Archives for posts with tag: memories

OK – I can’t be the only person who brings home a carload of souvenirs from a road trip…can I? It’s not like I can’t remember the place or person, but I do tend to forget after a time and the things I pick up along the trails of my life make me smile as I walk by them or dust them and shake up a memory from a wonderful experience. My home is packed with such memories and I’m old enough to know I’ll never be a minimalist in any way. So, here’s what I brought home from my travels through the South this past two weeks…think what you will.

First are the general, sometimes tacky, souvenirs: hats, t-shirts, magnets, lapel/hat pins and a few books, including a Cajun Little Red Riding Hood, “Petite Rouge,” because I have other Cajun children’s stories and love to read them out loud. You can’t help but sound a little Cajun…DSC_1059

 

I’ve collected the pins since I was in Vienna way back in the 1970s and saw a man with pins on his hat in European fashion. I used to be somewhat casual about it, but ended up with quite a few and now always look for them. I have them on a little bulletin board in my laundry room that I pass by every day.DSC_0001

 

The refrigerator magnets are a new deal and I have to promise to stop…DSC_0002

 

I just bought a hat and t-shirt in the town where my father was born because that’s all they had. I bought a ball cap in Savannah to wear out on the water and a cute painted t-shirt in Charleston because I liked the artist.

Then there’s the food category, which really can get out of hand in the South…

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After all, I can’t get boiled peanuts and okra chips at home and who could pass up the Peach or Cherry cider and the Sweet Potato anything? And I wanted to see what was in red rice, so I bought a package, and then we went to Avery Island where they make Tabasco sauce and had to buy some of the new flavors. This is nothing compared to the souvenirs that didn’t make it home because they were eaten along the way…another blog. I did buy a cookbook from one restaurant to get the recipe for the best sweet potato soufflé I’ve ever eaten.

And we had to have things from the nature part of the trip, so I have seashells from the Katrina-wrecked beaches of the Gulf and puppets of animals from the National Parks we visited, Mammoth Cave and the Great Smokey Mountains.DSC_1067

 

Finally, there were the antiques and art I had to have. I’ve always liked to support local artists, especially when they have pieces that represent what I’ve come to love in their home. So that is why I came home with a ceramic mug and platter from potters in Fairhope, Alabama, a painting from the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans, and antique tobacco basket from Thomasville, Georgia (what am I going to do with this huge piece even though I love it and got quite a deal on it) and an antique framed book plate by a well known artist of the Charleston Renaissance period (I learned about that). Each piece of art came with a story to make it even more special.DSC_1068

 

Maybe because I’ve owned a gift shop and know what it’s like to have people wander in and not buy anything, maybe because I’ve worked with artists for years and want them to be appreciated, maybe it’s the things my mother taught me, but I never, NEVER come home empty handed. The end result is that my home is a warehouse for some pretty exciting travels that I love to remember. I can only hope my children will smile and laugh a bit when they have to clean this stuff out when I’m gone! I can feel their eyes rolling…

Some friends and I were talking today about how we’ve reached the age when we’re really interested in our ancestry. Not that we weren’t before, but we probably just didn’t have the time to do the research and find the stories. And one of the things we all agreed was that we wish we’d asked our parents and grandparents more questions, learned more about them in the days before they knew us.

There was a day when I asked my mother about her grandmother and she started telling me the most interesting stories. I went home & came back with a recorder a few days later and had her repeat them, not knowing about the recorder. She sat at her desk illustrating her memories for me to explain things I wasn’t familiar with. That recording is a treasure, my mother talking and me asking the questions. Why didn’t I do more of that? How did I miss asking my grandparents and my father and my in-laws things that I wonder about now.

In this age of technological advances that change so quickly we can’t keep up, it’s amazing how little we had when I was growing up and how much I’ve seen in my lifetime. They were watching the changes, too. What did they think?

Here are five questions I wish I’d asked. I know there are more, but here are my first five good ones!

1. What did you do during the war? My father was a Lt Colonel in the Army Air Force in World War II and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Why didn’t I ask him more about what his time overseas was like? My grandmother worked in a parachute factory. What was that like? My grandparents sent three sons and a son-in-law to serve and their youngest son didn’t come back. Why didn’t I ask more questions?

Here’s my father during the war…

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He told me some stories, but not all.

