Some of you may know that I went to high school at the exclusive Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts, a school so high-tone that the diploma did not contain the words “high school” (when I enlisted in the Army, they did not believe that I had graduated from high school at first, even though I had a university ID card).
Deerfield is well-organized and constantly seeks funds and attendance at alumni events, so I got frequent reminders of the upcoming 45th reunion. I had been to my 20th and 25th reunions, but had not been back since and had seen very few classmates in the last 20 years. So I decided what the heck, I will fly up on Saturday, get there for the class picture at noon and come back Monday.
I drove onto the familiar “Street,” the long main street of the village that runs about half a mile between massive shade trees and colonial houses, some of which date back to the late 1600’s. Just turning into the ancient Street evokes the place and the sheltered time of my high schooldays.
Most of the people I had hoped would be there were not, but I came to socialize and soon found myself chatting amiably with Rich Lincoln and Keith Mackay, with whom I had lived in Hitchcock House in 1969-70. I drifted in an out of conversations with them and other alums.
I wanted to walk up to the “Rock” in the morning, and Rich and I agreed to do it together. “How about 6 a.m.?” I suggested, thinking that was too early but I would settle for 7. “Great!” said Rich. Two other alumni, Charlie Trautman and Dick Gilbane, overheard us, and we all decided to go together.
Deerfield lies in a river valley with Pocumtuck Mountain (a long high ridge) on the east side, and the Rock is a stone outcrop at the top of the ridge about 2 miles from the school. When I was a student we had 20 sit down meals a week, the only exception being Sunday morning, when we could get coffee and rolls in the basement of the dining hall. I would stop by and pick up some food and walk up to the Rock in the early morning. The quiet, the beautiful view, the peaceful woods, those were moments of real serenity for me. Those days can never return, I know, but this walk this morning had a palpable magic of its own. The four of us walked and talked, about school days (and how Bob Merriam, the school’s enforcer, had caught some kids smoking weed at the Rock), about our kids, and our work (Rich and Dick did a lot of contracting), about Charlie’s PhD work drilling samples along the top of the mountain to test changes in the earth’s magnetism over geologic time, and global warming and politics. The morning was wonderfully clear, with only a few wisps of cloud to break the cool sunshine. Warblers flicked through the branches. We wandered upward across ski trails and finally found the foot path along the top of the mountain which led us to the Rock itself. The view across the valley to the green hills, with the Academy below us, was absolutely spectacular. In making this new connection, doing this simple walk, with these friends whom I had seen almost nothing of in so many years, in this beautiful place, I felt like I had come back home, to that place of serenity, in some way I had never expected.