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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Maybe adults should have yearbooks too

By Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle

Maybe it’s because my writing life began when I wrote copy for my high school yearbook — actually, we called them “annuals” in North Carolina — but I think the adult world would be a much kinder, friendlier place if we still signed one another’s yearbooks.

My daughter got her eighth-grade yearbook this week, and in typical fashion gathered multicolored pens and markers and reserved back-cover real estate for her closest friends.

Already, several classmates have told her they’d miss her, wished her good luck in high school, complimented her orderly locker, begged her to keep in touch and implored her to have a great summer.

With exclamation marks! Lots of them!!

This prompted me to pull my senior yearbook from the living room shelf and recall the anxiety and joy of writing in friends’ books and reading what they wrote in mine.

“Thanks for the best three years of my life,” wrote my friend Michele. “You’ve always been there for me through everything. …”

She filled three pages, peppering the paragraphs with “YBF” (your best friend), “LYLAS” (love you like a sis) and “KIT” (keep in touch) long before we ever imagined texting shorthand. Her descriptions of sleepovers and Latin class brought high school back so vividly, I could almost hear the lockers slam.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have helped me reconnect with friends after long absences and missed reunions, but writing on cyber walls will never have the same effect as those yearbook pages.

My children feel the same, which is amazing given their nearly paperless existence. Hannah texts her friends constantly and updates her Facebook status regularly, but even she realizes that’s fleeting.

A yearbook, though, with its “Don’t ever lose your sense of humor” and “Remember that time …” and “I’ll never forget driver’s ed” and “Well, we finally made it!” — that’s as close to posterity as writing can get.

It lasts.

And depending how thoughtfully a message is written — some writers scribble carelessly while others agonize, even sketching rough drafts — it can make you feel better about yourself and about life.

Imagine that kind of affirmation today, in your working world or among your circle of friends.

Imagine trading yearbooks, chewing the end of your pen as you consider what a person means to you and how to put that into words.

Imagine once a year, every year, reading how your life has touched others, what they’ll remember about you. Some amazing human beings do that with hand-written letters or birthday cards, but not nearly enough. Yearbooks, unlike performance reviews or e-cards, would force the issue.

We’d share memories, funny quotes and inside jokes.

We’d sign our names with hearts or smiley faces.

We’d urge each other to stay cool, rock on, follow your dreams, never give up.

And most importantly, we’d put it in writing.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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