last summer (2004) was my 20th reunion from high school. i hadn't gone to any reunions w/ my classmates, and it seems odd that i didn't. most of them i hadn't seen since we were 20 years old and we went to the funeral of jerry holder, one of our classmates who drowned. we were close -- almost like family. what i now call pseudo-family. we cared, fought, played, dreamed, cried, made plans, made enemies, protected, matured, grew up/grew apart -- we loved. that's what made it like family. we always knew that we cared about each other even though we wanted to strangle each other at the times.
some people i knew before school ever started, but not many of them and not well. scott kirby was one of those people that i knew forever. we went to church together and our parents were friends. we were in sunday school together from the time we were born, including vacation bible school and church camps. scott was almost as close to me as a brother, maybe closer as my brother was much too old and too cool to spend time w/ little sister. not only did we know each other well, but we knew each other's whole families, too. my grandparents were friends w/ his grandparents and my parents hung out w/ his parents. it was highly likely that we would spend a lot of time together growing up.
we lived in a farming community, and our parents had to work to make ends meet. we're not talking about making a living or making a career, but surviving. sometimes, it was questionable whether they would have enough money to get by until the next crop check or milk check came in. we didn't have "play dates" and we didn't have "kids' activities" planned. we were children who were raised on a working farm -- we played wherever we found ourselves, we played w/ whoever was there and available, and we played using whatever supplies we had on hand and our imaginations. we also spent many hours actually working, but a great imagination can turn a work session into hours of fun and friends can turn it into a lifetime of memories.
as a very young child, scott kirby was this special person for me. we spent many hours playing whatever pretend game that we came up with -- cowboys and indians, animal explorers, wild kingdom (the precursor to all the "crocodile hunter" type shows of today!), rode motorcycles, swam in the creek, played tag or freeze-tag, played zip (counting horses) or car tag, sword fighting w/ catalpa beans. the list was endless. when we tired of the games that we already knew, we made up new ones. or we would get close enough to the water to push each other in. of course, that person couldn't swim (or was having difficulty) so the other would have to jump in and rescue the "drowning swimmer". once we were both wet and knew we were already in trouble for getting in the water, we figured we might as well go ahead and swim a while. amazing how that works, huh?
the summer before kindergarten, scott moved away. i was heart-broken. of course i knew he wouldn't be "out of my life forever" as our families were great friends. but he was moving 28 miles away to a farm that his parents purchased. back in the day and to a kid, 28 miles was a long ways. not to worry, though, as they were going to continue coming down to church b/c that's where they had always gone and that's where their family went. that lasted for about a year, as the time/effort took care of those plans. and they decided that it was best for their family to get involved in a church in their community.
on the first day of kindergarten, scott kirby's face was the ONE face there that was familiar to me. i was so happy to see him. not just because i missed him, but because it meant that at least i knew someone there. it was very scary riding the bus to school and going to a room full of unknown kids. we fell together again like fast friends -- sitting together, eating together, putting our carpets together at nap time, and playing all the "old games" that we hadn't played together in a long time (probably a couple of months!). we were inseparable -- even when the teacher tried. we were separated during nap time b/c we weren't interested in napping. farm kids didn't take naps until they dropped from exhaustion. naps weren't a planned thing. besides, there was no motor running and no motion to rock me to sleep! what kind of nap time was this? i was used to napping in a running vehicle or piece of equipment -- certainly different than laying on a carpet on the tile floor in a room where there were 25 other kids. what a waste to be sleeping when there were all those kids to play with!
anyway, as we (scott and i) grew older, especially in high school, we grew apart as many friends do. he was too macho to hang out w/ a girl and i was too progressive to hang out w/ a neaderthal. scott was a really nice guy, but he was often a follower. the leader of his group was not always a very nice person and sometimes a downright jackass. the guys' leader and i had our share of disagreements over the years, and it didn't surprise me at all to see this leader's "peak" in life happen in high school. he ended up married to a girl named "camaro" and that was the most exciting thing that happened to him since graduation.. although scott and i didn't "play" together anymore, we were always friends. or maybe more like "closet friends", as no one else knew of our long-standing friendship. he was someone i always trusted, someone i always knew would protect me if i needed it, someone i always cared about. we only spent time together away from school, usually around family and/or church. we were there at the deaths of family members and special events, like the tradition.
after i left high school, i was so anxious to get out of that "one-horse town" that i didn't look back. i went on to college (only 7 miles from my home), married, had kids, worked, moved, divorced, moved home, grew up, raised my children, and went on about life. i often thought of the people that i grew up w/, my pseudo-family, but i didn't think of them as adults now. i just thought of them as who they used to be -- who we were when we were together. i knew where most of them were, but i didn't make any attempt to see them or contact them. i really had no desire pushing me to contact any of them or see them. i always said, "i didn't like them when we were together all the time. why would i want to see them now?" and i somewhat meant it.
it had been so long since i had seen these people that were once my whole life that i probably wouldn't recognize them if i did see them. one night at 11 or so, i was doing some late night grocery shopping w/ my son. i met a man and woman pushing their cart toward me, doing their shopping, and i noticed that the man was looking at me very intently. my son was incensed that anyone would be looking at his mother. i nodded and smiled at the couple and went on w/ my shopping. as we passed by, he turned and looked at me all the way past. we met again in the next isle and did the same thing. when we next met, something clicked for both of us as we said each other's names out loud in wonder. that was scott kirby and his wife and i didn't recognize my childhood friend b/c i hadn't seen him since 1985 and, well, he grew old! not really a bad thing, just matured. he did look significantly different as a man nearing middle age than he did as an 18 year old boy. another sign of age -- he and his wife had a night out w/o the kids and they were at the grocery store shopping and drop-dead tired at 11 pm!