2. What did you do for fun when you were young? Who were your friends? What did you play with? Where did you go when you were young adults? They didn’t have electronic games or television…what did they do?

Who is my grandmother’s friend in this photo?

Artie Holt West (right) & friend

What kind of lodge was my grandfather in?

Ben West lodge group (2)

Here’s my other grandfather’s fraternity picture…

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3. What kind of work did you do or what did your parents and grandparents do? Or maybe, what was your first or favorite job? I know one great-grandfather ran a mill on the Ohio River and another one was a farmer and another one ran a wagon yard in Ardmore. One of my grandfathers worked for the telephone company on the wires when that was a new thing. What did the women do? One grandmother ran a neighborhood grocery store and rooming houses.

4. What was your house like growing up? How big, how many rooms, how were they furnished? That sounds so simple, but I know it was so different from the way we live our lives today. The way I grew up is different from my parents. I can remember our first dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, television set, air conditioner. Our homes are so much more complicated today.IMG_3731

 

5. What were your dreams? I don’t know if they did as they were expected to and dropped their dreams behind them and found new ones or what they expected out of their lives.

It’s universal among my friends that we wish we’d asked more. We’re getting to the age where our children and grandchildren should start asking us. One of the problems is we think our life isn’t that interesting. We need to get over that and just remember and share. All of us have interesting stories…all of us.

I take a lot of photos. I’d say too many but I don’t think you can take too many. We’re a far cry from the days when you took the picture and had to be careful you didn’t waste the film or the plate or whatever you were using. I love all photos, posed or candid, although I admit to loving the random moments we catch best.

I’ve got a lot of old family pictures, collected from my grandparents and my parents. I was looking at some of them recently and it crossed my mind that I wasn’t sure who took them. Who captured this special moment, what were they thinking? I can guess at some of them because of the setting. It opened up a whole new look at people I knew, gave them a new dimension to think of them behind the camera, catching this moment.

Here’s what I mean…

Who took these photos of my great grandfather and great grandmother? Who had a camera on that farm? Who wanted to capture him chopping wood or her feeding the chickens?

Benjamin Holt cutting wood

Grandma Holt 1

Who took this picture of my father? I know they hired professionals sometimes, but…

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I’m guessing my grandfather took this one of his parents with his children. I never saw my grandfather with a camera, so this is a revelation.

Mom & Dad Hamilton with J. C., Ed & Sara

This one of my great-grandmother with my mother and her brothers is a mystery. My grandfather had already died when this was taken, so who took it? I don’t think my grandmother had a camera then.

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Did my grandmother or one of my uncles take this of my mother at her high school graduation? Who would she pose for?

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I know my father took this one of me as a baby…

Karen   June 1946

He must have taken this one too and it touches my heart that he captured this moment.

1949-Jim, Karen, Mommy

And I guess he took this one of his father with my brother and me…

Jim, Karen, Grandad

My mother always said she didn’t like photos, but I bet she took this one…

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I know how I feel behind a camera and I know what I’m looking for, the moments I’m trying to capture. I know when I get a picture that has caught a look we all know. Now I’m thinking of all the members of my family who went before me. The photos they took, the ones they kept teach me a lot. I feel even more of a connection with them through these photos. I hope I’m passing that down to my children and my grandchildren and that they can feel those same connections. There is something about looking through a lens…

Just got back from a morning walk and remembered this piece I wrote for no particular reason 10 years ago. So much has happened since then, but a lot hasn’t changed. You can read this while I cool off…

