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The Hawk's Nest

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Forty years later I'm more interested in my former classmates than I thought I'd be - but not enough to go to South Dakota

Over forty years ago, I graduated from high school. Not a typical American high school; the kids I had grown up with and whose parents knew me and my parents weren’t there. It wasn’t even in my home town or the town where my parents lived. It was a private, church-owned boarding school. The students were from about 30 different states and several countries. A large percentage were from the Midwest. Many were missionaries’ kids, as well as kids from Lutheran families in various locations around the world. I was the only kid from Oregon and no one could remember if there had ever been anyone from my state in attendance before me.

It’s safe to say most were from at least middle class families since it was a rather expensive commitment. After all, for those of us from the U.S. there were public schools in our neighborhoods we could have attended. It might also be safe to say some of us would rather have been in those public schools but with parents dedicated to a Lutheran education for their offspring, the boarding school was their choice.

I think most of us adjusted quite well to the different environment. I don’t remember any depression about being away from home, just some melancholy that goes with not being with friends.

There was another adjustment for this Northwest kid. The school was not one of those rich “back east” schools; well, South Dakota is east of Oregon. but it’s too far east to be comfortable and not far enough east to be a swanky, ‘back east’ boarding and prep school.

Family wealth wasn’t real evident to us because we all lived in the dorm with the same amenities. One room, two twin beds, two closets, one long desk attached to the wall with room for two to work - that was our home. No one had cars, and there weren’t uniforms but there was a dress code that pretty much made us look the same.

I got along well there. I don’t remember any major conflicts outside the norm for high school age kids. But I didn’t really make any close, lifelong friends, either. I did see some that seemed to be developing between others while I was there. But I felt many folks were like me; make the best of it and go home. I think I knew, or I set myself up, that I would not see many, if any, of my class mates after graduation. I wouldn’t say I planned it that way but still I knew that would happen. Maybe being the only Northwesterner had something to do with it. Anyway, since graduation I’ve only had minimal contact. In fact, I found out a couple years ago I was one of the “lost” classmates.

As usual after high school, I moved around and since I was not in regular contact I was lost. Or were they all lost?

A while back, I received a phone message from a Jan in the Seattle area. I listened to it and thought, “I wonder if that is really Jan Robinson from the old academy.”

I returned the call and discovered I had been found. She had found me on the Internet in the white pages and was working with several of my fellow graduates making a roster. I discovered there had been regular class reunions as well as other events. All were in South Dakota of course.

On a cross-country trip after that call, I did contact a couple people. It was a way to put a “toe in the water,” see how we fit now. It was pleasant and we stayed in contact but I still was rather out of touch and didn’t seem to mined.

Last month an email came saying a web page had been put up of our class and there were plans for our collective 60th birthday party this summer.

On the web page is a place for personal profiles. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading the profiles from the others. Some were living pretty much as I expected and others, like me, had taken unexpected turns in life. I keep checking each day for new profiles, I read them carefully and especially like the ones that include pictures of them now. I am no longer the only Northwesterner, there are several now living in God’s country and one is in western Mont.. We’ve made contact and will try to get together.

After several days I finally I started on my profile. “I am now a rich and famous writer.” Then I remembered they are a bunch of literate readers who would say “What has he written?” Or “who has seen any of his stuff?” So I started over.

“I am now a rich and famous photographer.” But, what if they started looking in museums for my work and found nothing? So, I started over again.

“I live in the woods and can write and shoot pictures.” I added some about what I’ve been doing the last 40 plus years and sent it off.

To my surprise I got requests to see my work, both written and photos; several had visited my web page.

Some wanted to know what Idaho was like and if I was going to be in South Dakota this summer. I thought about that one. “If I have a choice to be in Idaho or South Dakota this summer where might I be? Um, let me think. They seem to be a great group of folks but I think I’ll be in Idaho this summer.” I’ve already done South Dakota.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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