lincoln kids
Lincoln Elementary School. People in my kindergarten class

You know you are getting old when you attend your 45th year high school class reunion. How did so much time go by? If I live another twenty years and become elderly, that time is going to whiz by faster than the rest. Knowing this I fill my life with as much as I can, never thinking I am too old. It’s easy think we are to old do things or it’s too risky. We wonder, “What will people think?” I have a motto I live by, (actually I have several of these) “If you don’t like what I’m doing, then don’t watch me do it.” I don’t care what people think about what I do. It’s my life and I’ll do what I want to do. If the fear is all in your head you’ll end up with regrets. Trying and failing isn’t nearly as bad as not trying at all.

It had been twenty five years since I went to a class reunion because I lived too far away. I moved closer to home in 2010 when I was sick and decided a few years ago I wasn’t going to miss this one. It wasn’t because I was such great friends with these classmates and we stayed in touch over the years – it was quite the opposite. I was a loner. I had a couple friends I hung around with and made no attempt to fit in. I suffered from low self esteem. If I didn’t make friends they couldn’t reject me.

As a very young child, music was the only thing important to me. It was the only music I listened to – the only albums I collected. A stack of classical piano albums was put on my record player at night and it played through the night. I was enthralled with Van Clyburn and Andre Previn. I knew current music because it was played on car radios when my boyfriend and I drove up and down the main street through town in the evenings, but I could rarely identify a song with the name of the band. I still can’t, even though I know all the songs.

In school I took every music class and sung in the chorus and yearly musicals but I never joined any other club. I think every school has their cliques and they are often divided by what part of town you live in and if your parents could buy you the latest fashions. I definitely wasn’t part of those groups of kids. I was part of the ARchie Bunker style streets. I always had what I needed, but what I wanted I didn’t ask for. My parents were young, struggling to raise three children.

We were not taught racism. Nothing negative was said, but neither was anything positive. We understood there was a clear line down the middle of town and black people lived on one side and whites on the other. Realtors wouldn’t sell a house to a black family on the white side of town because it brought down property values. That changed after I left home when homes were bought by realtors and broken up into apartments. Black people didn’t go to our church.  I remember wanting to touch a black person and see if their skin felt different. The elementary schools weren’t mixed. Kids went to the school in their own neighborhood. It wasn’t until Jr High that classes mixed because there were only two jr high schools, and only one high school. But even though we all went to the same school, black and white students generally stayed with those they grew up with. But still there was no racism. No name calling because someone was a negro, because the word black wasn’t used. Kids weren’t taught to hate. Were there problems – yes, sometimes – but not like today. Still, white kids didn’t walk through black neighborhoods. I did that – once. Children threw stones at me. There was an underlying fear. That is a story for another day.

There was bullying and I was on the receiving end. I honestly don’t know why. I was cornered in the restrooms, stairwells and the auditorium. I was threatened. I ran out the back door in the music room because I was afraid. That is yet another story. But kids have it much worse today with bullying because of the use of social media.

In many homes, kids today are not taught respect. Why? What happened? Suicides by kids who feel threatened are common. Kids in the 70’s still had respect for teachers and staff. The thought of cussing at a teacher was unheard of. It is much different today, and it shows in the behavior of the kids. We also had no cops at our school ready to handcuff us on school property and take us in the back of a police car and lock us up. The principal was the law. Black kids weren’t filling up juvenile detention facilities the way they do now. Now there is a lot of profit for locking up kids and preparing them for prison by destroying their education. It is so wrong – and that is another story.

Today, in 2017, I was now more than twice as old as I was when I graduated. I knew I was not the same person I was in the early 1970’s and I knew the students weren’t, either. Starting a few years ago I began connecting with people in my class through facebook. There can be a lot of drama and other crap on fb but the positive aspect is being able to connect with people. Some of these students I graduated with I also went to Kindergarten with as well.

If I was going to the reunion I didn’t want to walk into a large room with a lot of people who were strangers, so I used my time getting to know many of them. We “talked” about the things that separated us. It taught me a valuable lesson.
What we think about people – what we think is the truth – often isn’t. People put on faces of what we want others to believe. We hide things about ourselves  we don’t want other people to know.