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I took a walk tonight – a small journey. I have lived in this house, this neighborhood, for less than a year. I moved from my big family house of 27 years to my small house for me. It is a nice neighborhood with homes from the 1940’s, a neighborhood of four blocks with distinct boundaries. There are older people and young couples with small children – a good mix. Some of the homes look small from the street, but they have been remodeled and rooms have been added and they can be deceptive.
I have always liked to walk – it makes me stand up straighter, get my arms and legs in synch, and let my thoughts flow free. I wasn’t walking too fast – but fast enough. Other walkers said Hi – we do that here. I waved to a young couple & their children who are friends of my kids. I got into my rhythm and let my mind flow to other summers, other walks. This summer has been mild so far – the hot Oklahoma sun has not begun to beat down, withering everything in its path. The night was pleasant, everything is green and smells fresh. I loved the air against my face.
I used to walk through the old neighborhood with my husband. At one time, I was trying to get in shape and we walked every day for months – maybe close to a year. He was obsessive – like a personal trainer. We would walk four miles every morning and three miles every evening. Just leave the kids and walk. And talk. I have no idea what we talked about – but we talked and talked – trying to keep breathing while we moved. Neighbors said they could hear our voices traveling up to their second story bedrooms in the early morning and they would know it was just us. People who saw us walking laughed. He was 6’4” and I am about 5’5”. About every block, I would do a little quick run walk to catch up to his stride. He just walked and I jump stepped to keep up. At least he didn’t have me jogging beside him. I don’t know if a run of bad weather or kids’ activities or what made us stop. Some excuse.
Tonight I walked just before sunset. It was light enough to see but the lightning bugs were starting to blink, bringing back memories of childhood summers chasing each other around in the dark, filling jars with holes punched in the lids full of the wonderful bugs, hoping to catch their magic. The bugs were talking – I remember June bugs from summer. We would catch them and let them walk across our hands – tickling us with their feet.
I walked through another neighborhood, past homes that used to occupy my childhood friends. A feeling of stability and continuance – I have been here and am still here. I walked on a street where I used to walk with a friend in high school as he threw his paper route.
I walked to move my body, feel my heart pump, my lungs breathe and my thoughts flow. I walked to get away and to come home.

There’s a plate that hangs in my kitchen that I have there for the sentiment…

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I DO love the fireworks of summer. They bring back summers past when I watched fireworks displays with my family growing up, shooting off sparklers and bottle rockets, back when we shot off lots of dangerous, exploding things, watching big displays from blankets in the dark.

When I lift my face to the sky to wait for each burst of color and light, I go back to the days of my own young family, watching them with their own sparklers, running and playing as they waited for dark and the sounds of the fireworks in the night.

Wendy, Robin - Kerry in back

Our driveway was stained with the marks of snakes and exploding toys and sparklers laid down to burn out. There was such a thrill in watching each piece being lit, anticipating what burst or fizzle it would bring.

It’s all magic. I love the sounds of patriotic music playing at the ballpark as they launch their display. I love the family activities leading up to the fireworks show, all the noise of excited children. I love watching family and friends, dressed in red, white and blue, gather on their blankets or chairs to wait together, all the craziness of anticipation quieting down for the first big boom. I remember the days when I leaned against my husband to watch the sky or cuddled a child and smiled at the wonder in his or her face, lighted by the bursts before us, the lights sparkling in bright eyes. I love the parents carrying sleepy children to cars and home to cozy beds at the end of the evening.

The fireworks of summer burn memories into our hearts that are brought forward with each spark the next year.

Be safe and enjoy your own fireworks of summer!

So many summers I’ve spent watching kids in swimming pools, reacting or not reacting to the calls of “Mommy, watch this…” over and over. There’s such a peacefulness about baking in the sun or standing in the water watching kids bounce and splash. It’s one time when the noise of happy play is part of the atmosphere around you.

My youngest grandchild has learned to jump off the side of the pool, laughing at the thrill of it all. How many more jumps will I watch her make? The diving board is next. All eight are now leaping into water with the impetuousness of youth. Ages 3 to 16 splash with equal delight.

Today, I was going through pictures and found photos of my own children, frozen in a moment of pure joy.

My oldest at 9, leaping with complete abandon…

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My middle girl on her 7th birthday, trying a twisting move in the air…

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My youngest daughter at 4, flying like the big kids…

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My son at 5 1/2, jumping with all the enthusiasm for life he always had…

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And, I remember that I jumped with such joy when I was young. I can feel the air underneath me now before I hit the water. Watching my next generations takes me back and moves me forward. May we always remember that incredible feeling of flying with nothing to fear and only joy in our hearts. Happy summer memories…

A friend of mine always marvels at his cousins, saying they share 1/2 of his DNA. He’s right, of course. The connection is unique and interesting, especially when you start getting into your first cousin-once removed, second cousins, etc. The hilarious HBO show, Family Tree, is about a man searching for his relatives and finding all kinds of off the wall characters.

