Michiana Chronicles: High School Reunion

Jun 24, 2021

Dear Reunion Organizer:

Nearing graduation our senior year, a survey asked us about our “plans for the future,” and I jotted down a line from “When I’m 64,” a Beatle song from Sgt. Pepper. “‘Rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight, (W-i-g-h-t)’” I wrote. When the article appeared my note had been changed to “Rent a cottage on the Island of White (W-h-i-t-e),” because somebody who isn’t thought they are smarter than I am, a perfectly apt end to my high school experience. So please, Reunion Organizer, if you decide to share this, including the little preface note here, don’t change a word. Use it all exactly like I wrote it or don’t use it at all. I meant to write it like this and not like an obituary or introduction to Pat Sajak on Wheel of Fortune.  I would like people to read it. I’ve called it “High School and Then, a Brief Update on the Past 50 Years.”

Thanks, 

Sid. 

High School and Then, A Brief Update on the Past 50 Years

Lotis Freeman and I used to play a game called, “They’re The Same Person,” identifying individuals who secretly play two parts in the world:  Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas. Andy Etchebarren and Elliot Gould. Rod Steiger and John Mitchell.  You never ever see them in the same place at the same time.

“What about Paul Simon?” said one of us one day.

 

“That’s easy,” said the other. “That’s me.” 

 

“No,” said one of us, “that’s me.”

 

I tell you this because at some point in our early years together, Judy Firestein, said to me, “When I was a girl I always thought that I was going to grow up to marry Paul Simon. ‘Paul Simon would be wonderful as a husband,’” she remembered thinking. 

 

Judy and I were married in 1977.

 

Lotis was the Best Man. 

 


Judy and I met at the student radio station in Bloomington on the day after Valentines Day, 1975. On Valentines Day, 1970, in the Camaro in the parking lot at halftime of an Eastern High School basketball game, Lotis, Joe Petro, and I smoked the joint we rolled on the Simon and Garfunkel Bridge Over Trouble Waters album I had just given Janet Armstrong. 

 

By the summer of 1970, Janet was gone, that crazy draft dodging counterculture stuff was just not for her.  Joe was reading Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver and I was reading Death at an Early Age by Jonathan Kozol, thinking that when I grow up I will either be a lawyer or a social worker. ‘Saving humanity would be wonderful as a job,’ I remember thinking. 

 

That failed to materialize, but our son, Matthew, is a lawyer and our daughter, Lily, is a social worker.

Funny how life turns out. I turned out to be, at my best, a high school teacher, which was my dad Vern’s unfulfilled, ambition. 

 

Matt and his wife Shannon named their son, Vern. I’ve started writing Vern 2.0 a letter about the man who shares his name, such a good man, my dad, the man who said, “It’s our flag, too.”  

 

Lily and her husband, Ari, and their corgi, Benji, moved from Brooklyn to nearby Mishawaka in August. Judy and I got to love New York when both Lily and Matt lived there for 15 years. It’s like a movie, the view from Brooklyn Heights across the East River into Manhattan, writ large, and told small, the corner bar or breakfast place, told through the eyes of someone who rides the subway every day. That was great. 

 

I’ve bern retired from teaching English for six years.  From 1988 through 2015 I taught at New Prairie High School, a lot like Eastern.  It’s near South Bend where Judy and I have lived since 1977.

 

I’m still working about 20 hours a week as a news person: producer, and out loud reader, and observational essayist at the NPR station in the South Bend market, WVPE, Elkhart. Speaking in public was impossible for my dad, Vern. Funny how life turns out.

 

Lotis and I had some time together in the months before he died from a sort of premature old age brought on by heart disease in 2010. The last time I saw Joe, Matt was crawling around under the dining room table, while we talked, downstairs from where I am writing this, right now. Joe’s choice to die in 1984 has provided for me some insight into how best to live.  I hope this reunion serves our memory of everyone we’ve lost from those years together. Fifty years. 

 

There’s been some sorrow and there are other people I miss that I cannot ever see.  All in all, though, my life has been unspeakably good, thanks to the day after Valentines Day. 

So, that’s my Brief Update on the Past 50 Years, High School and Then, as you requested. See you in September.

 

For Michiana Chronicles, I’m Sid Shroyer

Herself: Judy Shroyer

Songs: “When I’m 64,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles, “The Only Living Boy in New York,” Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Simon and Garfunkel