It was the last day of high school in the year 1971 in a small Midwestern town. Four best friends secretly buried time capsules under the tree in front of the high school to commemorate their time there and vowed to meet fifty years later to dig it up.
All agreed to put three items each in individual tin coffee cans; something that represented what they did in high school, what they wanted to be and how they saw themselves at the time.
Over the 50 years, the four eventually went their separate ways. At first, they saw each other occasionally, then less frequently. They called on birthdays and sent letters and cards at Christmas. And when social media came out, they shared pictures and milestones on that. But life took them in different directions, so they were never again the best of friends.
Margie was the first to leave. She went to college in California, lived in a commune for a while. Then she became a public defender and was elected as a democrat to Congress. She never married; she always said she didn’t want someone else trying to run her life.
Evie, who’s now called Evelyn, stayed in town for a while and went to work as a teller in the bank. She fell in love with the head banker who rose up the ranks to in JP Morgan Chase and moved to New York to head up their corporate division. So basically, she’s rich.
Fran married her high school sweetheart and lived in town for 20 years. It was a bad situation. Her husband mentally and physically abused her and cheated on her all the time. She kept having children, seven in all to keep things happy, but it didn’t. Everyone in town knew; it’s a small town. She finally withdrew and became a shut-in from the embarrassment. He died of a heart attack at 40. It was very sudden. Most people thought it was a suspicious death, but nothing was done. She got married to an insurance salesman moved away to start a new life with the kids. It was better for her to leave; too many bad memories and too much gossip.
I stayed in town the whole time. I worked in my father’s grocery store for a while and avoided marriage and kids for the longest time. Finally, I met my husband, George. He was the guy who brought the bread every day. It was a long courtship where he pursued me for years and after we got married and had kids, he helped me run the store.
Fifty years to the day, we all met in the high school courtyard. The tree was huge, but the campus was basically the same. The reunion was nice. We all looked older, of course, but at least we all made it. I had my grandson dig up the tins for us. Let’s face it, none of us wanted to dig in the dirt anymore.
After the hugs and introductory greetings, we walked up the tree and all stared down at the tins. No one moved.
“Let’s just get this over with,” Margie said and grabbed her can, scraped off the dirt and ripped open the tin lid. She pulled out a program from the school play where she played the lead, her young republicans Nixon pin and her hand painted flower child peace headband.
“Check out the Nixon pin. Wow, you came a long way baby,” Evie laughed.
“This is ridiculous. I never voted for Nixon! I’m a liberal.” She flamed and threw down the can.
With the tension broken, Evie smiled as she took out her old band baton cap and cheerleader bow, but grimaced when she saw her 4H farm medal for raising chickens.
“You can take the girl out of the farm, huh Evie?” Margie laughed and Evie pouted and quickly put the tin down.
“This is not mine. Who put this in here? Funny joke.” Evie took a wipe from her purse and cleaned her hands with a puckered look on her face.
I opened mine and laughed out loud. There were photographs of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Pyramids and a picture of myself with a camera, all inside a grocery bag from the store. Yes, I wanted to travel and photograph the world.
“Well at least the grocery store bag was right. I knew I’d never leave anyway.” I shrugged and put the pictures back in the can.
Everyone looked at Fran as she put her hand in and retrieved pictures of her and Bert, her first husband, with a card that said “Fran and Bert Forever” and began to cry.
“I was so stupid to give my life up for that jerk!” Fran covered her face and let the pictures and coffee can fall to the ground.
Time is funny. We took separate roads and left behind who we were then and what we thought about life, when it didn’t turn out as we planned. Some out of necessity, some from convenience and some just changing life as it went along. They always say looking back in a mirror, objects are closer than they appear. Our time capsule experiment seemed to show the opposite. Seems the past is buried deep and far behind. Maybe that’s where it should stay.
© Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton