The following “letter” is part of the continuing series from the unpublished novel by James Garrett, “Benicia Letters Once More”. He does not plan to publish the book but instead is choosing to share the letters with the readers of the Benicia Herald. The letters continue the storyline of Garrett’s first novel “Benicia and Letters of Love”. Each “letter” tells of love in one of its many forms from a separate point of view. Benicia is represented prominently in the letters because of Garrett’s deep fondness for the city of Benicia. He hopes readers see themselves or others they know in the letters because the concept of “Love” is universal.
I look at the photo and cry. There are so many faces which have passed through our lives. I’m starting to feel like I’ll be the winner in “The Last Woman Standing Club”.
I graduated from Benicia High School in the 1970s and the photo I write about shows a whole lot of kids enjoying themselves.
Some of us got very close. There are those who had unprotected sex out of ignorance or because they were seventeen and eighteen and thought they were invulnerable to anything negative. Two of whom I know had abortions.
There were true romances and some resulted in marriages I see around town. Sometimes those romances started with the first look. One couple was on-again, off-again for about a year, married someone else, got divorced, were on-again and off-again for about another year and then got married. From all I see they are happy.
I loved my friends of high school days and those who have remained my friends. We’ve done so much together. We’ve told each other almost everything. Some of us lied to each other early on as kids often do. To be polite, two of the guys so many of us thought were great guys turned out to be complete jerks. One guy was so clean-cut and friendly with the teachers and administrators they never suspected him of being a drug dealer. He was probably the biggest drug dealer on campus, at least in his senior year.
I love the laughter my best friend and I shared from when we met, through today when I called her. We are both mom’s but carry on at times like high school freshmen. I love it. I felt I had to talk to her about the photo. It seemed I was talking with myself. We were so much on the same page.
When we hung up, I looked at the photo again. It is so sad to me to look at the photo and wonder what lives some of those who have passed could have had.
My kids play with the kids of some of my schoolmates. I’m sure as time passes they will have some of the experiences those of my time had. I hope their experiences are more positive than negative as were mine. I hope they wind up with the same type of loving friendships I have held since high school. It is my fervent wish that between twenty and thirty years after they graduate from BHS they don’t look at a photo of happy kids and feel sadness that so many are gone.
In truth, I think those around at that time will have a photo to look at as I look at mine, but they will see a greater percentage of those who have gone ahead than I look at now. Things changed in so short a period of time.
The boy I said I loved in high school married my best friend and we all love each other. Part of that is growth in age and part is growth in understanding. The understanding comes because of acceptance of what is real and love.
My eldest once said “I get it now” when he understood a problem which had been causing him upset. I think we all go through that from time-to-time. I remember thinking “I get it now” when I learned to understand love. Sorrow is part of love. It is the hurt part, but without it we wouldn’t have the love we know.
James Garrett is a lifelong resident of Benicia and a former teacher at Benicia High School. He is the author of the following novels: “Benicia and Letters of Love,” “The Mansion Stories,” “Chief Salt,” and “One Great Season, 9-0!” He also compiled a three-volume work titled “The Golden Era: Benicia High School Football, The 1948 through 1960 Seasons, “A” History with Comments.”
He can be contacted at email@example.com.