I took a picture during my son’s graduation at Anderson High School June 7, 2014. It is Anderson High School band members playing their bagpipes as an Indian statue stands lookout in the old Pirate Gym. Twenty-seven years ago, almost to the day, I graduated from that same gym not as an Indian, but as a Pirate. On that warm summer evening in 1987 if you had given me a million guesses I would have never dreamed that a short 27 years later the Pirate Palace would be now called the Tepee and be done in red and green instead of scarlet and black. It looked weird to me, upsetting in a way. I was a three-sport athlete at MHHS. I bled scarlet and black and I hated the Indians. I was jealous of their history, traditions, and overall ability to beat us in most team sports. They were my sworn enemy. So as I sat in that same gym 27 years later, I found it disheartening to see no Pirate signs and all of that red and green.
Then something happened. The Class of 2014 marched into the gym including my son and they had the look of excitement, hope and dreams to be reached. They beamed with pride off what they had accomplished and what lied before them. At that moment I realized it didn’t matter what they called the gym or what colors were on the wall. I realized that my memories of times gone past would always be mine and that I was lucky enough to witness these young people establish theirs. I also realized that they get it.
My son’s class was one of the first to go to Highland for their freshman year. There would be no more Scots just like there would be no more Pirates. It was wrong, many of the adults said in the community at the time. It will never work. There will be fights and divisions, we adults said. We knew for sure that it would fail, just like 27 years ago I knew my gym would always be scarlet and black. A funny thing happened though, no one must have told the kids. They came together as one and created a new identity. They took pride and found a way to respect and honor their past, but, not get hung up on it. They simply moved forward. Twenty-seven years ago watching bagpipes being played with an Indian statue in my Pirate Palace would have appalled me. Yesterday as I watched and listened to it, it was one of the most moving and beautiful things I have ever seen.