On this date in 1971 I graduated from Maumee Valley Country Day School. It’s a small private school in Toledo, Ohio, and I was one of a class of 47 students.
I was not an outstanding student, but I volunteered to give the class speech, and no one objected. At the commencement ceremony, held in the high school gym on a rather humid June evening, I stood up and spoke for a few minutes. I have no recollection of what I said, and I didn’t save a copy. But I do remember that I ended it with a quote from Bilbo Baggins at his birthday party, given at the beginning of “The Lord of the Rings.”
I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
Fifty years later, I’m still in touch with a number of my classmates through social media such as Facebook, where we share pictures of our families and the usual news about weddings and grandchildren (which still boggles my mind). Despite the fact that we have all gone our separate ways — not many of us still live in Toledo — we share those memories, and for once, all those years between now and then don’t seem so long. I still have the silver mug with my name engraved on it that we got as a class gift — I use it as a pen caddy, appropriate for a writer — and I still have my sports letter, earned because I videotaped the home basketball games. (In 1971, it wasn’t just holding up a cell phone. It was a major undertaking.) And I have my yearbooks, going back before high school, all the way to Grade 3. And it was at that place where I wrote my first play, “The Summer House,” an eleven-page masterpiece that I labeled as a “full-length.” It is, mercifully, not available for production.
So to my fellow classmates and friends, the quote from Mr. Baggins still applies. But I’ve never forgotten you.