The first time I ever remember really having to act like a grownup came shortly after I graduated from high school.
My father’s high school class was having its 25th-year reunion. For some reason, our father decided our entire family should attend the event. So we loaded up the station wagon with Mom, Dad and four children ranging in age from 11 to 18 and off we went.
I remember precious few things about that reunion beyond the fact that it was held in a field somewhere, which seemed fitting to me since his hometown of Robersonville was, and is, so intimately tied to the soil.
My father seemed to start greeting people he hadn’t seen almost as soon as we got out of the car. In some cases, I think there were some he hadn’t seen since he graduated. His face twisted up in embarrassment when he couldn’t recognize a face immediately, but as soon as they told him their names, such animated conversations would follow.
And I remember meeting one of his best high school buddies who later was in the same fraternity with my father. It was the same fraternity I was about to join in just a few months. We talked about the fraternity and what I could expect. Daddy’s friend, Jimmy Bellflower, treated me very much as an equal, though I clearly wasn’t.
Now it’s 32 years later and, by the time you read your Sunday paper, I will have spent another weekend with my father and his classmates. Their numbers, sadly, are shrinking now and they’ve started having reunions a bit more frequently because of it.
Daddy has retired to his family homeplace in Robersonville and now sees some of his classmates a bit more regularly, but I know he looks forward to these events with great anticipation. I expect I will have heard stories about going out on the boat from Bayboro. I will have heard stories about the time the marching band went to Washington, D.C., and my father lost a shoe as he ran from a police officer and attempted to get back to his hotel room without the band director discovering his transgression, only to have the band director give him his shoe back the next morning. I will have spent several hours watching my father return gleefully to his teenage years.
They are all stories I’ve heard before, but they are told with greater embellishment with every telling.
It’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable way to spend an evening than hanging out with people who all seem to genuinely enjoy each others company. Not all reunions, to be sure, are quite like that.
I think for most people, reunions spark a few nerves, but more than that, they kindle warm memories because they hearken back to simpler times when money wasn’t what you worried about and politics were something only the adults cared about. High schoolers were free to spend time at their favorite hangouts in town and enjoy a slower pace of life.
It is, of course, high school reunion season in these parts, too. The Garner High School class of 1981 holds its 35th-year reunion on Oct. 8. The Garner class of 1967 is already rounding up names and addresses of classmates in anticipation of its 50th-year reunion in 2017.
In eastern Wake County, the Vaiden Whitley class of 1976 held a reunion last weekend and this weekend, the East Wake class of 1991 held its 25th-year reunion. The EWHS class of 1981 gets together Oct. 22 and Corinth Holders High School in Johnston County holds perhaps the most interesting of all these reunions when the classes of 1930 to 1961 gather for combined reunion on Oct. 7.