We were always the misfit bunch. Not all thirty of us individually, mind you. Taken on our own merits there were the good kids, the tough kids, the jocks, the pretty girls, the nerds…your basic subsets of Homo Teenagerus Americanus. But as a group? That was another story.
We were the ones who invented a carnival that was so popular the school took it away. We were the ones who were so notoriously individualistic that our class sponsors quit. The Fort Wayne Christian School Class of 1988 was a unique band of unique people. And whether anyone liked or not, by the time we graduated we were family. At that point most of us had spent more time together than with our parents, given that we saw one another eight or more hours a day and then countless more hours at sports practices, play practices, fundraisers (Christian Schools are always broke) and in some cases detention.
The story of our sponsors quitting is a long one, but the straw that broke the camels’ backs–those camels being Mary Lontz and Kathy Turner–seems to be the fact that we were adamant about choosing black as our class colour for spirit week. I mean come on. Black is perfect. It’s slimming, it looks cool and it’s easy to come by. Not a one of us wanted to be stuck having to go buy something green or pink or whatever dumb colour we’d otherwise be stuck with. So we chose black. And we were told in the quote that lives on in my mind forever that
Black is simply not a colour for Christians.
It remains to this day the single stupidest thing I have EVER heard anyone say. Ever. And I was a political science major in college.
But in their minds I suppose Mary Lontz and Kathy Turner thought that black symbolised Satan and Evil and wearing it would be too outward an acknowledgement of the fact that 1988 were the black sheep of the school in many ways. We had the guy who got kicked out of basketball for flipping of the ref. The guy who spent two or three or six weeks taking classes in isolation because he had shaved his head and was therefore a “bad example.” We had the girl who yelled “F—K” and said all four of the letters, no dashes, in the hallway at another girl.* (*Uh, that would be me…) We had the guys who stole CDs from Sears, when nobody else in the world realised that Sears SOLD CDs.
We also had Melissa. Melissa’s family was from Kentucky and her dad was a cop. Her blue mustang had stuffed bears riding in the rear window and was notorious for speeding around town. If she ever got stopped all she hadto do was tell them she was Sergeant Ridings’ daughter. No ticket was ever written to that girl. You always knew when she was in the room, with her brash laugh and an ever-present twinkle of mischief in her eye. She and I fought pitched battles over whether it was App-el-ay-shun or App-ul-atch-in. She was the person who introduced me to Meat Loaf. Her favourite place on earth was Dollywood and her favourite people were her family. She once punctured her eardrum by pretending to be a martian to amuse her baby niece and sticking Q-tips in her ears. She forgot they were there when she answered the phone. That’s the best Melissa story because it is a perfect description of her. Always caring about people, amusing them and keeping them comfortable even if it cost her pain.
Melissa died yesterday. She had a stroke in reaction to a medication and just…well…she’s gone home. And I don’t believe it, really. Not truly. Because she was MELISSA. So full of life and laughing and being fully and completely herself.
The class of 1988 (with some honourary 1987s) have been praying and talking on Facebook all day today, hoping and remembering. Brooke Reeves brought up the Black Story and the new significance it has with us. Today black was our colour again, I suppose. Although I wonder if it shouldn’t be. Because as unbelievable as it is to have Melissa gone so suddenly and so soon it’s also true that we got to have her in our lives for those years of high school and that we will always have her. A lot of us will always have other memories of after high school as well. No death until our own will take them. And we will see one another again.