"No man knows the value of innocence and integrity but he who has lost them."
Oh my gosh, look.
It's a photo of the Brighton Area High School Tennis Team, circa 1974. Pretty sure we were celebrating the end of the season with a swim party at a family home, and capped the event with this group portrait.
For the past couple days - ever since my friend and fellow former member of this exclusive racket club forwarded me this gem from her archives - I've been staring at it in utter fascination.
Because there's something about us that just feels odd.
Or maybe more precisely, something about us that reads different - very, very different - than photos of high school athletes taken in more recent times.
Two things catch my eye:
1. We don't look very athletic. Where are the bulging biceps, the toned quads, the tight, lean faces of today's student athletes? The matching team warm-ups and the overpriced trainers? For crying out loud, where's the spandex? Yeah, we weren't much into intense physical conditioning. And we certainly didn't work on year-round tennis conditioning. Shoot, we just showed up in April, once the Michigan snow had finally melted, with whatever second-hand rackets we could beg, borrow, or steal, and a fresh can of fluorescent bouncy balls, and set to work. We loved tennis for its wacky scoring system (Love, 15, 30, 40, Game, Set, Match!), the sunny afternoons spent practicing in the fresh air, and the wholesome competition. But budding little Martinas and Bjorns we were not.
2. We have no idea how to pose for a photo. I mean, look at us. Slouching and slumped, arms crossed, vacant expressions drifting across most of our faces. Sure, there's that one boy who's cracking up as the wise guy in the back row pulls a white swim cap down over the head of the gold aviators dude, but otherwise, we are remarkably lifeless. We exist in a time light years before the MySpace generation taught us how to smile, smirk, and sexify ourselves for the camera, and our innocence leaps out at me across the years.
That's the precise quality that defines our funny little group, all awkward expressions and lanky limbs.
We were innocent.
And as I stare at myself in this photo, unassumingly swallowed up by a blue beach towel and inexplicably smiling at the ground, I am thankful beyond words that I grew up in a time when teenagers were allowed their innocence.