You Can Go Home Again …


Now Playing: Something in the Way She Moves, by James Taylor, which seems kind of appropriate given today’s news about my beloved Tar Heels. “There’s something in the way she moves, Or looks my way, or calls my name, That seems to leave this troubled world behind. And if I’m feeling down and blue, Or troubled by some foolish game, She always seems to make me change my mind.”

I never made it through Thomas Wolfe’s works, Look Homeward, Angel or You Can’t Go Home Again. Too many parsed brows or lips or whatever.

But I will take issue with his titles, if nothing else.

That’s because I went home a couple of weekends ago. To my 35th High School Reunion. Against all odds.

Let me explain. I grew up in Cluster Springs, Va., a small community near the not-so-bustling town of South Boston, Va. It’s near Danville.

I’ve written before about family and friends there and – trust me – I loved them all. But my dream all through school was getting away. That’s partially because of my chosen field of study – Journalism. I didn’t want to work for either of the twice-weeklies in town. And really, I wanted to see more of the world. Particularly after four years at the University of the People in Chapel Hill. (And make no mistake, I still love my alma mater, despite its football scandal. Might love it more, even, because it’s so obviously trying to do the RIGHT thing instead of the BETTER FOR SPORTS thing.)

So I knew early on I’d be leaving town when I got out of high school. And I didn’t come back much during college. I stayed in Chapel Hill the summer between my junior and senior years and for awhile after graduation. I got a real job in August and moved away for good, other than trips, usually brief ones, to visit the family. Which means it had been about 33 years since I’d seen anyone from high school. It wasn’t that I didn’t like ’em, I just grew away from them, for better or worse.

When I started social networking in December, I connected with some folks from my old high school. Then some more. And more. Some lived in SoBo, others had moved – to Richmond, London, South Carolina and a lot of other places. When the idea of a class reunion surfaced, Karen and I talked about it and committed to go.

As the day approached, I got a little bit worried. My two best friends in high school, Tommy and Howard, weren’t on the list. I hadn’t reconnected with them, to my discredit. Nor were three good friends from elementary school, Mike, George and Larry. I’d reconnected with George – he lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and I knew his coming would be a longshot. We’ll have our own reunion some other time – here in Charlotte or in J-ville. I’m confident of that. But a lot of folks would be there that I hadn’t seen in ages, particularly a bunch of female friends. Including the first girl I kissed – my childhood friend, Mitzi (It was in first grade: She and I were the king and queen of our class), my senior prom date (both of them – but that’s a tale for another time, or would be if I remembered more of it), and a bunch of others.

When the day got there, Karen and I dumped the kids off at my sister’s and headed to the Country Club.

I worried at first I’d gotten the date or place wrong. Everybody looked too old. Then I looked in the mirror and realized I really was in the right place.

So how was it? It was really good. My friend Amy showed Karen some photos from the senior yearbook, back when I was skinny. I caught up with a lot of folks. It was mostly, where do you live, what are you doing, here’s photos of my kids and so on. What else do you say to folks you haven’t seen for at least 33 years. Some highlights: Found out that two former classmates lived in the Charlotte area. Debi, whom I knew in high school but not well, is in Huntersville. She lives about a mile from the business park where I interviewed for a job this week. The other Charlottean was my old friend Pam. She and I had nearly every class together and it was like we’d never missed a beat. We said we’d get together, and I think we almost certainly will. (Karen liked her, too.) Got a warmer-than-expected greeting from someone who’d once called me – to my face – the most stuck-up guy in junior high (in actuality, I had a huge crush on her, while considering her the most stuck-up girl in junior high).

But I couldn’t help thinking about the people who weren’t there. My friend Nick came after Karen and I had left. He joined the Navy after high school, and I haven’t seen him since. I hate that I missed him. I’d still like to see Tommy and Howard. I found out Larry had lost both legs because of complications due to diabetes (which was crushing, he was a great basketball player and had played collegiately at Elon). Also missing was the girl I’d had the biggest crush of all on in high school. And Joan. Joan had been one of my best friends from elementary school through high school. She gave me rides to and from school. I don’t think we ever had a cross word. But I’d heard a few months ago that Joan was dead. I don’t know how or when. But I missed her greatly.

Despite the bitter, there was plenty of sweet though. You can go home again. Just don’t expect it to be like it used to be.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” _ Maya Angelou

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