From the treasured writings of wartime to simple postcards from the beach, each card and letter serves as a place marker on the journey of the human being.
For a small group of former Sonoraville Middle School students and their diligent teacher, a simple letter has served as a link to both the past and future.
It all began 10-years ago when Daryl Smallwood, then a Sonoraville Middle teacher, was trying to find a way to reach a rambunctious student.
“At the end of the class there were a few minutes left over and, I think, one of my boys was clowning around and I probably said something like ‘You’re going to have to be a comedian when you grow up,” Smallwood said.
“Then they started saying ‘What about me? What about me?’ and of course you don’t have time to sit there and tell them all what they will be so I thought I would just write it down.”
Smallwood wrote down his predictions for all the students and slipped the letter behind a cabinet where he was certain it wouldn’t be found.
He told them they would get together in 10-years to read the predictions.
As the years passed, and Smallwood retired, he forgot about the letter.
This year, out of nowhere, he somehow remembered it.
“It was just all of the sudden,” Smallwood said.
After remembering the letter, his goal then became to find it and get the students from that class together to look back on that day in November of 2002.
Finding the letter —well — that wasn’t so easy.
“(Smallwood) came … and asked me if I would help him find it and I said I would,” said Sonoraville Middle School teacher Eddie Jones, an old friend of Smallwood’s.
“So I got the hammer and tore the wall anchors out and got the cabinet to lean over enough and then I got the vacuum and retrieved it.”
Jones found the letter in pretty much the same condition it was in when Smallwood left it. Some mice, it appeared, had nibbled some of envelope away near the top, but the handwriting was in pristine condition.
As far as the letter itself, it was unscathed.
“It was in great shape,” Jones said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
On Tuesday, seven members of Smallwood’s class returned to Sonoraville Middle to swap stories with their former classmates and teacher a decade later.
And even though Smallwood missed those not in attendance and he wasn’t exactly correct on many of his predictions, it was nonetheless a warm gathering. Smallwood stood before the class, all of whom were in their early 20s, and opened the letter. He listed off the names of students who were not in attendance first.
Some of the students present tried to fill in the details about the lives of those not there on Tuesday, but 10-years is plenty of time to separate people and many of the stories remained incomplete.
For some, like Chris Garner, Smallwood’s prediction was somewhat accurate.
Smallwood wrote that Garner, now 24, would be in some sort of apprenticeship program after finishing high school.
Garner is now a state trooper, so there was some level of apprenticeship involved.
“I always wanted to be in law enforcement but I don’t think I saw myself doing it at that point,” he said. “I was big into weight lifting and sports and I thought I may go that route, but it’s not as easy to do that as you (thought) then.”
Most of the former students in attendance didn’t seem too worried about Smallwood’s predictions.
Mostly, they were there to honor a teacher who influenced their lives.
“He was a really good teacher,” said Ashley Ferguson, now 23. “He would do anything he could for you.”