Pacific Northwest | July 13, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineJuly 13, home
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Outdoor Living 2003

Class Dismissed
Picking up litter on memory lane

LIKE ANY NORMAL parent, I try to snoop around my children's lives while at the same time telling them I don't snoop into their lives. As long as I don't get caught or start screaming about something that I should not have read or seen, this arrangement works well for me.

The Johnston children understand this deal, and they leave enough stuff laying around so their mother, The Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston, and their alleged father (me) feel we know enough about their lives that we aren't too surprised by anything they do.

In other words, I don't want to be one of those parents who appear on the 5 o'clock news saying they didn't realize little Bobby was running a meth lab in his bedroom or spent his evenings robbing the neighbors' homes.

"I thought he was awfully quiet down there," a stunned parent tells the TV reporter as DEA people are hauling oil drums of illegal drugs out of the kid's bedroom in the basement. "He told me it was a science project and those people coming to the door were volunteers in the experiment."

So when my daughter brought home her 2003 high-school yearbook and left it on the kitchen table, I naturally picked it up and started thumbing through it.

(I must digress here. I have looked through high-school yearbooks before with our three sons. Most of the time they are signed by classmates with the usual, "It was great having you in class! What a blast, yada yada yada!"

(A few times I've found written comments that I hoped Mrs. Johnston didn't see. The comments weren't about illegal activity, but they contained things that the kids wouldn't want read out loud at the family reunion. In other words, if the stuff were read out loud, their mother would run for the soap to wash out their potty mouths.

(The boys were smart enough to keep their yearbooks hidden after they were signed, and I suppose they won't bring them to their high school's 20th reunion. What is extremely funny to an 18-year-old boy is not so funny to a guy turning 40. I'm finished digressing now and will return to the present.)

The 2003 yearbook hadn't been signed by anyone yet, which I imagine was the reason it was left on the kitchen table. It was a fancy book with a suede cover, and more than half the pictures inside were in color. None of those black-and-white pictures like I had in my Everett High School yearbook. The Johnston children will say that color photography wasn't invented when I was in school.

The 2003 version had the usual high-school activities in it — sports, dances, plays and hundreds of pictures — but there was one section that made me stop. It was called "Piercings and Tattoos." There were kids showing tattoos on their arms and some covering a lot of their rear ends. Another picture had several girls with their tongues sticking out and each tongue had a silver ball bearing on it. A different group had earrings in their belly buttons and one guy had three earrings sticking out of his eyebrow.

The earrings seemed to be painful additions to a body, but they could always be removed when these kids applied for a job. Maybe not. The other day a bank teller with a bolt through her nose took my deposit, and I hardly twitched when I handed over my money. But I wondered about the kids with tattoos. Those aren't things that will easily come off — and a mermaid on the backside of an 18-year-old is a lot more charming than one on a 40-year-old whose skin is starting to sag.

But there may be more interesting things to talk about at their high-school reunions than body piercing and tattoos in 20 years. For example, I have the 40th reunion of my high-school class coming up next year, and I don't think many of us will have nose rings or tattoos. But I did graduate with Mike Price, and I think a ball bearing in my tongue might slow me down from talking about his coaching career.

Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times staff reporter. He can be reached by e-mail at Paul Schmid is a Times staff artist.

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