“THOSE WERE THE DAYS MY FRIEND”
This was a song credited to Gene Raskin who composed the English lyrics to a Russian romance musical piece. It was translated from a poem written by Boris Fomin in 1948. It deals with reminiscence upon youth and romantic idealism. In the 1960s, the Beatles bought its rights and sent it to Mary Hopkins for recording. From then on, it gained popular circulation.
It was also a song that would serve as some kind of an anthem for the youth during the early 60s. This was a period when this writer was a fledging elementary student. This was 50 years ago.
Excerpt of the lyrics from the song goes this way:
“Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And think of all the great things we would do
Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la…
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days”
I found myself humming the song on my way to meet my classmates. I was nervous. I could not bring myself to the reality of meeting finally the women of my dreams. During our elementary days, they ruled my world. They have inspired me to read romance. They, although they are not aware about it, were my inspirations in my early composition of poetry and arts. They may have been muses in their respective universe but for me, they were the symbols of wish fulfilment. And finally, after years of separation, after years devoted to dealing with threats and dangers, a time will come when nature would reward its warriors a time for peace and stability.
That day would arrive.
A few days ago, in a tavern look-alike somewhere in the outskirts of the Metropolis, I had the rare luck of reuniting with my former elementary classmates. They were then the toast of the school as the smartest, neatest, brightest and, well for me, the prettiest too. I could only dream then to hold any one’s hands. But on that fateful day, I even had the occasion to hug them all!
(Left to Right: Author, Susan, Ma. Lourdes, Judy and Lorna.)
Susan was the shiest among them. She spoke little, always in a corner singing by her lonesome. I could not recall any group activity with her. She was just as reserved and inhibited as can be. She must be good to be in Section One all throughout the grade school year. She must have topped the quizzes although I have as yet to hear her voice during recitation. Her timidity could have been a cover to take all lessons in all its seriousness after all. Her brooding eyes spoke of love in a very sophisticated way. (She has a successful catering business in Sydney, Australia)
There was Lorna, a statuesque girl, firm and poise. She was, for me a snub. But what else can one make of a lass who was flawless, sheltered, an only girl in the family, athletic and a piano protégé. She had everything in the world to be important. I would look up to her like a part of a set of Michelangelo’s masterpiece. How I wish to bring her home and present her to my mother! (She was a corporate manager in one of the country’s premiere pharmaceutical firms)
There was Maria Lourdes. She was diminutive like me and she was like a doll in the class. She was studious and very honest. She walked with maturity all over her. She must have been taught to be responsible first before she ever understood the alphabet. Her parents must have doted to her the rudiments of discipline during her toddler years. She seldom smiles but when she did, and I happen to take a glimpse, the world becomes dull and all I could see was the two of us in some gardens far away. (She dabbled in real estate and proud mother of two lawyers, one of them an activist litigator for human rights.)
And there was Judy. She was serious with a husky and bed-room voice. She has never been in the radar of my curiosity though. She was also seated in a far corner away from mine. Once in while I would glance and see her either chatting with a seatmate in whisper or concentrated on her notebook. She was one of the prettiest but she was also that aloof among them. I would rather relegate her as the least among those I would cast a moistened eye. (She was one of the corporate auditors in a big business conglomerate.)
There they were my elementary crushes. And how have they done the past five decades since we have separated from grade school. In our informal reunion, as we try to reminisce, I could only confess that they have never changed, except for some physical changes on the contour of our respective facial expressions, the eyes are still there, the mirth, the language, the deportment. Time had its way of freezing the character of a person.
Of them all, there was something that caught my attention. As they gave their respective narration of their personal concern, I would find the voice of Judy as the most familiar. It was for me the sound of my elementary years. It was like music to me. It was as if a lullaby; and, to think that she was the farthest from me in every seating arrangement from grade 1 to 6. There was something in her voice that awakened my consciousness. I was trying to recall if there was an instance when she scolded, shouted or screamed at me. I still could not fathom. Her voice remained the same for me as if I was a kid whenever she speaks.
Susan was into a heightened business conflict within her firm. Maria Lourdes has been a widow for 29 years and never remarried. Lorna and Judy never took a vow except their belated entry into the world of religious calling. All of them have retired from their respective career. All of them are also carriers of the senior citizen card as if resigned at the thought that youth has passed them by already. All of them are also fanatical lovers of pet cats and dogs. They have seen life, appreciated it through adventure, lulled by challenges in their work and sustained by their faith in a fulfilled life spent on sharing.
I was there in their midst, representing the male sector of our elementary years, listening intently in their girlish expressions and air of femininity. Taking note of information that some of our classmates have already cross over, conducted outlandish accomplishments and for others, have chosen to spend their future abroad.
The informal reunion was a bit tragic and comic, albeit jovial and humorous too. For someone like me who spent the whole time dealing with everything manly, even getting involved in war and battles involving machismo, presiding over a woman’s circle was an ironical twist.
There was something that we found ourselves on common grounds though. Aside from surviving, we were there are as evidence of hard work and we resolved to reunite soon until the heavens fall apart.