In my life, which is the only one I can speak of with any iota of experience, cousins have played many different roles. I had eight cousins on my father’s side and three on my mother’s side. I was the middle cousin and the oldest cousin. None of mine lived where I live, but I saw several of them a lot, spent time with them growing up. Looking back, one cousin and I seemed to always be off on an adventure, sharing secrets that we hope nobody found out about. Once we snuck into my parents’ bathroom & took stuff out of the medicine cabinet, combining things into what we called “mixtures.” We kept a notebook of the different combinations. This included everything from medicines to creams to whatever was in there. Yikes! I don’t think my parents found out…ever. Once we got on a bus and rode it to wherever it went. My aunt had to come get us when we got off and had to ask someone to use their phone. A much more innocent time, obviously! Her life went in some tragic directions…she kept on making crazy and hurtful choices. I keep in touch with several of my cousins, even with the different places our lives have taken us. They are special links to people and places in my history.

My own children had five cousins, four on my side, two on their fathers. Three of the cousins lived a block away growing up, went to school with them, played with them. They were close in age to two of my own so they have secret memories that I find out about when they are laughing about something they did way back then. My mother kept getting the award for the grandparent with the most grandchildren at the school (7), which made her laugh. She said it was an award for having prolific daughters!

Cousins 1990

My grandchildren are a unique bunch. They were born in bunches, it seems, and all live in the same town, going to the same school, playing sports together. I’m speaking of the older seven, who range in age from 11-16. The youngest, at 3 1/2, is on her own but finds them all pretty exciting. She has her own special place in all their lives, the living reminder of her father, their uncle, who died very young. She bonds with each of them differently. I love her with her 13 year old cousin who looks like he is her older brother…

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If our family has been given a gift, it’s these cousins. All are close to their own siblings as well as the extended family. In fact, sometimes you can’t tell which one belongs with which family. For me, it’s watching the genetic pool at its most frenzied. Some of the children seem to have sprung from one of their aunts or uncle, some look more like a cousin than their own sibling. When you have them all together, you have to marvel at the connections and see how closely we are joined by the DNA. And you have to acknowledge the incredible individuality of each of them. There are different personalities, different approaches to life, and amazing affection for each other.

Here the oldest three…eight months between the oldest and youngest of them…two in the same class at school…

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Here are the next two, eight months apart, who play basketball together, are in the same class…

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And the younger two, boy and girl, three weeks apart in age, who we thought shared the same brain when younger…

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What will their futures bring? I’m sure they’ll go in different directions and be as individual as they are now. They’ll have spouses and children and do different things. The comforting thing is that they have had the unique and wonderful experience of having a larger pool of relatives to share their youth and their experiences. I’m sure they have more secrets than we can even imagine.

I hope that they take all of this with them, in their hearts…and that it makes them even better people than I think they will be. Great kids…all of them. Grandmothers do get to beam with pride, yes we do!

Reunions of any kind stay with you…at least they should. You’ve just been with people, whether it’s family or classmates or just a couple of friends, who played some part in your past. Memories have been triggered that may have been buried for years. You start remembering the faces of those who didn’t come and those who are gone forever. It’s a fast moving slide show of images in your mind…good, bad, blurred. Some come sharply into focus and you go back in time.

Time moves so fast and everyone is so busy that it’s a jolt to our system to go backwards, to see how we were then vs how we are now. Everyone has a journey, a story that has earned us those lines in our faces, those gray or lost hairs, those limps and afflictions. I say that anyone who reaches my age without some baggage hasn’t had much of a trip.

A reunion has been an upheaval of your ordinary routine. All of a sudden you want to hang on to the faces, the conversations, the warm afterglow of the event. You exchange email addresses, phone numbers, and promise to keep in touch. You exchange photos to keep as memories. And then you go back to whatever you were doing before. The reunion becomes such a sweet memory, one that will fade like all the others into the background of the everyday.

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The difference today after my 50th high school reunion is that we realize our time is shorter and we have more life behind us than ahead of us. Relationships are more precious as we lose more and more of our past ones each year. The good news is that we can hang on to them more easily these days. There are emails, website, SKYPE, Facebook, and phones that are with us at all times. We’ve never been able to stay so connected. We’re retiring and, hopefully, have some time to visit friends or travel together…at least for awhile. I’m connected to my 92 year old Latin teacher by email so there’s hope we can all be functioning that well when/if we reach that age.

