I felt a presence in my “personal space”, yesterday afternoon, as I played with my son in Central Park. I was at one of the many playgrounds with my wife, letting him blow off some steam to get him ready for a bath and blissful (for us, especially) bedtime. I looked up and the man holding a toddler asked if I went to my high school, to which I answered indeed I did, assuming, of course, that it was his too. It turns out that the skinny tall kid that I once knew had put on some weight and in so doing looked to have shrunk a few inches to my height. Sure enough we were long lost classmates. We were never “friends”, but certainly friendly and so we had a little impromptu catch-up session: decades summed up in minutes. We said our goodbyes and each of us wrangled offspring, strollers, wives and baby paraphernalia and went our own way.
As I walked home I got to thinking (which is always a bad thing, really), this was the first high school classmate of mine that I had seen in person with kids. I have seen and kept in touch with many of my college mates and friends who now have kids and it was always a fairly normal thing to see for me – especially now that I too have a son. This encounter was different, though, much more nostalgic.
I know, I am not at the age in which nostalgia should wrap its hands around my neck, but it did hit me for a brief moment. There is something more “innocent” (for lack of a better word) about high school. It feels to me like an age in which you are still not called upon to fend for your self and an age at which for many of us the thought of having a family of our own is just non-existent – at least for me it certainly was so. I am not saying that in college my thoughts drifted to this point in my future life – certainly not – but I did feel more mature (which amuses me now that I look back upon those four care-free years of my life).
So jumping back into my reflections walking home from the park, I felt that I had somehow split my memories of youth into the pre- and post- mature (or presumed at the time to be so) phases of my life and applied them to my reactions upon seeing people I knew (in one or the other phase) suddenly “all grown up”. I was shocked to see that someone I used to run around with during high school without a care in the world is now a father – a seemingly mature and responsible man.
I cannot quite put my finger on the sentiment, but it is both jarring and pleasant. I feel that it was ages ago that I had not a care in the world and yet I have a sense of fulfillment and pride (in myself) that I have reached a point in my life where I feel squarely in the mature phase and have the backup to prove it. The “innocence” maybe gone, but I welcome the daily grind of daddyhood because it brings with it the satisfactions that only an adult can appreciate – even their inner child.