For the Springdale High School Class of 1989

Dear classmate:

I remember you.

You sat in the back of Algebra 2, doodling on the inside of your Trapper Keeper before the bell rang, laughing with your friends and talking about the next football game. You’d make bets on who’d be starting. You knew it would be you.

I’d see you outside the band hall studying or reading. You’d look up when I went by, too shy to say hi. I noticed you, though, when you’d play that French horn. That was how you expressed yourself back then. Nobody could ignore you when you made music.

I’d hear you practicing your solo for Harmony. When you sang, everyone stopped to listen.

I’d see you in the hallway with the other cheerleaders. You seemed happy, but I noticed how you held back just a bit. You smiled, but it didn’t always meet your eyes. Though you looked perfect, your life wasn’t, but that wasn’t your fault.

I’d see you waiting for the school bus, in clothes that didn’t quite fit and looked a bit too old. You never had a lunch, but were too embarrassed to take advantage of the free lunch provided, so you would just sit under the tree behind the cafeteria and read. You were a bit of a loner, but you were tough as nails.

I’d see you studying at the library. You always turned in every assignment on time. Your dreams were a bit larger than many, and you knew it would take work. You missed out on a lot of the fun, but knew it would be worth it.

I’d see you flirting with the girls between classes. You were hard to ignore in your letterman jacket, all 6’2 and pretty. You had the world in the palm of your hands. I’d see you making jokes with the other smart kids, jokes not everyone understood. We all knew you were destined to be on SNL one day. Or running the world.

I’d see you behind the gym smoking with your buddies. You didn’t care if you got caught or not. Bad girls never care. I admired how you weren’t afraid of anything.

I’d see you sneaking out with the seniors to go to lunch, even though you were just a sophomore. You prayed Coach wouldn’t catch you.

I’d see you listening to your Walkman in your own world. Was that Tears for Fears, or Sting? Was it Genesis or Bon Jovi? Whatever it was, you knew all the facts about the music, the bands. You were so cool without even trying.

I’d see you with your boyfriend, holding hands, stealing a kiss before Spanish. We all wondered if you would be together forever. I’d see you looking afraid to get in the car after school. I wondered if your parents were mean to you.

I’d see you crying at the dance. He dumped you for your best friend.

I’d see you asking her out for the first time, making it seem effortless, even though you practiced at home in front of your mirror for an hour before, while you put on a drop of your brother’s Polo.

I’d see you wanting to tell your parents you were gay, but being too afraid.

I’d see you in your Bible study group, praying at the flagpole, your hands clasping theirs. You were so sincere, and really had a heart for others.

I’d see you playing video games at the arcade at the mall. You always won. You’d make those quarters last for hours. You’d always know all the tricks.

I’d see you with your little brother, and how you took care of him without making a big deal of it.

I’d see you in your cowboy hat and torn up jeans that you didn’t buy that way. You were a real cowboy–not one for show. You were hoping to be in the Rodeo, and you needed to spend time roping to get there. The Skoal in your back pocket left a ring…and your mama didn’t like that.

Class of 1989: I see you now.

We’ve been through some things, haven’t we? Since 1989, we’ve seen 6 presidents, including a father and son, the first Black president, and the first woman of color vice president.

We watched the first Batman, and Indiana Jones, and Dead Poets Society. Say Anything, The Breakfast Club, all the Karate Kids.

We listened to George Michael, Guns and Roses, Cyndi Lauper. Journey, Van Halen, The Bangles. Randy Travis and George Strait, with all his Exes down in Texas.

We witnessed the horror of Columbine.

We cried when the Twin Towers fell. Many of us enlisted. Those who already were in the service of our country paid (and still pay) our debt.

We saw the Gulf War and Afghanistan.

We watched the Space Shuttle crash.

We wondered at the birth of the Internet and listened for that all-to-familiar AOL login sound.

We created our MySpace accounts and felt so cutting edge.

We cried at the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

We lost a bit of our childhood when Michael Jackson died.

Some of us have married, and are still married. Some of us didn’t quite find the love of our lives the first time, and tried again.

Some of us had children. Some of us have lost children.

We’ve all lost beloved classmates.

We’ve traveled and earned degrees or worked with our hands, creating.

We loved and were hurt and had our hearts broken by those near and far. Maybe we’ve broken a few ourselves.

We have endured through Covid-19: a virus so vile it is still with us over a year after we first learned of it. A virus that’s sole purpose was to kill us.

But oh, how we have lived.

Many of us will turn 50 this year, celebrating half a century on this earth. What a milestone! What we’ve seen together this 50 years!

What a privilege to have known you. What a place you have in my heart.

Class of 1989: I see you. I see you, because you are a part of my heart.