The truth is that we are facing a future that really doesn’t look so fun. Our parts are wearing out, all of them. No matter how well we maintain them, there is a built-in obsolescence factor in us. That makes it even more critical to not put off the things we promise ourselves we are going to do. Our bucket list should include staying in contact with our past and our present friends and family as much as we can. No excuses with all the technology we have now and with what promises to come. Even as we lose our abilities, there are means being developed to help us adjust to our new state of life.

We shouldn’t have to be alone as we age. I’m sure we’ve all found that the people we connect to most deeply, the ones who are the greatest comfort, are usually the ones who are our age, who have shared the same years on this planet. We have friends and family who are older or younger, but their experience is not the same as those who lived the same life span as we did. Truthfully, connections are what keep us alive. Healthy people have healthy relationships they value and they connect with everything around them…nature, people, their inner spirit.

You see…reunions of any kind make me wax philosophical (what does that mean anyway?). I’m hoping for the connections to continue, for the party spirit to live on. It’s a damn shame to lose all the vitality of those connections when we don’t have to. No excuses…stay connected.

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In the aftermath of a fun 50th high school reunion weekend, there are lessons to be learned and shared for those who love reunions, those dread them, those who never go to them. The 50th is a unique milestone, one that always seemed, to me at least, an event way off in the distance. Now it’s behind us and I think we all were surprised and warmed by the reality of it. Here are my top 10 thoughts:

One. There is a little sharing of what’s going on with the kids, sharing pictures of the grandkids, but it’s not the main thing people talked about. In fact, it was the least thing talked about. Sorry kids. We are much more interesting people as ourselves than you think. Our peers know this.

Two. There were people who attended that I was afraid would feel alone in the crowd, didn’t know if their friends were attending because I didn’t know them that well in high school. I never saw anyone who stayed alone. Maybe it’s because we all look so different now, but classmates introduced themselves to everyone. They were genuinely interested in meeting them and hearing their stories.

Three. The conversations were on a deeper level. In bars and restaurants after the events, at breakfast, lunch, casual conversations, people were discussing the important things in life. Nothing was judgmental, just sharing stories and understanding what life throws at you. Everyone has a story, an interesting one.

Four. There was no division of groups, cliques. Sure, people sat with their closest friends when they could, but people rarely sat still. Everyone was looking for someone they wanted to see or meet. Everybody was interested in the stories of their classmates.

Five. Nobody cared how you looked then or now. Of course it was sometimes amusing or sad or surprising to see how different or how much the same some were, but everybody understands that it’s a combination of life style, genetics and pure luck that we are here at all. There were a lot of classmates with minor to major disabilities, but that was part of their story. We were celebrating that we’re still standing, we’re still here.

Six. You never know what life is going to bring. At the 50th, many were retiring and diving into new interests or careers. We had lots of authors, photographers, travelers in this new stage. People were moving after lifetimes in one place, leaving their homes and friends, to start new adventures closer to their children and grandchildren or just moving to new places. It’s an ever changing time of life being 67-68 years old.

Seven. People commented that they made new friends. Not because they didn’t like the other in high school, but because they didn’t know them then. They met and found common interests and a common past.

Eight. There are a lot of things buried in our memories that just need a trigger to recover. Our 92 year old Latin teacher came from 4 hours away to inspire us once again. She called all her former students to the front with her and then told us to sing. After 50 or more years, the words, most of them, to Gaudeamus Igitur came from our mouths like we sang them yesterday. Who knew that was in there? In fact, I looked it up today and am really touched by what the song says.

Gaudeamus igitur
Iuvenes dum sumus.
Post iucundam iuventutem
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus.

The translation is:
Let us rejoice, therefore,
While we are young.
After a pleasant youth
After a troubling old age
The earth will have us.

What a wise teacher and what a gift to us to sing something we learned in our youth that means so much more today.

Also, when the band played the songs of our youth, we knew all the words and our bodies moved the same to the music. Talk about muscle memory! We can still party like it’s 1963. Maybe not as long, but the spirit of our teen years lives on.

Nine. Hugs are universally healing. A weekend of hugs and kisses from those who shared your youth does wonders for your health and attitude. There were lots and lots of hugs.

