Writer Ella Winter once mentioned to Thomas Wolfe that you really “Can’t go home again.” I don’t remember the context of the conversation, or maybe was not even taught it, but Wolfe went on to write a fascinating novel with that title. And it always made me wonder, Maybe you can’t go home again?
As a child, I had always dreamed I’d fall in love and stay forever in the village where I grew up but love, fate, and God had other plans.
Some years ago, maybe 15, I sat with a bunch of friends in our hometown park as we celebrated one of our high school reunions. One buddy scowled, “Our hometown has changed so much, this isn’t coming home anymore.” And I responded, “Doesn’t matter how much the town changes, it’s the people you come home to.”
And I believed that, and it finally answered the question, Can we really go home again? Yes, we can, and it’s better than ever no matter how much the buildings and streets have changed. Or if the farmland now grows storefronts, homes, and gas stations instead of soybeans and corn. No matter how large the population has grown, and in our hometown that means from about 900+ in 1977 to a whopping 26,611 as of 2016.
It’s. Still. Home.
This weekend, these same friends, and my twinsie and I, gathered for our 40th class reunion. FORTY YEARS, people!
All of a sudden 40 years have passed since we graduated and the day is warm, the plans have been made, the food is coming, the tents are pitched, the tables are clothed, and we are together again.
I can’t speak for the others, but it felt like we were kids again, like time had stood still for a moment. Yet we spoke of our children, our marriages, our grandchildren, our parents who’ve passed, or are still living, our lives, retiring, getting ready to retire. And still the nuances, the crooked smiles, the laughter, the memories brought out the kids in us.
Of our class of 61 kids, 3 passed away very early on, and 23 came to our reunion this weekend. Our buddy Bubba said that was 37.7 %. I said that was amazing, and he agreed.
For the people who didn’t come, I just want to say that life changes us. If you were a bully, maybe there were regrets. If you were bullied, maybe there was redemption. If you were shy, maybe you blossomed, if you were pimply maybe your skin cleared up, if you were skinny, maybe you filled out more, if you were chubby, maybe you weighed less. If you were the class clown, maybe you were serious, if you were an only child, maybe you had six. If you were poor, maybe you were rich now, if you were a sad kid, maybe you were happy?
In the end it’s all spoken there in the kindnesses we showed, in the hugs, the laughter, the earnest caring joy. If only every kid could go “home” and feel that. Right? If only.
In all of it, there was this uncanny need to reach out to each other, to find that place where everyone felt familiar, even if we didn’t look the same. Even though we weren’t the same.
We spent a long beautiful Indian summer day (which is apropos since we were The Redskins back in the day) talking, playing bags (I totally stink at it), drinking beer, wine, margaritas, sake (ode to Daddio), smoking cigars, and just found home again. Really found home.
There was much laughter, catching up, double checking memories, and ribbing of each other, which by the way, to my Home Ec buddy who kept sticking his finger in the meringue of our baked Alaska while I chastised him and hid it from our teacher Ma Mowers, I just want to say, if you got a passing grade in that class, I saved your behind. And I will always love you and those memories. I always will, you made me sweat it out, but it was worth it just to be your pal. Of course, being your pal in driver’s ed is a thing for another blog. 🙂
Our faces, hair lines, and hair color has changed, our bodies ache a bit more, and our life experiences for many have led us in directions no one could have even conceived 40 years ago. But, in this group, just as the moon gathered the stars in the sky, we gathered our “family,” and celebrated “home” again.