Ave atque Vale
I saw a brief article in a recent Economist that said that college yearbooks are going the way of the raccoon coat and telephone-booth stuffing. Now that there's Facebook and MySpace, apparently a lot of students no longer feel the need to have a 6 pound, leatherette tome with a portentous name (something ending in an "um" or an "us") with black & white pictures of people they'll never see again until their 25th reunion (if then).
The article noted that high schools will probably not be far behind.
Yearbook publisher: One more business that used to be - now on its way to becoming a business that ain't.
I actually like yearbooks, and feel a little bad that they're being buggy-whipped.
Not college yearbooks - I don't think people invest all that much emotional energy in them.
But, ah, the high school yearbook.
In my high school, it was a really big deal.
And I hadn't realized just how big a deal until I dug mine out. Of the 84 girls in my class, 41 were on the yearbook committee. My friends Kathleen (editor) and Marie (assistant editor) had leading roles; I was one of the staffers. But I was a member of the all-important "meaningful quote" committee - an important enough committee that Kathleen-the-editor was on it. I can't remember if Marie-the-assistant-editor was, as well. (I saw her last week, but her role in the production of our yearbook wasn't on our agenda.) Anyway, we were the ones who picked the quote that appeared under everyone's picture.
We had decided that we were only going to have quotes - not the lists of activities - since we didn't want to hurt the feelings of the girls that didn't have any/many activities. We didn't want anyone to open up our yearbook and see someone with Latin Club 1 - and only Latin Club 1 - under her name. (This was not a personal worry on my part, as I was involved in plenty of stuff. Including - I think, or should I say, cogito - Latin Club 1,2. I'm definitely sure I bagged it by 3,4.)
We agonized - and I do mean agonized - over making sure that everyone got an apt quote. Where did we come up with "Let us embrace the illimitable secret of 'begin'" for Joan S, and "A noon unto our own day" for Maureen Q? (Okay, I just googled, and Maureen's came from The Prophet, and the "illimitable secret"' comes from e.e.cummings - two sources which come as no surprise to me.)
I googled up short on my own quote:
As the tree's roots deepen, the tree grows to share its shade with everyone.
Maybe my-friend-the-editor Kathleen made it up. She was, and is, a poet. (I'll have to ask her - we're still friends and I e-mailed her just the other day about something.)
The other big deal was the name we wanted to give the year book.
I was in high school smack dab in the middle of the J.D. Salinger era.
Our freshmen year, we were cautioned by Sister Josephine of the Sacred Heart not to read T-C-O-T-R, her mis-acronym for The Catcher in the Rye, the book that in her classroom dared not speak its name.
T-C-O-T-R, she told us, R-O-T-T-E-N.
Needless to say, once we cracked the code, we all beat a path to Ephraim's Bookstore to pick us up a copy.
But Catcher was nothing compared to the collective swoon that our class' more literary types (that would be me and my friends) went into over Franny and Zooey.
I can't quite recall which one - was it Franny? was it Zooey? - but one of the Glass siblings had been told to do things she didn't want to do "for the Fat Lady". She never quite knew who this Fat Lady was, but the book's punchline - I'm going from memory here - gives away the goddam secret:
Don't you know the secret? Don't you know the goddam secret? The Fat Lady is Christ.
By tradition, each class in my high school got to name their own yearbook. (We were preceded by The Torch and L'Esprit.) And we chose Fat Lady.
Well, there was no way that we were going to be allowed to name our yearbook Fat Lady, let alone have a line in there that said "Don't you know the goddam secret?" No goddam way!
Fat Lady? What if a real fat lady saw it and got her feelings hurt?
After all, most people probably hadn't read Franny and Zooey or the notorious T.C.O.T.R. They wouldn't know what we were talking about.
Thus, my high school yearbook was called Everyman.
And that punchline got a bit refined:
Don't you know it, Buddy, don't you know that secret yet? Everyman is Christ?
We were miffed, but we didn't actually have all that much say when it came to final say.
But Fat Lady or Everyman, I ask you: is there any OMG TMI LOL, skimpy-skirted, breast-flashing, passed-out-trash pictures and videos on the 'Net that can compare to this?
Ave atque vale to high school yearbooks?
This will be a real loss.