Thirty-four years ago, when we parents walked our little boys into the kindergarten doors for the first time, we weren’t thinking about now. We were sizing up the other wide-eyed six-year-olds in the room that day. The scent of white paste hung in the air, paper alphabet letters decorated the walls, and children bolted to the toy trucks and blocks in the corner, or clung to our arms.
These boys, these little boys who first met in kindergarten, would be part of the Holy Angels Class of 1989 that, throughout grade school, was just a bit larger, a bit more creative, a bit more rambunctious, and at times more hot to handle than most for their persevering teachers. The boys’ common lot and spirit bound them together—my son Jeff, and Matt, Tony, Ross, Pat, Dan, Peter, Kevin, Bobby and more.
When teachers caught Jeff looking out the window more than at his books, his friends defended him. “He’ll discover something great out there,” was their attitude. When a snowball fight got out of hand, the friends were quick to explain it was “all in fun.” When it was time to party, the boys turned to music and started a band.
So on the night after Christmas 2014, in downtown West Bend, a packed crowd came to hear Mandi, Matt’s younger sister, sing out her beautiful, soulful heart @WestBendTap+ Tavern. Matt, a musician too, was there from California with his wife and six-year-old son. Matt and Mandi’s parents Steve and Sharon were there, and other parents of some of the boys from the Class of ’89. In a way, we were representing our sons, who lived in so many other places now and would have come if they could. The night took us back, and we reminisced, chatting over wine and beers, about those growing-up years for our boys, the struggles we all faced raising our children, our worries for them, and how our visions of the future often collided with their own dreams and definitions of happiness.
So here we were, settled in at the pub, as Mandi played the guitar and sang the blues. The circle was unbroken, families once thrown together by chance, still connected. Common bonds, music, and social media keep our sons’ friendships strong through cross-country moves, job changes, and the arrival of their own sons and daughters. Maureen brought a book Ross sent with photos of his family. I shared Jeff and Malissa’s amazing and difficult year with their two little boys. Matt told me his son went to surf camp over the summer.
Sharon expressed what I am sure many of us were feeling. That, after all these years, after all the worrying we did about our sons, their education, and their choices, our sons are good people and they really are great dads. We couldn’t ask for anything better.