It was August 1979 — 35 years ago next month. And how is that even possible? In other words, it was a lifetime ago when a part of me became a part of me.
A seventh-grade football team put on full pads for the first time and got to hit and tackle each other. It was a glorious day, I guess. I don’t really remember the details. What I do remember is those seventh graders lining up for the first time against their more experienced friends in the eighth grade — guys who had an undefeated season under their belt from the previous year.
Vince Chandler, the eight-grade quarterback, dropped back to pass and the biggest and slowest seventh grader somehow managed to get through the line of scrimmage and fall on him.
“Get off of me, you big f#$@& moose,” Chandler said from the ground.
And pretty much just like that, I became Moose. The nickname stuck — to the point that many of my teachers and even my own dad eventually just called me Moose.
But that was a long time ago. So long ago, in fact, that at least some of those eighth graders — who are now, in some cases, grandfathers — will meet Saturday night back in our hometown for their 30th high school reunion. The reunion organizers have invited the classes of 1983 and 1985. And based on what I’ve read on Facebook, it sounds as if many of my classmates are planning to attend.
I’m looking forward to it. The Chariton High School Class of 1985 didn’t have a 25th reunion because no one organized it. Or, maybe we did and I just wasn’t invited.
I didn’t attend the 20th reunion in 2005. At the time, I had just started a job in Idaho and there were two reunions I could have attended that fall in Chariton. In stead of reminiscing with my classmates, I came back for the other reunion — a show put on by his former students who celebrated Mike Deatz’s 25th year as the CHS vocal music instructor.
So I haven’t seen some of my classmates since at least 1995. And I’d guess there will be many people Saturday night who I haven’t seen since 1985 or when they graduated in 1984 or 1983.
At this point, I must warn them, I’m old and bald. For their sake, I hope they have all aged better than I have. I don’t feel much like a moose anymore even if I still look over sized on the bicycle I’ll ride later this month for the seventh time on the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
Some of the people I’ll see Saturday night I have become reacquainted with on Facebook over the past three or four years. But I’m looking forward to seeing them, and many others, in person. It will be fun to catch up with them about their lives — careers, children and grandchildren. It will be interesting to hear their memories about things I have long since forgotten — or tried to.
Who knows. Maybe even Vince Chandler will be there.