We continue to do that even as adults. When someone asks us how we are, we say “fine” even when we aren’t. We assume people really don’t want to know so we don’t tell them. We don’t show people what is really going on in our lives. We think they will judge us.  We don’t get to know other people, either. Sometimes we also choose to not do things we want to do because, “What will people think?”

What I found over about three years is – all these kids grew up.  I’m not the same kid and neither are they. They had their own mountains to climb, kids to raise, careers grew and some were destroyed. Spouses died, kids died, health problems destroyed dreams. People moved. Some had wonderful experiences and some didn’t. No one had a perfect life with no problems. Our experiences shaped us. I enjoyed getting to know these same kids, now all around 63 years old.

Our reunion was over two evenings. Our class president and other students who stayed local put a lot of time into preparations so we could enjoy our time together. I saw many people who looked familiar but I had to look at their name tags to remember who they were. I honestly thought I had been so insignificant in school I didn’t think anyone would remember who I was.  But they did.  Part of me was dumbfounded. We hadn’t been “friends” in school so why? That was my low self esteem surfacing. Growing up I had to put on a tough exterior. I put on a face of confidence that wasn’t real, until I made it real. One student I didn’t remember walked up to me and said, “You always did dance to the beat of a different drummer.” What did she know about me that i didn’t? I have no idea what made her say that – but it was true. I always bucked the system.

One of the tables at the reunion held the pictures of all the classmates who had died since we graduated. Today that number is 39. About a half dozen of us stood there looking at those pictures and reading about how they died. A few died very soon after graduation, and the most recent one was in March of 2017. Looking at these pictures of people knowing I was still alive was overwhelming. I had come very close to dying of liver disease and cancer in 2012 but a liver became available in the nick of time.

“The Pain That Unites Us All” a book being published right now, has twenty-seven authors contributing their story – in short story or poetry. My story about my liver transplant and the emotional pain of being ignored by my immediate family while going through something so traumatic is published in that book. I had come home thinking they would support me.  I was dead wrong. That is also a story for another day. I’ll be posting a link to the book soon if you are interested.

We all have stories. Some people change for the good and some don’t.  I have more new/old friends because I took the time to listen and not judge. We can have value in other lives and they can have value in ours, but if we think we know it all and don’t need to take the time to listen, we lose that person in our life. It has taken a long time for me to find a place in my head to put the knowledge, realizing that coming home was a mistake. Except for patching it up with my mother, I have no value in the lives of the family I grew up with. I can’t even try anymore. But I have children and seven grandchildren and I am the head of my own family.  When I moved home, extremely sick, and was treated badly – I’m done with them and that is just the way it is. I had to teach myself to not care any more

I could have been in one of those photos of people who passed away. Anyone of us could have been up on that wall. At 63 we aren’t elderly, but more and more of us are reaching the end of our life. Many die due to illness. Some give up. My mother had her class reunion the week before mine. She graduated from the same high school. Her list of students who have died was a double column, front and back of two pages.

It is hard to look at your own mortality.  When I didn’t die of liver failure I had to make a choice. Wallow in my illness and give up – or push past it. I could say I’m getting too old to begin again. I live in a senior community and I see it all around me – those that give up and those that force themselves to live their lives completely until the end. I chose to give my live everything I can. It wasn’t time to give up.

That is when I started the blog My Name is Jamie – and everything else that followed – the writing of the book “Inside The Forbidden Outside” which I am still rewriting. I am heading to Texas next week to go to the Allred prison where Jamie is,  and to complete the stories that tie the chapters of the book together. I started writing the ITFO Newsletter which focuses on different issues concerning our prisons because many people really do not know the real reason for why we have more prisons than any other country. I also write about different people in prison with a story to tell. If you have one – contact me. My focus is to educate people and teach them there is no race that is better than another, no matter what mainstream media teaches you. We all need to work together to save our planet and our humanity.

