I am an old man. I said that because when I go back through the pages of my life, I constantly think of the most famous Jimmy Stewart movie of all time-—It's a Wonderful Life. I really think about the very last scene after George Bailey was shown by Clarence the angel as to what life would have been like if George was never born. George comes to accept that life without the people who were important to him was horrible as opposed to his life with them. In other words, he was able to see how much better his and their lives were with George around.
As I write this, it is a pleasant May 5th here in New York City in 2018. As I headed home from church tonight, I began to ask myself a very important question. Who are my best friends?
In order for me to ask that question, I had to look into the composition of my group of friends and I discovered something very important. With the exception of two guys who started school in Kindergarten with me—Ronald and Gerry—all of my friends—my best friends—were the people who attended high school with me. One of them, Sue, was a grade above the rest of us. She was a sophomore while the rest of us were freshmen. Other than that, they all formed what I called my Inner Circle.
Putting my Inner Circle was easy. All I had to do was go to school and the group formed by itself. It really was THAT easy. I wasn't even trying to assemble it. It happened naturally.
I attended a majestic school called Christ the King High School in Middle Village, NY. CK, as we generally called it, was located next to—CORRECTION: surrounded by cemetery land. Yes, I went to high school next to a cemetery. It wasn't as macabre as you may think. It was sometimes the butt of our humor. That will give you an idea of how strange I am.
I spent four glorious years there (in the high school building, not the cemetery; I'm not THAT strange!) studying (not much), tending to my extracurricular activities (too much) and meeting new people. And I managed to achieve my solid friendships in just four, marvelous years.
In our first year, our Freshman year, we spent the time getting ourselves acclimated to this new building. In fact, we were older than the building itself, since the very first CK class started in 1962 when we were just 6 years old. We saw the cemetery and we also met the upperclassmen who tried to sell us all sorts of things like a pool pass which was strange since there was no pool anywhere on the property. But the upperclassmen liked me so much that they gave me a discount on my pool passes.
During that first year, I spent my time walking around trying to find where I was supposed to be on time! I met my teachers. I watched as those classmates of mine adapted as well. I met new teachers who had new expectations for me. Yep, I was now in a new school phase called HIGH SCHOOL.
CK showed me two big things.
The first thing CK had were REAL high school activities. For example, CK had a real track team. That was new to me because the only time we had a track team in grammar school is when a German Shepard chased you down the block. The band had REAL band instruments. In grammar school, the closest thing we had to a band was when three or four guys brought their transistor radios to school. We had a school paper at CK. In grade school, the closest thing we had to a newspaper was when you tied a note to a rock and threw it through a window. Yup! CK was the real deal in my life.
CK also had something else I never really saw before. It had GIRLS!!! High school GIRLS!! Real, live FEMALES!!! They were so nice! When I mean nice, they were beautiful, smart and sorta friendly. I liked them. We had girls in grammar school, but they were not like the girls at CK. The CK girls were very highly refined. At that point, I knew that I would love it at CK.
These gals were marvelous even to a social pediculus like me. My problem with them was that I spoke long before I could think about what I said earlier. I guess that I could have insulted someone, but I never knew it until they told me. I was unlike the other guys in the building. I wasn't as quick as I should have been. Fortunately, I met Sue and later on, Mary, both of whom were very nice to me. They did not hold my silliness against me. And, after all these decades, thanks to the technological miracle called Facebook, we are still talking like it was our first year at CK.
The first guys to join my Inner Circle were Vince and Tim. Tim and I shared a Math class together. Again, thanks to Facebook, we re-established our over-40-year-old friendship.
Our Sophomore year was even better than the first. I met Bob. We only shared a gym class and we had fun. He lived nearby to my neighborhood. He was rather easygoing and a great friend. We often joked about each other to each other.
I had a better handle on my school work and still enjoyed my increasing circle. I also saw others who I preferred to never see again. Those were the guys who attended grammar school with me. Believe it or not, I began to analyze my new friends and my old "friends." I saw something completely different right away, but I could not exactly put my finger on it, but I knew that a difference existed. For a school that was practically located in a cemetery area, I honestly felt new life coming out of that area.
Our Junior year was not that much different, but it also brought its challenges. One of them was field day at a local park just a few miles from the school. We had this because the Seniors had to take a SAT exam, a test in order to get into college. All I can remember was running a 220 yard leg of an 880 yard relay team. I can remember running like a Budweiser horse and not looking very impressive doing so. The only thing that made me happy as I write this is the fact that I can't remember any of the details, like who saw me and the reaction they may have had.
Surprisingly, I met no other friends that year. That is not to say that I did not see anyone. I just did not have to expand my circle.
THIS was the year when things happened. We made it together to our Senior year. We were also now fully co-ed. Like the first year, we were sharing the building with the lovely ladies who were also here during the first year, but we never met because we never knew they were there in the first place. We all had classes together. I was happy to meet Nancy, Carla, Ann, Anne, Bernadine, Carla, Mala, Maria, and Mike. It was enjoyable, but a shortened year that started with a three-month long strike. Unlike the first year, when we started and had to practically feel our way around the building, we now had to get ready to say goodbye to CK. We needed to move on to the next level of our lives wherever our paths would lead us.
What Have I Learned By Meeting These People?
So, as I drove home tonight, I thought about all of them. I wondered why I cared so much about them and why just them and no one else. It was then that I discovered ten reasons that I never realized before.
- They are always there for me and I am always there for them. Again, thanks to Facebook, I can always find them so that I can chat and stay in touch with them.
- They have been very tolerant of me. Back then, I was quite a twit and very obnoxious. Despite my shortcomings, they still remained friends with me.
- They are like an extended family to me. I send Christmas cards and birthday wishes/cards as the time arises.
- I only have very nice memories of them. I simply could not imagine enjoying CK if they were never there in the first place.
- I always enjoy their company and not just during our reunion nights, but all year round.
- I worry about them. I frequently wonder if they are okay. Again, thanks to Facebook and even email, we can reach out to each other.
- They were (and still are) the best of the best people I have ever met.
- They are never condescending, rude or disrespectful. They are always positive and uplifting. They are an example of what I should be, as well. They not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk as well.
- They put up with my strange humor. Remember, I enjoyed going to high school next to a huge, scary cemetery.
- Last, but certainly not least, these are the kind of people who do everything they can to bring me UP to their level. They do not bring me down. They ALWAYS want the best for me, not the worst for me.
And all of this is why I have a very exclusive Inner Circle. I am a very fortunate man to have met each of them. They are very good people. I hope that they will continue to be around for a very long time.