Friday, July 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Celebrations

Once again I have shamefully neglected this humble blog. It’s been mostly the usual suspects – lethargy, lack of web-wandering time – but also that life has seemed to slog along without inspiration since my last post. The oil leak disaster has only recently been brought under some type of temporary limited control. Politics? Ugh. I was glad to see the soccer-picking octopus is doing well. I also came across part of a Lawrence Welk rerun that was, well, attention-getting. How to describe it… was an old-time tap dancing number, complete with barbershop-style clothes, done to an up-tempo, mostly instrumental (only the title line was sung) version of Sonny and Cher’s “And the Beat Goes On”. My wife and I both stared slack-jawed at the TV for about 15 seconds before the pending onset of stomach cramps induced me to change the channel. But nothing motivated me to apply fingers to keyboard.

Grandbaby, of course, finally did it. Her age can now be expressed in years, and she spent her birthday doing just that, informing everyone who looked at her, “I two!” There were festivities at a local park, where she promptly elevated everyone’s heart rate by climbing (unnoticed until halfway, but to her credit cautiously) up the steps of a 12-foot-high slide, gleefully sliding down, then repeating. Cake, grilled meat and cheap “fruit drink” (the stuff kids like but which has always seemed to me to lack only glycol to duplicate antifreeze) were consumed and presents proffered to the Birthday Girl, who seemed to get the biggest thrill from the bubble-blowing kits.

Two days later I was sitting at another picnic table, this time with roughly a dozen high school classmates on a flatbed trailer pulled by a pickup in a parade. The reunion to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our graduation coincided with a summer celebration in my hometown, so the organizers put together a parade entry, which brought home second prize in a field of about twenty (including a pickup driven by my wife, in the back of which four members of my Mom’s class rode) which we attributed to our distinguished good looks but which may possibly have been related to the kids in the back of our tow vehicle playing musical instruments and providing the kind of cuteness that would appeal to the judges, one of whom happened to be a classmate’s mother.

That same flatbed, now pulled by an antique tractor and further burdened by coolers full of beverages, was part of an afternoon poker run punctuated by random water balloon attacks from other entries, which given the heat of the day were quite tolerable. This eventually became a tour of the town, with lots of comments along the lines of “so they tore that down”, returnees noting the few areas of growth (a classmate and I recalled that there were no houses between ours when we were growing up; now it would be hard to see one from the other) and asking the residents “who lives there now?” Cities have many advantages, but try this in one and see how long you avoid a conversation with the local constabulary. Of course, we weren’t yelling or throwing things or causing any real disturbance, and the presence of farm machinery in those streets isn’t exactly uncommon. Still, small towns have a tolerance for at least certain behavior that belies the general perception of narrow conformity.

That evening we had a class supper with the usual goings-on associated with such functions, including a showing of videos of past reunions, now dubbed to a DVD with some difficulty, since at least one of the older ones had deteriorated. (I really could have lived comfortably without knowing that a tape of video in which I appear as an adult has begun disintegrating due to age.) The gathering was a great source of entertainment for spouses and families from elsewhere, who got background for those stories they had been told, and no doubt heard a few that had been forgotten, perhaps intentionally. My wife enjoyed herself immensely.

Eighteen of our class of thirty (a number that flummoxed a co-worker of a classmate who lives in suburban Atlanta; apparently he couldn’t comprehend a school that small) attended at least some of the activities. One has died, and one has been untraceable. I heard someone wonder why the no-shows who live nearby couldn’t at least drop in for a little bit. I think that, besides the many other possible reasons, the fact that it was potentially easy to do – no travel plans or other arrangements to make - meant it was also easy to forget.

I was able to recognize, at least after a second or so, all but two classmates; one due to his bushy beard, the other….well, no one who hadn’t seen him lately was able to recognize him. Most of us show appropriate signs of wear. One woman is in even better shape than 30 years ago, while her brother – also in our class – is in a nursing home. A wide variety of occupations was represented – farmers, mail carriers, computer technicians, corporate consultants – although, interestingly, no doctors or lawyers.

The people who organized the reunion had compiled a booklet from information provided by everyone, and copies were distributed, along with a list of contact numbers/addresses. There was already talk about the next one, but I didn’t really want to think ahead right then. I preferred just looking back a bit and enjoying the moment. That’s what those gatherings are all about.