Yearbooks: an unexpected trip down memory lane

Yearbooks have been a part of life ever since Middle School. For expat children like me who grew up in foreign countries during the 70s and 80s, looooong before the internet age, and could never really keep in touch with those treasured childhood friends, the fleeting memories and impressions of the yearbook are the only portal to the past. As time passes, however, our memories prove to be treacherous, with names and shared experiences fading further and further into the recesses of our minds.

I for one love my yearbooks and even though I barely recognise the names and people in my Middle School yearbooks anymore, it’s still good to know that some faces will never fade. High School, on the other hand, left a more indelible impression on my soul. Flipping through all my yearbooks brings back wonderful moments of friends who were a part of my life for that season and whatever reason.

Over the years, with all the moving around I did with my parents and subsequently with my own family, the yearbooks got carted around with me from country to country, standing proud in every bookshelf they landed in. I knew they were there, but as time passed and my daughter grew up and began collecting her own yearbooks, I opened mine less and less.

I left most of my yearbooks behind when I moved from Thailand to Manila, taking only my senior High School yearbook and college yearbook with me, my milestone yearbooks as I like to call them. Yesterday, all the remaining yearbooks were delivered to my doorstep and it was as if the Universe gave me a wonderful unexpected gift. My daughter was fascinated by them and took a keen interest in them for the first time as she discovered a part of my life that has always remained a bit obscure to her. It was when we began reading through all the dedications that I realised I had no clue anymore who half the people were and what they were referring to in their write-up! Not only was the handwriting atrocious, but I couldn’t connect half the names with faces anymore.

Hindsight is a cruel friend at times but a hell of a teacher. When you are young and impressionable at 16 or 18, you never take cognisance of the fact that one day you will be flipping through your old High School Yearbook 40 years down the road and no longer remember the emotions that came with reading each entry. Of course, some entries will always make sense to me because certain people will never be erased from my data bank, but it is a travesty to realise how many people I would have loved to retain in my life after High School or college for that matter. One particular friend, for example, wrote such poignant poetry in my Junior year yearbook, and after looking through it today, his handwriting and emotions still stir my heart. Life took us both down completely different paths, and I even forgot his nickname for me at the time, Maya. It only occurred to me today that had I remembered this affectionate nickname, I probably would have used it as a pen name!

Although life has backed me into a dark corner more than once in recent years, with many of my material possessions surrendered to a fate different than mine, I have managed to hang on to certain priceless treasures that no money will ever be able to replace. Yearbooks are my unexpected portals to the past, an affirmation of a wonderful youth, as well as a testament of my parents’ love as they made sure to send me to topnotch schools and provide the best education possible.

So thank you SH, for the delivery and the reunification of the collection.

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