It’s summertime, and the season for vacations and reunions, class or family is upon us.
It is the time of the year when the North Dakota Tourism Department doesn’t have to advertise to bring people back to their home towns, or schools for get togethers, and it does provide a boost to hotels, restaurants, and bars, not to mention the spirits of those attending these.
Over the years I have gone to both family reunions, and class reunions. In the summer of 1998, I had spent a couple of days in Carrington for a class reunion, and came away with the thoughts that follow.
I wrote what follows for broadcast while working for a radio station in Bismarck, and was called upon at a later reunion to read this at a banquet of our classmates.
Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again.” He was right of course, but what you can do is go back for a class reunion.
I recently attended the class reunion of the class of 1958 in Carrington.
It was the 40th for our class, and I found it to be a wonderful tonic for the soul.
I’ve been to others over the years that we’ve had, but the further out you go the better they get.
First, let’s take a quick look at the five and ten year reunions. Everyone comes to those just five or ten years out of high school wearing their achievements on their sleeves, trying to impress all with how well they’ve done in such a short time out in the adult world, and it’s true, some have done very well in that short time. So, you drink, you eat, have a picnic, dance, tell each other lies into the wee hours, announce your plans, and leave town not to think about such things for another ten or fifteen years.
Time passes. Life takes its toll, and comes now the 25 year reunion. Now they begin to be real fun. The pretensions of youth are sloughing off. The reality of middle age is setting in, and instead of wearing achievements on their sleeves, they are more than likely to have pictures of their children to show and to tell tales of how well their children are doing.
There is less pressure. Things are more relaxed, and I get the feeling that people really enjoyed spending time with each other under those circumstances. So, as before, you drink, you eat, you dance and talk to the wee hours, and the time for needing to impress is past. Come Sunday you hug your friends, say your good byes and leave town actually looking forward to doing it again in the future.
Now it’s time for the 40th. H.G. Wells could not have invented a better time machine as this one as I found out a couple of weeks ago in Carrington.
One minute I’m this fifty-something guy driving into town, not really knowing what to expect since I had seen a lot of my class mates in a long time. The next thing I know, we’re all 17 and 18 again.
The skin is smoother, The hair is all there and it’s not grey. The pounds have melted away, and all of the hope, enthusiasm, optimism and excitement of those halcyon days are back for a magical moment.
No matter that it’s not reality. This is a time to forget reality for a few hours and revel in the feeling that you haven’t aged, and neither has anyone else.
It was a special event. It was different than earlier ones in that now there are no pretensions. What you are, or were is no longer important. You are just who you are, and that is more than enough. Now you are more likely to see pictures of grandchildren as well.
As before, you drink, you eat, you dance, you talk to the wee hours and before you know it’s time for Sunday brunch.
Reunions like this one have a bittersweet flavor to them. It makes the emotions of the event a little more intense. It is bittersweet because you don’t want it to end to soon, but by noon on Sunday reality sets back in. There are bags to pack, places to go, things to do, obligations to be met. So you say goodbye to everyone, and everyone says we’ll do it all again in five years, and you know it may or may not happen. You do know this however, that if it does, it too, will be different, again.
I wrote the above essay in the summer of 1998. Ten years later in the summer of 2008, I went back to Carrington for the 50th. It was different, again, as I suspected it would be. Joanie had died that spring, and that had an affect on me, but I still enjoyed the time there.
We had a good attendance and, though as before, we drank, we ate and talked, but we didn’t make it to the wee hours as we once had. That was okay, it was still a grand time.
Sunday still had that melancholy associated with leaving, knowing that your might never see some these friends again, but you say goodbyes and drive off, with only memories as your passenger for the trip back to Bismarck.
The class of ’58 did get together one time since the summer of 2008, but I wasn’t able to make it. Maybe the next time.