Recollections of a Small Town
Today my mail included a newspaper clipping from a thoughtful friend
who believed I might be interested in a picture of a few guys who were
in my high school. And I was interested to see how time had served them.
Alas, no better than it served me. Only one of this group was a classmate;
the others were a bit behind and ahead of me. I remembered all of them
A wandering thought was a question: Did I wish to try at contacting
any of them for old times sake—or something? The thought wandered away
quickly, mercifully. But a residue had me thinking about reunions, casual,
accidental or formal, with invitations and programs and all the usual trappings.
I’ve had enough of that.
Five reunions did me in. One was one of those family affairs. Four
concerned high school celebrations for some reason. Dutifully, I attended
two for my wife. Returning the obligation she went along with two of mine.
After escape from that last one we solemnly vowed never to do it again.
The family reunion was actually my last and it was scheduled for
July after my wife’s death in April of the same year. Auspices I took as
favorable were that the event was to be held in a city I could make in
under two hours and that my son was working in that city and could join
me at dinner.
Put no faith in auspices. For years I had skirted that city using
shortcuts to the airport. I did not know that the streets had become a
planner’s dream: gridlock and utter confusion. The natives could not tell
me how to get to a place ten blocks away. I persevered and made it with
time to spare.
My son did show, but as family members were departing. He had been
held up by work schedules and was hungry. A bar was open and I had a stiff
drink while he wolfed a sandwich. It was a pleasantly quiet time and he
missed the horror of the night’s agenda.
The organizer, host and emcee was a cousin of whom I wasn’t previously
aware. He was enthusiastic and effusive and called attention to a family
history available right there. So I took one. I was not in it. Nor were
a few others to whose existence I could swear. And there were speeches.
All seemed self-congratulatory and studded with the successes of peanut
farms in Alabama or horse ranches in Tennessee.
My table partners were pleasant and well spoken but I hated them
before desserts arrived. I have not attended another reunion of any kind.
The previous high school reunions I adjudge grim and mostly joyless.
The greater part of the evening was spent in candle light and then extinguished
as the names of those no longer among the living were intoned. Macabre
maybe? Of course a cocktail time was held before dinner, but so brief as
to insure no one got a second and some did not score a first one before
the bar slammed its shutters. The highway patrol reaped little in fines
from this riotous band of revelers.
Of course there were moments. One or two classmates whom I disliked
so long ago vindicated my judgment by becoming thoroughly despicable. R.I.P.
Class of ‘ 42.
19 January 2008
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