This gives me the reason to write music as the soundtrack for the book. Helping others makes the cause to help my own life. I never sit around bored wondering what to do next. I spent most of my life creating music. Why stop when I am better at it now than I ever was in my life. Our senior years are when we have the most experience and wisdom to give the world. The youth has nice skin – but they lack life experience. We should strive to find a way to utilize it.

Sonni Quick improv pianoAfter I returned from my class reunion I sat at my piano and recorded a piece of music for all of the students who were no longer here – to honor them. When I play it I will think of them. They will not be forgotten. I’m hoping my friends – these past classmates will listen and remember and remember them, too.

I have a new album coming out that will soon be at CDBaby and Spotify named “Stories without Words”. This music will be part of that. I often give music as a gift. Writing music is a part of me I can give. It is all improvised. I feel, I play and record it. I can never play anything twice because I let it play me, not the other way around. I’ll be posting a link to the album soon.

Thanks for reading and thanks for listening. It is for everyone who graduated from Pottstown High in Pennsylvania in 1972. It is my gift to you.

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10 thoughts on “When You Know You Are Getting Old

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog post just now. It really hit home for me, since I graduated from high school in 1971. I, too, have connected with some classmates via Facebook. Some of them weren’t even close friends of mine in school, but we’ve been able to connect on a different level now. I haven’t been to a class reunion in years, but I intend to go to my 50th!

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    1. We all change. I didn’t explain completely about the bullying I went through in hs that started with a black boy and other kids who followed him. And no one mentioned it that weekend. For many years following that it took a long time to get over my fear of black people, which is ironic considering the work I do today. But the biggest thing is about 12 years ago – over 30 years after I graduated I got a phone call from him out of the blue. He apologized to me. It made me think. I knew how it affected me but not once did I think about how it affected him – to make the effort after so many years to want to make it right. He said at the reunion, “I’m not the boy I used to be.” I’m not the girl I used to be, either. I’d like to talk more in depth with him about who that boy used to be and why. I know he married and still is I think and had four children who all went to ivy league schools with to notch educations. That doesn’t come easy for anyone, especially blacks. I think he has a story worth telling. What an unusually circle he and I made. Everything happens for a reason and everything impacts us if we take the time to understand. And you are right, I made new friends with people I want friends with before. Someone could say, why bother, but we have so much shared history. Many of us knew each other since we were 5 years old . I have our class pictures as we got one year older. A lot of the same neighborhood experiences that tie us together. I’m glad I went.

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    1. Thank you. About half were in my kindergarten class and other joined over the next few years. There was only one high school in our town. People didn’t move as much so although there would be a new student here and there we pretty much all stayed together. Is something my own grown children won’t have because I moved around a lot playing music. My music is like the soundtrack to your dreams. I’m writing a book right now based on the life of Jamie, the man this blog is for “Inside the Forbidden Outside” and a sound track to play while you read because it is the emotions of the story. If you’d like to you can follow me at reverbnation.com/sonniquick. It’s am indie music site. You’ll find many musicians promoting their music who aren’t with standard labels just like indie authors who aren’t with publishing houses. Thanks for coming. Very appreciated.

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  2. So touching! “I remember wanting to touch a black person and see if their skin felt different.” I am deeply moved by this thought. Even if it is out of curiosity, people of different colours, shades (and languages.. if I may think about my land) make up the everyday crowd around us. But treating them equally was not a big deal in the past, as it is now when I see the intolerance among people of the world. In the US, if it is the skin color, here in the third world India it is religious differences that is causing people to hate, fight and kill each other. When I see the Facebook posts of my school friends, I wonder what happened to those mischievious, funny and kind children I grew up with.

