There’s something strange and alluring about those glossy yearbooks we hold onto. Even the ones that don’t belong to you. Every cover has the same motif: the annual name, faces of students, or some abstract drawing that looks like a screen saver from Windows. The title is insanely elusive and general, like: “Beneath the Surface” or “Make Your Move.” Are they serious? If there were a big room full of all the things in school that made zero sense, obscure yearbook titles, cheesy prom themes, and over the top graduation speeches would galavant in perfect harmony.
I still remember yearbook photo days – those putrid emerald green or electric blue backgrounds they let you pick, and the middle aged photographer who tried to make you laugh, inevitably contributing to the overabundance of awkward and fearful expressions the camera captured. I went to a K-12 school for half of my education. It was always exciting to see what the older kids were dreaming about and lusting after in the pages beyond the confines of your 3rd grade class: backstage passes to a Guns ‘n Roses concert, plaid interior in a Jeep Cherokee, for their ultra grungy garage band to land a record deal. Senior pages were always crowded with collages of pictures, inspiring quotes and song lyrics.
I wonder if superlative pages still vote on a “Most Popular.” No, better yet: “Best Looking.” No wonder the concept of peer pressure and teen angst walk hand in hand. If we all wanted to be in a pageant, we’d curl our hair and prance around on a stage. It reminds me of a girl in middle school who always won these popularity contests – and at one of the school dances, she was walking out of the cafeteria with a crown on her head, and she roared, “Ugh. I hate these things.” Okay, so stop crying and give the limelight to someone who wants it? Just a thought.
When I open up my high school yearbooks, a few things grip my attention: football players with tears in their eyes after beating a team we had all been waiting 16 years for, my usual spot in the senior parking lot next to Sallie’s car, the senior table at lunch, uniforms, TPing, Viking pride, black and gold caps and gowns, the last Spellamania, the science wing Freshman year, Treeline, Metro warehouses, hurricane beach days, The Evil Secret Society, and realizing that everything I learned from Mrs. Ficnerski’s class was a life lesson.
My older brother signed my senior yearbook for kicks, and it reads: “I hope you look back in wonder.” Something was said during the course of my graduation that made me feel like I was listening to Fred Savage narrating The Wonder Years, probably because the word wonder was repeated over and over. But that’s entirely what yearbooks remind you of – those wonder years.