one quirk that scott had when we were in school was to write "scott kirby - sr 84" on everything that would keep a pen mark. we always teased him mercilessly about the fact that he better hope he graduated in 84 since he had written it all over the school. and it wasn't just on school property, but on other people's personal property as well -- my notebook, the seat of his friend's truck, the goal post at the football field, uptown on the cafe table, and more. now, i don't know what he was doing in the girls' bathroom, but "scott kirby - sr 84" was written in many places in there as well -- and that was back in the day. well, when we were back at the school for our 20th reunion, several girls were in the ladies room taking pictures in old poses that we had done years ago and we noticed scott's name still written here and there around the bathroom -- in the vanity drawer, under the bathroom counter, inside the teacher's bathroom, on the side of the feminine necessities machine, on top of the metal papertowel holder. just amazing the times and places that he found to write his name. even more amazing was the fact that it was still there 20 years later -- a testament to the fact that he had been there. we laughed about the days when his kids would be old enough to see daddy's name written here and there and his explanation for being in the ladies' room!
we found that after 20 years of being apart, some of us had changed and were a little more individual and others were still conforming to society. some of us had broken more of the mores of society by getting divorced, having children outside of marriage, getting tattoos, going bankrupt, moving away, moving home, living in our cars or w/ friends, quitting school, never going to college, and many things of unspeakable orneriness that shouldn't be posted publicly. out of 28 graduates in my class, where 23 had started kindergarten together, i was the only one that had gotten a tattoo over the years. well, the only one that had gotten a tattoo that we knew about. jerry, who died when we were 20, probably hadn't gotten one as they weren't that popular back in the day. and barry, the bad apple in our class that was in the penitentiary for murder, probably had one or maybe many, but we no longer considered him one of our group.
so after spending quite some time laughing over our differences, the girls were trying to figure out who was the 1 person in our class w/ the tattoo. it was really funny listening to them trying to "reason" who might be the tattoo-ed person and their reasons were so silly. finally after laughing w/ them about 20 minutes over the supposed tattoo bearer, i revealed that i was the tattooed freak. they were all stunned. some of them had said some not very nice things about the type of person who would have a tattoo, and now they were feeling very embarrassed. it didn't bother me -- i had those thoughts covered already. of course, they wouldn't just take my word for it that i was the tattoo-ed one -- they had to see it to believe it. remember, we're from missouri, the "show me" state.
so here we are, a group of women nearing 40 huddled around in the ladies' room checking out someone's tattoo. of course it's in a personal spot, or the whole world would have already known. i'm not the type to have a tattoo hanging out in public, as that's still considered trashy to my generation and especially in my corner of the world. anyway, the mother in the crowd who always took pictures of us as we grew up was in the ladies' room w/ us, so she started snapping pictures. it really wasn't a problem, as nothing too personal was hanging out -- but there are people who i didn't want to know about the tattoo. specifically, my mother. she still thinks that only white trash, military men, and whores get tattoos. i don't think i fit any of those categories, but there's no need to argue the point w/ her or cause her undue stress. times have changed, and my mother hasn't -- so what's new?
well, while we were joking around in the ladies' room, taking pictures, looking at my tattoo and commenting on the number of times scott kirby's name was written around the school, someone suggested writing his name across my tattoo. it was unanimously agreed upon that samantha would write "scott kirby - sr 84" across my tattoo b/c she could make her writing look just like his scrawl. once the deed was done, we needed a picture to document the occasion. so you guessed it -- there are pictures of "scott kirby - sr 84" written across my tattoo. fortunately the pictures were taken close enough to not reveal the actual location of the tattoo, but the idea is the same.
the reunion was actually in 2 parts that day, with activities throughout the day and then a dinner that night. i left the afternoon activities a little early b/c i was taking raven off to have her pictures done as a surprise for her mother. while we were gone, we had to take cover and go into hiding as a tornado had touched down very close to us. i had family close to there, so we ran to their house and i put raven in the basement closet and packed her in w/ pillows and blankets. i was so worried about her safety and the fact that her mother had no idea where we were that i didn't think too much about my own safety. when the all-clear was sounded about 35 minutes later and i pulled everyone out from their protective spots, i was so relieved. raven and i went on about our picture business that afternoon and then headed toward the dinner at chicken mary's that night.
as we were driving to chicken mary's that evening, a pickup pulling a trailer w/ dragsters crossed the road in front of me by mo-kan speedway. i had to hit the brakes hard to keep from hitting them, and i left quite a streak of black marks on the road. i was quite shaky for a bit, realizing that i had come very close to a terrible wreck and i had raven w/ me. one of those things that gives me goosebumps is to realize that i almost died in a situation. i might not always realize it immediately, but it usually happens at some point. it usually stops me "dead in my tracks" as i'm just covered w/ goosebumps as the reality sinks in. the next thought hit me instantaneously w/ tremendous force -- i could've died w/ scott kirby's name written across my ass! not only would my mother have to go in and identify a body that she didn't know had a tattoo, but then see a man's name written across the booty that sported the tattoo. my guardian angel must have been working overtime that day, as that was the 2nd near death situation that i had been in and survived unscathed.
as soon as i arrived at the restaurant, i passed raven off to a friend to hold while i made a quick trip to the ladies' room. this time there were no oggling friends, no cameras, no witnesses -- just soap and water. if i died this day, it wouldn't be w/ "scott kirby - sr 84" written across by backside! now, don't get me wrong, i'm not ashamed of the tattoo, the original reason for the writing, or even the picture of the writing -- but some things are just not acceptable in death. having a man's name written across my booty for any reason is one of those unacceptable things!
if scott only knew all the places that sported "scott kirby - sr 84," he might be surprised. then again, maybe not. after all, we were once the best of friends, had great imaginations, and conquered worlds together.