On a shelf in my home lives a collection of books my wife and I have collected over the years. They range from old fiction novels, to Jane Austin classics, to children and picture books which hold some sentimental meaning to both of us.
On the very last shelf, 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 duct tape holding its binding together.
It’s my grandmother’s high school yearbook.
It was June 13th, 1940. The Lyndhurst, New Jersey 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 from high school.
The program, which is still safely tucked between the pages of the yearbook, revealed 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.
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 curricula 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.
She was young and beautiful amongst her other classmates. And though I remember her much differently, that wonderful smile was always there.
When I hold the yearbook in my hands, it’s amazing that over 70 years ago my beloved grandmother carried this book down the hallways of Lyndhurst High School – the same high school I graduated from 20 years ago. Though I’m sure I never said “yeah man” meandering through the halls.
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’m sure few of her fellow classmates are still alive today – an unfortunate reality. I wonder how many of them 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.
Whenever I look back at my grandmother’s yearbook, I realize as long as you’re living and breathing you always have the opportunity to change 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.”