Ten. A classmate wrote afterwards that he realized how much we all need “love, belonging and connection.” That was what it was all about in the end.

The nicest thing is that we are so connected in this place in time when there is no excuse to lose the glow of the weekend. Our class has a website, a Facebook page, and addresses. There were more people adding contacts to their phones, sharing pictures, writing down information than ever before. Those connections mean even more now because we understand that our time is precious and we want to enrich it with the best people we have encountered in our lives.

If you never attend a reunion, I’m sorry. They only get better with time…

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It’s all about the reunion this week. I wrote about the fun and history of my reunions, but I feel obligated to add a short piece dedicated to another group – the spouses. I was lucky that my husband and I graduated the same year in the same city from different high schools with mutual friends at each school. We went to two reunions and had fun at each. Some of my classmates are married to other classmates or their spouses are from here, maybe a few years older or younger, but knowing the places and the faces.

Imagine what it’s like to have to go to a reunion with your spouse or a date when you know nobody and aren’t likely to see them for another ten years? At first, it’s fun to see and meet the people you’ve heard about and sometimes you make friends with other spouses, but, mostly, you must feel like a tag-a-long. Unless you’re the trophy wife or husband or date brought to impress your classmates. Wonder what that’s like?

Many people will never attend a reunion of their own, much less their spouse’s. My father never went to his reunions and my mother only went to one – her 40th! She said it was one of the best things she ever did. She had no idea how much she had been loved and missed and kept up with some of those friends the rest of her life.
Some people hated high school.

Some people had terrible home lives in high school. In my day, we talked about nothing. Everything was kept private between the adults, so we didn’t know if our friends were beaten, their parents were cheating or were alcoholics or had financial problems. We might have suspected, but it just wasn’t talked about. Very few got divorced. We know now that all those things were happening. We shake our heads and wish we had known so we could have helped our friends. Nobody knows what really goes on in most homes, good or bad. Just thoughts running through my head…

The spouses. I had a friend who had been a couple with her husband since 6th grade, childhood sweethearts. She helped him through dental school, they raised two children, all was good. Their 30th reunion came along and he started emailing the girl who had been his girlfriend in 5th grade. Really. She told him she had been married a couple of times, but always wanted him. Both couples divorced and they married. They’re getting divorced now, about 15 years later, and he has a younger girlfriend…big surprise. Some spouses come to the reunion just to protect their marriage, afraid of such a scenario in their own lives. Who knows? People will do crazy things. It’s hard to fight the draw of common memories, long lost loves. I’m trying to remember anyone in our class “hooking up,” as they say today. Maybe. I think we would have heard rumors over the years, but none comes to mind. In a large class, it’s hard to believe.

There’s the other group who come without spouses because they have lost theirs. As one of this group, I can truthfully say that it’s a tough thing to go back alone. There are some who attend hoping to meet someone, but most are taking a brave, lonely step into this weekend. I know several in this group…I’m watching out for them. It’s hard if you loved to dance and lost your partner. It’s hard if you were the quiet one. The weekend is a reminder of sweeter times. Reunions might be too much or they might be very healing. Everything is personal in life.

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Reunions are a weekend of going back in time and relating it to our present. Maybe the reality of the reunion doesn’t match what you thought it would be. Maybe you told your spouse one thing about your high school years and he or she thinks it seems a lot different than you described. Some people come to one reunion, some to all. Some say they don’t need a reunion…they keep in contact with the people they want to already. Some are disappointed, most are surprised at how much fun they have.

I’ve noticed that more classmates are coming to our 50th reunion alone. Their spouses have done their part, don’t want to sit through another weekend of watching their husband or wife reminiscing about things they weren’t a part of, would like the time alone. It’s not a bad thing. It’s an honest choice. It will be fun for them to listen to the stories after the fact…maybe, hopefully.

I salute all the spouses who didn’t grow up with their husband or wife or partner, but are sharing them with the class. We love it when they come and hope they have a fabulous time, but we understand when they don’t. Life is too short to spend time doing something you don’t want to do. Life is too short to deny your spouse the chance to do something he or she would love. If you come, enjoy watching your loved one going back in time. If you don’t come, we’ll send them back to you worn out, with a smile, lots of hugs and memories. You have a great weekend on your own. Enjoy your personal time. Cheers!