On the bottom shelf of a bookcase in my guest room, tightly pressed between a pair of Funk & Wagnalls dictionaries and a large Bible my wife received from her grandfather, is an old, tattered looking book. It’s about the size of a magazine, with a pale blue hard cover and yellowed packing tape holding the torn binding together. It’s my grandmother’s high school yearbook.
It was June 13th, 1940. The high school auditorium was filled with eager family and friends, all anticipating the upcoming ceremony scheduled to begin at 8:15 pm. This was the day my grandmother, Agnes Adamo, graduated. According to the program, which was safely tucked between the pages of the yearbook, the songs “God Bless America”, “I Love a Little Cottage” and “A Song of Peace” were sung during the commencement exercises and even members of the high school band gave solos on the violin and trumpet. Pretty impressive!
According to her Certificate of Credits, grandma completed four years of general courses with 87.25 credits. She had such classes as English, History and General Science of course, but she also had some interesting ones such as Problems of Democracy, Stenography, Office Practice and even Commercial Law.
As with most yearbooks, a small portion was dedicated to lighthearted statistics about each graduating senior. I discovered that my grandmother was always heard saying, “yeah man” in the hallways, she enjoyed reading but hated homework and her ambition was to become a secretary. I also found out that her nickname was “Rags”. Sadly, I didn’t acquire this book until after her passing so the mystery remains as to what that truly stands for.
Flipping through the senior class pictures, I came across my grandmother’s headshot. It was amazing to me how young and beautiful she looked. While she appeared very different from how I always knew her, that wonderful smile was still in tact.
I also came across another photograph of fellow classmate and friend Vincent Fantacone, who my grandmother became reacquainted with during their 60th high school reunion. I remember he drove around in an older model, dark green Mercedes, which always made my grandmother feel classy. The two enjoyed reminiscing about the past and where their lives had taken each of them. It always amazed me how people could reconnect with each other after 60 years of being apart.
Holding the yearbook in my hands, it’s hard to fathom that over 70 years ago, my grandmother carried her high school yearbook down the hallways of her high school while saying “yeah man”. Ironically, I graduated from the same school almost twenty years ago, though I don’t ever remember anyone saying, “yeah man” in the early 1990’s.
One of my grandmother’s classmates wrote the following sentiment next to her picture: “Agnes, I’m hoping you get everything your heart desires. I shall never forget you.”
I wondered how many of her fellow classmates were still alive. How many had lived their lives to the fullest and found everything their heart desired? I’d like to believe that my grandmother, who left us many years ago, had a pretty good life. While she certainly had her share of grief and sorrow, she had a loving family and friends and many, many cherished memories spent laughing and living as best she could at that time.
Looking back at my grandmother’s high school yearbook made me realize that as long as you’re living and breathing, you always have the opportunity to make a change in your life – to make the best possible existence out of what you’ve been given. Margaret Lindsey one wrote, “This very moment is the seed from which tomorrow’s happiness grows.”