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THE REGULARS: 'Back in the day' reflections

THE REGULARS: 'Back in the day' reflections

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We probably all reminisce from time to time, thinking about the past, what was or might have been. Maybe I'm more reflective than most, I don't know, but lately I've been thinking about growing up in Anthon, Iowa.

It's a nice place to grow up, an idyllic, small town without a stoplight - or a red-light camera. For a teen, though, the pace and peace of it can be maddening.

Small-town streets can loom like prison walls, impenetrable and stifling.

Parents act as the prison guards, manning the searchlights, probing the shadows, and the only thing missing is the ball and chain - a big, heavy one, shackled around the ankle. Tightly.

In adulthood, it's easier to appreciate that Anthon was and is a friendly town, where neighbors know each other's names. Strangers driving through are greeted by the "Iowa wave," an index finger raised quickly above the steering wheel.

It's a nice contrast to the "California wave," which uses a different finger and is never accompanied by a smile.

Back in the day, my buddies cruised the loop, making a U-turn near the grain elevator and rolling slowly down Main Street, past the Coast-to-Coast store, in a Chevy Nova or a Buick.

I was rarely among the cruisers because my car was an MGB, one of the most unreliable vehicles ever made, with a modified six-volt ignition and a cantankerous, oil-filled carburetion system.

Anthon's longtime mayor still laughs about the time he and the town cop pushed my high school sweetheart home in that MG, our date cut short by a starter solenoid, she wearing an elegant, billowing chiffon number. It was prom night.

Among the memories of high school were some pretty cool classmates with nicknames like "Toga" and "Tippy," and a few others I can't repeat here. Once I tried to give myself a cool nickname, but that is verboten, as nicknames must be earned, even in high school.

So I was stuck with the simple, uncreative, "Hoffy," and it suited me.

High school is known to produce embarrassing moments with regularity, and I had more than my share. Maybe you did, too.

Grabbing a rebound during a varsity scrimmage, my heart racing, sweat in my eyes, I heard the bench yelling "3 ... 2 ... 1," so I quickly turned and heaved that roundball the length of the gymnasium.

It was an airball, but no one heard it bounce off the floor because the laughter of the crowd came on like a thunderclap. It was only then I realized there were still two minutes left on the clock.

Even our coach got a belly laugh out of that one. I'd write "LOL" but I'm not a teenager anymore.

That school, Anthon-Oto, no longer exists on paper, but I still have an annual, and I was looking through it the other day. Amongst the photos and inscriptions, one quote stands out.

Our class valedictorian, wise beyond her years, wrote, "High school was full of great times, but you couldn't pay me to go through it again."

Yeah, that's about right.

And then I noticed the graduation photos, and it seems odd, to wonder where the time goes, how it came and went so fast. In the midst of it, time seems to creep along, but then suddenly graduation is here and it's over.

I even remember some of the conversations at graduation, like "Hey, I'll see you next week, Kirk" or "Let's get together soon."

But it didn't work out that way.

When you're in high school, it's hard to look across that graduation stage and understand you'll never see some of these kids again. Ever.

Oh sure, you may be blessed with a few friends for life, and maybe even see a few more at a reunion. But for most, you just wonder, maybe with some regret.

If I have any regrets from high school, it's that I didn't always share my heart, my affection and admiration, with those I knew and loved.

Maybe I didn't know what to say, but I regret not telling my classmates, my teachers, that they were special to me. Or just thanks for the memories, and have a great life.

Life is like that sometimes.

Next week: Steve Warnstadt

Brent Hoffman, a former military officer and Pentagon 9/11 survivor, served on the Sioux City Council and is the owner of Hoffman & Associates. He is a widower and the father of two children, Silas and Lydia.


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