I found an old class photo recently : Corpus Christi School , Pacific Palisades , Calif. , Grade 8 1964 – 65 . I am peering out from an edge of the paper ,looking directly at the camera , beady-eyed with a tentative smile . Say cheese !
Eight of the boys are wearing ties . Not me . Ten of us aren’t . We’re casual . I wonder , as I look at it now , if it made any difference in the long run if a tie was worn that day or not . John X ( they will all be X ) is wearing a tie . He faces the camera relaxed , self-confident . John was alway self-confident , energetic , extroverted , headed for great things . In high school he started the Spanish Club . There were two or three spectacular Spanish Club – sponsored parties , financed by the student council , until the administration realized that all that the Spanish Club did was party . ” It was fun while it lasted , ” John said . Then he went off to some ivy league eastern university .
Tom X is there in the photo not wearing a tie . For years Tom was the top student , academically , both in elementary and also later in high school . He , too , went away to an eastern university . Most likely to succeed . Say cheese ! Tom has a contented look on his face , not quite arrogant , but somehow self-proud , satisfied with himself . Content .
Monty X is there , too , the handsome one , muscular and blonde . A big happy smile lights his face . Monty was a heart throb for the girls . So was John , by the way . But , John was grittier , rougher , not as classically handsome . John made up in extroversion what he lacked in looks . Number two tries harder . Monty just was . He was an extremely nice guy , too , humble , kind . I once made the mistake of double-dating with him , and all night my date wished that she was with Monty . I should have known .
And then there was Cary X . He occupies the photo spot next to the nun . No coincidence , I think . It’s as if even in a class photo Cary had to be watched . The practical joker . The class clown . The one who in a lower grade stole five dollars from his mother’s purse to donate to what we called Pagan Babies . When five dollars was raised by a class the class could then name the pagan baby that the money would supposedly go to . Cary had “donated” the five dollars all on his own so he claimed the privilege of naming the pagan baby : he chose Melvin , I think . He later got caught , of course . Cary always got caught . Low grades , good sense of humor ,deviously creative , always volunteered to be ” garbage monitor ” . Garbage monitor passed the garbage encrusted , stinking , little metal garbage pail after lunch . Cary claimed that disgusting job all through elementary school .He never had challengers .
There is Margaret X , whose mother was smoking in bed and was burned so badly in a resultant fire that she died several day later , days of agony in a hospital reflected on young Margaret’s face at school day by day , an agony shared , in our way , by all of us . Margaret was taller than anyone else in the class . Taller by inches than any of the tallest boys . She took a lot of teasing for that . Poor Margaret .
And there is Laurie X . All the boys were in love with Laurie X . Even shy I was . Laurie had an aura . She was eighth grade gorgeous , and gracious , and unpretentious . No one was left out of her glow . Now that I am writing this , I hope that she made it in life , lived a happy prosperous life . She deserves it for the kindness she shared in school . Funny thing is , I see two possible Laurie Xs in the photo . I think I know which one is Laurie . But , then again , she might be the other one .
Funny . I can name most of the boys in the class photo , but not most of the girls . I remember a few . I see Holly X , who wrote the nasty letter about Mrs. So and So in fifth grade and Mrs So and So held it up to us , and told us how terrible the words were , and how hurt she felt by it . But she wouldn’t read the letter to us . She left it to our pre-teen imaginations what the words were , what had been written .
Dolores X is there , too . Dolores was the one who answered a religion test question with ” California ” . The question was : In order to receive the sacraments , a person must be in the state of ________ . Sister What’s her Name read Dolores’ answer to the class . Grace was the correct answer . We all laughed . There’s nothing like sarcasm and ridicule to motivate students ! Thanks , Sister . Watch the birdie . Say cheese !
There in the photo is the billionaire’s son , next to the photo of who I think is Laurie X . He once tried to sell me a booklet on the care and feeding of guinea pigs . I had a couple of guinea pigs at the time , Henry and Henrietta , and this kid didn’t . Fifty cents ? I can’t remember his name , but I got along with him o.k. I was over at his house once . He wasn’t in the class long , though — maybe a year and a half . Then , I suppose , his father’s work took them to other parts of the world .
And here is Mike X , of course , my neighbor , and the guy whom for years I considered my best friend . In terms of loyalty , Mike was up there with the likes of Benj. Arnold and Mr. Quisling . Why he was my best friend I find mysterious , even now . But he was . Mike is one of only three classmates in the photo wearing glasses .
Dan X is over on the opposite edge of the photo from me . Dan was a handsome guy , too , and sociable . He was a big hit with the girls during high school . He had a twin who the nuns put in the other 8th grade class . Now that I think of the two classes , all through elementary , they were like parallel universes . No one switched classes . I don’t remember much about the other class , the parallel one , coming up through all those grades , but I know it had rougher customers than my class , more troublemakers . There was the smart class and the dumb class . We all knew . Don X was the brother twin condemned to that other group . I used to hang around with Dan and Don after school . They lived a few blocks up my street and our mothers were friends. They raised mice in their garage to feed to their pet king snake . Everything went well until the king snake died but the mice kept multiplying .
The nun is in the top right hand corner of the page . She has a view of all of us . Cary is next to her , of course .But , she’s watching us all . We used to call her Fiddle sticks . Behind her back . She was a good one . She became principal of the school the next year .
And there at the bottom of the page is little Raymond X , whose uncle became a famous TV star . His uncle took Raymond and me to Pacific Ocean Park once when I was in first or second grade . We called it Pea Oh Pea . It was right there somewhere at the ocean end of Pico Blvd. Smile ! Look this way ! Say cheese !
I don’t know what happened to most of those people . I know that top student Tom X worked for a company that raised bees . John X married a teacher . He was a teacher , too , in high school , until he had an affair with a student , ruined his marriage , and ruined his teaching career . Dan , I think , lives in Florida and works at Disney World . Fiddlesticks is long since dead . John died recently . Monty owns a high tech company in Silicon Valley . I’d like to know what became of Cary .
Oh , I just realized who the other Laurie in the class photo possibility is . She’s the one who married a professional football player and used to live in a big house in the Palisades . Maybe she still does . Smile ! Cheese ! Look at the camera .
I suspect that some of these people have kept in touch all these years . It would be nice to have friends who were friends way back in elementary school . I’ve run into a few of the guys in recent years . But , they are strangers . We were trapped , in some odd way , in our past shared experience . It was almost as if the eighth grade class photo had suddenly strangly come to life . How have you been for the last forty-seven years ? ? Say cheese ! We were on camera for just a moment , commenting on the old times , sharing a memory or two . Craig X and I cleaned out a school storage room once . Craig was afraid of dark corners . And then what ? Do I want to know if he’s still afraid of dark corners ? I remind him that he told me when we were ten that ever since he’d been bitten by a spider he had been afraid of dark corners . Funny how we can sum up a life in one memory . Straighten your tie , Craig ! Smile . Good .
Say cheese ! You’ll be a one-dimentional on- paper person soon again . Nice to see you , in a way . Take your place again on the page . Look at the camera . Smile .
I want to think that someone else from the class is somewhere looking at the class photo , too , wondering who those kids are , what became of them , how did those days and those people affect who I am now ? I smile at some of the memories the picture stirs up in me . Smile ! Say cheese !