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    1. I recently had a talk with my mother about this. Whites and blacks were separated. My parents never spoke badly about anyone and today parents must be teaching their children to hate. Recently a few 14 year old boys strung up an 8 year old black boy with a rope around his neck. He lived, thankfully, but why would 14yr olds think that was okay? They learned it somewhere. But my parents being quiet – about many things, I feel they should have taught their 3 daughters. They didn’t prepare us with the knowledge needed to make decisions. Right from wrong. When to say no. My mother said she taught they way she was taught by her grandmother. Very old fashioned. So I had to learn most things the hard way. I was the only daughter who moved away – went to school and never moved back. Only for visits. But I said to her – you never asked me to move back. You never said a word. She “assumed” I would. Now, none of her daughters speak to each other. Neither sister is tolerant of me. But I never thought of what you said. Interesting. It isn’t color that separated you. One color doesn’t think they are better. It is your faith. There are many faiths in the US and many are a breakdown of one faith to many. Many Christian sects with different rules. But the sects don’t fight. Baptists don’t argue with Pentacostals or Lutherns or Catholics or Jehovah Witnesses and many more. There are many Buddhist sects and Muslims but Christians pretend they don’t exist and think the US is all Christian – which many are some of the most hateful people. But you have all dark skin but fight over religion. When people do that I want to know what they think is the purpose is of having a faith. What is the reason? What does it do for you? If it makes you want to fight and kill isn’t that opposite of why you study and learn the principles? Isn’t it to make you a better person? Be happy? Understand the purpose of living? I left the Christian church at 18. I couldn’t see any proof of it working looking at adults I knew all my life. To me, it didn’t work. It want true. So I left.It was 16 more years before I found Buddhism and it made sense to me. I could understand who I was and what I needed to work on to change. Understand the parts of me that holds me down.

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  3. For some reason your stories get my interest. Maybe it’s the frankness and simplicity of your expressed truths. Today’s senior citizens have survived two or three generational shifts, which makes for quite an autobiography. Thanks for sharing

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    1. I think starting in 1900 everything started moving very fast. More inventions. Because of that, in 100 years we’ve caused so much destruction. Everything changed so fast. When I was a kids you could eat fish from a river and food was safe to eat. In the name of profit we have destroyed ourselves. Too many people stick their head in the sand and pretend someone else will fix it. I was always different. Saw things in a different way. I didn’t conform. Opinionated. Too outspoken. I insisted on the truth. I don’t lie. I can admit I made a mistake. I can say I’m sorry. I don’t care if people don’t approve of what I do. I live my life the best I can. I understand that we get back what give. Giving is important to me

      Mynameisjamie.net is for Jamie Cummings. A man in prison I’ve been supporting for 12 years. Next week I go to his prison in tx to visit a few weekends to tie up details for a book I’m writing on his life, complete with a music soundtrack of piano music I recorded. You can find a lot of my music at reverbnation.com/sonniquick. A soundtrack for your dreams.

      I wrote music my entire life, now it just comes out it my fingers. If I didn’t record when I play it would be gone. Every day of life must be lived to fullest. I spin at least 7plates, each one a project. The book I’m writing,my blogs and newsletter and getting my music into the world – all for this man in prison so he can survive when he gets out in 4 1/2 years because he only knows prison. He wouldn’t survive. I had retired from music and now I’m unretiring. All of this to fight racism. My two youngest grandsons are black and I can’t let Texas swallow them up. One of them is Jamie’s son.

      I have two other books I want to write when I’m done with this one. I’m on my second draft. Jamie has epilepsy. He was seizing when he was born. He was locked up at 16 he’ll be almost 40 when he gets out. He was out once for a few months. He met my daughter and she got pregnant. He went out one night and got picked up with someone who tried to rob a club. He was forced to take a plea. At 16 a cop pushed his way into their home and his mother got hurt. Cop knocked her down and broke her wrist. His little brother defended his mom and hit the cop with a broom. He charged the little boy age 11 with assault. Juvy would have destroyed him the atty told Jamie to do his time. If he agreed he’d only have to do 9 months. But in the end they wouldn’t let him go for 4 years. In prison and in juvy his family let him go. No visits. No letters. No help. My daughter moved on, so I reached in and grabbed hold of him. I’ve been the only one consistently there. Food, money, books, communication, encouragement, fighting with medical for his meds and false cases they file on him. They’ve kept him in adseg. No phone. No Ged classes. Nothing. His last visit was me, a year ago.

      Well that tells you a bit about me. I’m glad you read what I write. I appreciate it – very much.

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