Posted on June 10, 2020 by Blake Leath

Lauren’s having turned 18 yesterday and set to become a college freshman in the fall gave me all the [nostalgic] feels this week, throwing me back to the first time I was a freshman. 

I also happened to be spring cleaning my office and came across dozens of ancient photos, each of which further rocket-fueled more than three decades of memories and cast me deeper and deeper into a wormhole. Or is it a spider hole? Or a rat hole? Or a rat’s nest? Or ratted hair? Or maybe it’s a rabbit trail? Eesh. Similes I can remember, but I can never seem to keep my metaphors, analogies, or allegories straight. Hopefully you get the idea: I’m down a hole or trail of some sort and you’re comin’ with me! 

As fate would have it, of the MANY common injuries, illnesses, or ailments likely to befall a high school senior (mononucleosis, anyone?), I had the distinct privilege of contracting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, dropping from 165 lbs to 117, missing graduation and summer, then driving southward to the sleepy metropolis of Waco, TX using one of my two crutches to mash on the accelerator because I’d thrown my back out doing rehab in July to regain muscle mass.

How’s all this for irony? 

Senior Year ’88 is therefore a somewhat squishy memory for me, vaguely fugue-like from about March forward, and I remember it primarily as a blur and total bummer because it lacked closure on every front: few goodbyes, fewer explanations, then presto-blammo, wacky Waco here I be!

All this being the case, whenever I do think of high school, it’s 1984 that tends to hit my memory bank the hardest.

For 2020 freshmen, what a year to be launching, yes? I mean, gee, if only the year coulda been more auspicious, more eventful, more pivotal, more memorable, more momentous somehow.

“May you live in interesting times,” right? And it’s barely June! 

But back to 1984, and a quick time-capsule for you—

FASHION: Freshman year began awash in a sea of squeaky parachute pants, Vans, Air Jordans, Doc Martens, Ray-Ban wayfarers and mirrored aviators, Panama Jack and OP tees, ropy gold chains, countless rubber wristlets, preppies, new wavers, punks, skaters, metal-heads, skinheads, Benettonites, hip hoppers, rockabillies, and fanatical leotarded aerobicizers. 

TV was dominated by: Cagney & Lacey, Cheers, Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Family Ties, Highway to Heaven, Hill Street Blues, Knots Landing, Magnum, P.I., Miami Vice, Murder, She Wrote, Newhart, Night Court, Remington Steele, Riptide, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Simon & Simon, The A-Team, The Cosby Show, The Fall Guy, Trapper John, M.D., and tiny guy Webster

The big MOVIES were: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Against All Odds, Amadeus, Bachelor Party, Beverly Hills Cop, Blame it on Rio, Breakin' (and Breakin’ II!), Cannonball Run II, Children of the Corn, Conan the Destroyer, Dune, Firestarter, Footloose, Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Irreconcilable Differences, Johnny Dangerously, Missing in Action (Norris!), Moscow on the Hudson, Police Academy, Purple Rain, Red Dawn, Revenge of the Nerds, Rhinestone, Romancing the Stone, Sixteen Candles, Splash, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Starman, Supergirl, Teachers, The Cotton Club, The Evil That Men Do, The Flamingo Kid, The Gods Must Be Crazy, The Ice Pirates, The Karate Kid, The Killing Fields, The Last Starfighter, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Natural, The Terminator, The Woman in Red, Thief of Hearts, Tightrope, Top Secret!, Unfaithfully Yours, Up the Creek, Weekend Pass, and Where the Boys Are '84

At the roller rink, top TUNEMEISTERS included: Adam Ant, Bananarama, Billy Joel, Billy Ocean, Billy Squier, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Christine McVie, Christopher Cross, Corey Hart, Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, DeBarge, Duran Duran, Elton John, Eurythmics, Genesis, Hall & Oates, Huey Lewis and the News, Irene Cara, John Cougar Mellencamp, John Waite, Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, KC & the Sunshine Band, Kenny Loggins, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Kool & The Gang, Laura Branigan, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Mike Reno and Ann Wilson, Nena, Night Ranger, Olivia Newton-John, Pat Benatar, Peabo Bryson, Peter Schilling, Phil Collins, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Ray Parker Jr., Rick Springfield, Rockwell, Rod Stewart, Run-DMC, Scandal, Shalamar, Sheila E., Steve Perry, Stevie Wonder, Stray Cats, The Cars, The Go-Go's, The Jacksons, The Pointer Sisters, The Police, The Rolling Stones, The Romantics, Thompson Twins, Tina Turner, Van Halen, Wang Chung, Wham!, Yes, and the long-beards themselves, ZZ Top. 

In the NEWS: AIDS, Ethiopian famine (and Band Aid to help solve it!), Apple’s Macintosh (and Sony’s first 3 ½” disk, plus the introduction of commercial CD players!), the Summer Olympics (and the Soviets’ boycott), the first untethered space walk (Space Shuttle Challenger, followed in August by Space Shuttle Discovery), and the overall feeling that George Orwell mighta been on to something in his dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four, though, admittedly, by today’s standards, 1984 feels rather quiet and quaint, if not altogether naïve. 

It occurs to me that today’s freshmen might as well be launching amidst their own dystopian prophecy of sorts, perhaps Aldous Huxley’s masterwork being the order of the day, as it is fast becoming a Brave New World indeed, though hopefully for the [much] better. 

Coincidentally—in case you have time for a couple final factoids and a dozen metaphors that endeavor to tie the whole room together!—Huxley died within hours of C. S. Lewis (November 22, 1963), though, understandably, too few of the citizenry were able to fully commemorate their passing and reach closure when it happened, as a progressive young President on the other side of the sea also happened to lose his life that day, in his case when the motorcade crept past the Texas School Book Depository and changed the course of history forever. Again.

History often has a rather odd way of sensemaking and putting things into perspective for us, does it not? Three renowned, notable Men of Letters had lost their lives in a single day, and two more thought-leaders would die violently at the hands of small-minded bigots in April and June of 1968. 

Of this I am certain, though: The struggle is real, and it continues until The Very Bittersweet End. 

Transitions, changes, passages, epochal eras, and especially upheavals rarely come on time, are frequently messy, disorganized, and open-ended, and can also be jarring when not outright violent. The status quo rarely goes quietly into some good night, nor does it simply fade away. In my experience, new order comes kicking and screaming loudly into the world and tears lotsa social fabric along the way.

What is “fashionable” is, by definition, temporal. It comes and goes, becoming something frivolous and perhaps even small by comparison, especially in retrospect. We learn first-hand that time marches on…waits for no man…and we cannot step into the same river twice. To not learn this would be ignorance, denial of truth, and intellectual/social/spiritual death. 

Granted, I cannot predict what firefly fashions, sights, or sounds may catch our eyes or ears in the future, but I do agree that though the arc of the moral universe is long, it does bend toward justice, and progress will eventually carry the day. 

But perhaps more importantly than all this, I believe in the scriptural promise that a child shall lead the way.

This being the case, I can think of no more auspicious, eventful, pivotal, memorable, momentous year than 2020 to launch our offspring out into the world to seize the day.

I pray they can blaze a better trail than we have, and eventually show us the way.