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Reunions are like grandmother’s hugs

Reunions remind me of my grandmother’s comforting hugs, endearing, warm, and wonderful. The older I become, I am more aware of how important it is to reconnect with those who have shared my life’s journey.

Last weekend in LaGrange, classmates gathered for several high school reunions. Some were the big ones that occur every five years, and others, like ours, were smaller yearly gatherings. All were celebrations of lives meeting once again to tell old stories, share new ones and remember those friends we have lost through the years.

I drove into LaGrange on Friday from Atlanta. Each time I drive up the hill to Lafayette Square, I get a lump in my throat. When I see the fountain, I recall the first time my family rode through the square along with a moving van from Tennessee. I was 15 and uncertain of my new world.

However, when I saw the fountain’s cascading arcs of water, they seemed to soothe my soul. They still do.

Even though Mansours is gone, I can see beyond the doors of the new hotel where the iconic store once stood and spy Daddy buying a sport coat from his old friend, George. When I drive by First Methodist, I behold Mama wearing her pillbox hat looking exquisite as she listened to Dr. Jones preach.

As I approached the college, memories of professors, sorority sisters and Monday mornings in the student center flooded my mind. I continued down the road and viewed the houses my friends once called home. Through each window, I could observe them waiting for me to pick them up in my white Ford Fairlane to go to the Dairy Queen, or a football game or the library.

Going by my old house is a ritual each time I visit LaGrange. I drive slowly around the curve, stopping near the mailbox. Her color has changed a bit, but the house Mama dreamed of and built is basically the same. The house is quiet, yet I hear the clinking sound of cue balls echoing from the rec room and Mama telling me to get off the phone. I notice my friend, Richie, tapping on my window to chat and daddy mowing the lawn. Then I drive away, returning to the present.

Our reunion weekend began with a small gathering of classmates at the new Nutwood Plantation Winery. What a beautiful, enchanting addition adding to my memories! Toward the end of the evening, there were 12 of us who remained around a large circular table. Our laughter almost took the beams down. We were a bunch of rowdy teenagers who appeared to others as senior citizens but were actually just silly seventeen-year old’s. It was a diverse group that lived different lives yet were bonded by the past we shared. I learned a lot I did not know about those 12, and I wouldn’t take anything for what I learned.

The crowd was larger on Saturday as we gathered for our barbecue. Hugs were the order for the day as we tried in vain to catch up on all the years in a few hours. Most of us have experienced ill health or tragedies or heartache of some kind during our lives. However, here we were for a brief period, united in healing celebration.

I often wonder why some folks never return for reunions. I am sure there are a myriad of reasons why classmates don’t, but if I am able, I won’t miss a one. I guess you could call me a sentimental old fool, but it’s not so much sentimentality as it is appreciation and adoration for old friends.

I am thankful for the memories as well as the ability to find new things I did not know about the classmates I once knew. I want to know about their lives, where they have been, and who they have loved. I treasure being seventeen for a day or two, and I don’t care about the gray hair or the wrinkles because I recognize these classmates as ageless, extraordinary souls.

There were approximately 230 of us who graduated from LaGrange High School on June 4, 1965. We have lost 39 of our friends in the years since. Time has a way of flying by. We all must catch its wings and grab onto those joyous moments when we can.

“Have you had a good life?” I asked a friend I don’t see often.

“Yes, I have,” was his answer.

Reunions give you the answers to questions. To know that an old friend has experienced a good life is like a grandmother’s warm hug that wraps us in comfort and provides us with incredible joy.