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James Ferragut, Published July 14 2012

Ferragut: We have trees to prove it

I had a profound experience last weekend. My sixth-grade class from Clara Barton grade school created a 50th reunion. Although we always took the time to find our Clara Barton classmates for a quick picture at our high school class reunions, we never made the time for just us to get together. Until last week.

Of the 74 kids (we’re talking baby boomers here) in our three sections of sixth grade, slightly less than half arrived from all corners of the country. We all believed that our class was special. It was. But another compelling motivation was to dig up the time capsule that we buried next to the tree we planted in front the school in the spring of 1962.

I don’t think the world, in the little head of this once 11-year old-boy, could have been any safer than it was in 1962. We were all living the American dream. Our postwar parents were prolific makers of baby boomers. Our dads were successful businessmen, tradesmen and professionals.

Our hometown heroes were Roger Maris, Bobby Vee and Peggy Lee. Our school was named after a historic Civil War nurse. “Leave It To Beaver” and “Ozzie & Harriet” weren’t TV shows, it was just us looking into our living room mirrors.

Fast forward to Friday night’s cocktail party. Nametags were required. There were classmates we hadn’t seen since sixth grade.

Recognizing a long-forgotten soul was emotional. Greetings were explosive. Conversations were engaging, open and enthusiastic. And just like the cells that we studied multiplied, there was a continuous re-configuring of people that found themselves in small groups.

I was in classmate conversation with a doctor from Boston, a software engineer from California, a nationally known musician and a retired architect. Someone abruptly said: “Stop. Look at us. What are the chances that the five of us, who haven’t seen each other in decades, in all of the universe, are right now talking like we’re best friends.” But we were. And we are.

We had it on good authority (a North Dakota State University metal detector) of 1962’s time capsule location. So we dug. And dug. And dug a bit more. No capsule. Not a chance. The former sapling now stood 42 inches in diameter; roots, without question, crushed our fragile little jar with 74 hand-written notes stuffed inside, years ago.

Earlier in the week, we planted a 4-foot evergreen in memory of seven classmates who have passed on. This day we buried our 2012 time capsule and read the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, just like we had done 50 years earlier.

OK, so we didn’t find the capsule. But what we found was far more important. We came to understand that the bonds we established with random kids in grade school were as strong as the tree we planted 50 years earlier.

The memories of this incredible gathering are already memory vapor. But the reconnections we made are real. We have the trees to prove it.


Ferragut, Fargo, is a strategic marketing consultant, and contributor

to The Forum’s commentary page.