Somehow, three decades have passed since my senior year at Quincy High School. Now, I'm who my parents were, watching three kids grow up. My oldest is out of college, and my two youngest are high school students.
The hair is a little more gray (OK, a lot more gray). The paunch is a little bigger (OK, quite a bit bigger). My high school reunion is two weeks away. My 50th birthday is two years away.
It's strange to think back to the summer of 1983 and recall what life was like ... and what I was like.
School actually was pretty easy. Never had to work too hard on homework but always brought home straight As, and math always was a breeze. However, when looking at a calculus test midway through the second semester and realizing I didn't know how to even begin to answer some of the problems, reality and panic set in. I hadn't studied or paid attention. To this day, it's difficult to look Bob Dittmer, my calculus teacher, in the eye. He graciously gave me a C for the class when an F could have been merited.
Tom Burnett first piqued my interest in writing during a British Literature class. John Engelmeyer's Chemistry class was memorable because of two friends at my table and another friend I made ... and eventually married.
Schoolwork, however, became secondary to my first love. The spring baseball season usually meant three or four weekday games followed by Saturday morning doubleheaders against Western Big Six Conference foes. Long trips to the Quad Cities started at about 6 a.m., and no four-lane roads to the north (or anywhere, really) existed. Morning rains during the week meant skipping class to manicure the field for an afternoon game.
Summertime meant more baseball with the American Legion. It seemed like we played every day and traveled every night, but no one seemed to mind. Overnight trips were an adventure, ranging from the time we drove our go-karts in the wrong direction and were kicked off a track in Peoria to when some of the guys were caught getting back to the hotel at 3 a.m. after sneaking out to a Loverboy concert in Davenport, Iowa.
On nights with no scheduled games, whiffle ball games on the driveway or dunk contests on 7-foot rims in a friend's garage were played until the wee hours. Intellivision was the Xbox of my generation.
During the winter, basketball was king. After two years with a front row seat to Jerry Leggett's three-ring circus and a 64-game winning streak, watching games in Blue Devil Gym involving my own friends on the court was a treat. (The Blue Devils lost to eventual champ Springfield Lanphier in the sectionals that season.) By my senior year, everybody knew where to come in the student section to place a 50-cent bet -- not on whether QHS would win, but by how much.
After games, you could run to the Pizza King on Broadway or the Tower of Pizza at 20th and College, or for a buck you could get plenty of tacos at Taco John's on 36th Street. In fact, 36th Street was the end of the world in Quincy. Everything else to the east was just farmland.
My first car was a 1976 Pinto. (Yes, a Pinto.) A few friends drove nice cars, but most got to drive vehicles like their parents' station wagon (which looked like Clark Griswold's in "Vacation," which was released that summer) or a beatup Volkswagen with no floorboards. If you didn't have a cassette tape player in your car, you listened to local radio and heard "Chocolate Thunder" spinning songs from Michael Jackson or Police.
Personal fashion usually meant figuring out which baseball jersey to wear to school, but looking back at what seemed to be in style back then (such as huge feathered hair, stonewashed jeans, droopy aerobic socks or Members Only jackets), well, let's say it wasn't a good look.
Weekend parties often involved alcohol, but I was blissfully ignorant and didn't attend many. Graduation wasn't particularly memorable, but the all-night gathering at the Casino afterward was.
Looking back, it was truly a time of innocence. Life didn't revolve around paying bills, maintaining homes, raising children, marriage, divorce, juggling jobs and keeping an eye on your 401(k).
It was just simpler ... and way too long ago.