I grew up in a neighborhood where everything felt shiny and new. Houses were going up all over Houston in the aftermath of World War II. The returning soldiers were ready to get on with life and there were plenty of jobs for them to do. Houston was a boom town of sorts, continually growing with its modern port and refineries that stretched for miles. Oil was king and there was plenty of it along with jobs that promised good pay and pensions. Mid twentieth century homes were designed with stunning features. Schools were brimming with the growing population of children of whom I was one. Like my birth city we became forever known as the Boomers, a legacy that would both compliment and insult us over time.
I suppose that I might have thought of my childhood as perfection save for the untimely death of my father. Nonetheless my mother wisely found a safe and wonderful place for my brothers and I to grow into adults. It was a neighborhood filled with young moms and dads eager to create a good life for their often exceptionally large families. Overbrook as it was called was located along the Simms Bayou in southeast Houston in one of the early suburbs of the city. A railroad track enclosed one end of the area like a kind of security gate and seemingly every aspect of life centered on school and church.
The core of my childhood universe unfolded at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church and the two schools associated with it. From the second grade until I graduated from high school I walked each morning from my home on Belmark Street to the classrooms where the foundations of my life were slowly built by dedicated educators who instilled in me and my peers a sense of wonder and respect for the world and its people. That church and those schools were my refuge in the most difficult times as well as my inspiration for all that I would eventually do as an adult.
I made wonderful friends in those days, many of whom are still very much a part of my life. There were others that I only knew peripherally because our paths only crossed in the hallways or in views from the cafeteria tables. One certainty that was a constant for me was that all of the people were good souls who shared many of my dreams. We had fun growing up together little realizing how much alike we were because of the similarity of our experiences and our parents. Nonetheless after spending so much time together for years we were more than ready to embark on new adventures on the day of our high school graduation. We accepted our diplomas and barely looked back as thoughts of life beyond the borders of our little world called us.
We went in many different directions, some far away and other just down the road from where we had grown from children to young adults. We used the knowledge we had gained and built upon it to create our own careers and families and friendships just as our parents had done. We kept in touch with some of the people we had known and lost track of others. Time seemed to accelerate as we tackled the kind of problems that life invariably tosses our way. We celebrated birthdays and milestones and grew older until one day someone was reminding us that it had been fifty years since we had left the hallowed ground where our journeys had all begun. It was time to think of a reunion.
A group of hard working alumni planned a wonderful evening for us and to our great delight many of our fellow classmates came. Our youthful vigor had been replaced with graying hair, balding pates, a bit more girth than we had once had. Still, we looked wonderful all in all and in reality nobody really cared much about appearances the way we once had as teens. We were just happy to see each other and to know that we were all mostly doing well. We honored those who had already died and embraced those who were very sick and would not make it much longer. We listened to stories of great adventure, loss, heartbreak, triumph, the usual threads of living. Amazingly we realized that in spite of the differences in where we lived, our work, our incomes we were more alike than different. Somehow the core of our childhood had become the essence of who we were as adults.
I had found the confidence and strength that was lacking when I was a student. I was no longer as shy and fearful as I had once been. I like myself and by extension I enjoyed other people in a most delightful way. I found it easy to talk with my former classmates, even those that I had barely known. I enjoyed hearing about the many ways that they had chosen to live their lives. I found unexpected connections with people that I had once only given a passing glance as I was rushing to a class. Mostly I realized how hard we had all worked to be good and decent people. I was proud of who we were and what we had accomplished.
It has now been five years since our get together but the most enterprising among us have created mini-reunions from time to time at restaurants and breweries. We have been able to delve more deeply into who we are as people. Sadly we’ve also come together for funerals or to support members of our group who have become seriously ill or injured. We celebrate the joys of anniversaries and birthdays and the accomplishments of grandchildren. More than anything we simply love each other even as we realize that our politics and philosophies are sometimes widely divergent. Nothing seems to come between us anymore. We are one as the Class of 1966 from Mt. Carmel High School, brothers and sisters with a special and eternal bond.