessons of the open heart, of love, of generosity of spirit, of forgiveness.  We will remember and we will all reflect and some of us will commit to the joys of community and look after each other with grace and dignity for another fifty years.  “The ankle bone’s connected to the foot bone…”  We all became grounded in our community.

I hope for you boomers reading this blog that you are able to make the choice to participate in your 50th high school reunion.  It was a significant honor.



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