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Where did the Years Go?

I slid the folded letter from its envelope. You are invited  to celebrate Tennessee Technological University Homecoming November 7-9, 2019, and join the Golden Grad Society. Golden Grad! Like a hot potato, I dropped the invitation onto the kitchen counter. I’d seen Golden Grads, people who’d graduated from TTU fifty years earlier. 

During halftime of Tech’s football Homecoming game, an announcement is made: Please welcome today’s honored guests, our Golden Grads!  People walk from the sidelines of Overall Field to the 50- yard line.  Some amble, some lean on canes, some hold another’s arm. Some march and swing their arms. Some take long, intentional steps. Some wear letter sport jackets. Some wear school colors, purple and gold. 

All gather at mid-field and wave to us fans as we stand to honor these individuals who have attended classes, studied, and earned a degree five decades earlier. Most have retired from work.  Some have gray hair, some no hair. Some carry stooped shoulders. Some limp. Many wear glasses. These aren’t young people.  Not even middle age.

And now, I have received an invitation to become a member of their society. But, in my heart, I’m a student wearing a brand new wool three-piece suit that Mom made for my 1965 homecoming outfit. On a rainy Saturday, I’m the co-ed who ruined a $60 pair of new shoes that matched my outfit. 

On a cold snowy Saturday, I’m a newlywed, warm in my ankle-length red coat, who sits on the top bleacher and proudly watches Husband crown the 1969 Homecoming queen; one of his duties as Associated Body President.  Five years later, I’m the mother of three-week old Daughter and I drove two hours to celebrate homecoming with friends.  

After moving back to Cookeville, Husband and I welcome out of town guests and plan the weekend. Friday night gathering with his fraternity brothers and my sorority sisters. Saturday with friends and children: morning parade and afternoon football game. We celebrate Daughter’s birthday when it coincides with homecoming. Sunday morning brunch around the kitchen table.  Pots of black coffee, eggs, bacon, and stories of college days keep on coming. 

I’m the TTU fan who takes in every football and basketball game with Husband and our two teenage children. A fun way to share good wholesome family time. And when Son is a TTU student, I wish for him to make friends and happy memories and graduate. Years later, Husband and I take Grands to Tucker Stadium and explain four downs, extra points, field goals, and we high-five Awesome Eagle. 

Saturday, November 9, we Golden Grads will stand in the middle of TTU’s Overall Field and wave to football fans. And if anyone assumes that because we graduated many, many years ago, we are old and happy just to be able to walk and wave, that’s not exactly who we are. 

Maybe, just maybe, when I’ve watched other Golden Grads they, too, were students, young adults, parents, grandparents who were surprised that fifty years passed so quickly

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