20 years? You must be mistaken

August 20, 2004|by BILL KOHLER

When I headed off to college 20 years ago this month, someone winked at me and said, "You'll miss your high school friends, but the ones you meet in college, you'll stay friends with them for life."

Sage words, I thought.

Wrong words, I learned.

I enjoyed four of the best years of my life at college and met some great people, including a few who I felt were my kindred spirits. Of the hundreds of fraternity brothers, classmates and other good friends I met at college, I keep in touch with hardly any of them.

No hard feelings, but we just went our separate ways. I've tried to track down a few old buddies, but have had very little luck.

This weekend, my wife and I will attend my 20-year class reunion. I graduated with 302 others from Waynesboro Area Senior High School in 1984. Those words still make me shiver a bit when I type them.


Me? 20 years removed?

I'm sorry, you must be mistaken. Surely, you're referring to someone else who just looks like me, right?

Regardless of how frightening and unbelievable it might seem, we will make our way to the festivities and have a good time.

Yes, it will be awkward at times and there will be plenty of those uncomfortable silences that are common after you get past the hellos and how are yous.

Names like Mike Stapleford, Tony Hoos, Chris Myers, Amy Stevens, Steve Davis, Audrey Bennett, Tareq Hoque, Scott Thornton, Mike Wray and Rosemary Wilhide will roll off tongues like water over the dam.

What I've learned over the years is that those names and those of other high school friends and favorite teachers stick with you.

I know this is not a sentiment shared by everyone. Many people couldn't wait to shed the bonds of high school and head for higher ground. Many people hated the cliques, the pettiness and the meanness of other students. They hated homework and discipline.

We were lucky. When you live all of your life in the same close-knit community - like Waynesboro - you tend to care a little more about what happens to these people and their families.

It's not like Waynesboro is immune to those aforementioned pre-adult plagues, but I was fortunate (or naive, maybe) to miss them or not let them bother me.

You go through so many things together from Little League, church and junior high on up that you form a bond that is more indelible than what some kids experience at bigger suburban or city schools.

Many of the people I will hang out with this weekend are people I played sports with and against. I swam in their pools, had crushes on their sisters. We marched through three years of band camp with Mr. Wenerd and ran miles of Indian laps for Mr. Stum.

We went to High Rock after hours, laughed our way through the good times and comforted each other when things turned for the worse.

We learned lines for the All-School Production together and we memorized music for concerts and field shows. We studied the periodic table of elements, while learning how to be tolerant and accepting of viewpoints and cultures different from our own.

It wasn't perfect - nothing is or ever will be - but it felt right and good because of the people with whom I shared those days. Those people are the friends I'll always remember and keep in touch with over the years. Friends are the true treasures of your high school years.

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail. Reach him at 800-626-6397, ext. 2023, or by e-mail at

The Herald-Mail Articles