Friday, September 14, 2007
Trip to the Past
I tend not to focus on the past - it’s over and done with. It’s not my style to return to the scene of the crime, e.g.: reunions. I’ve managed to stay hidden from both Universities that I attended, but somehow, have been found out by my midwestern high school who had a sixth reunion scheduled for September. And you must realize, I left for the West Coast upon graduation. never returned and didn’t keep in contact with anyone. I did not have particularly fond memories of my adolescence. I felt I didn’t quite fit in, which is difficult for a young person. (It turns out I still don’t fit in the conventional mold, but I have come to terms with it.)
So I probably would have ignored the reunion notice if it wasn’t that my seventy-two year old nephew, living in Minnesota, was scheduled for a kidney transplant in August. We had not been in close contact. I hadn’t seen him or his younger brother in fifteen years and before that, maybe half a dozen times at most, dating from diaper days. There was some E-mail contact and Christmas cards. I decided we should get together before one or the other of us bit the dust.
So, combine nephew in Minnesota and reunion in South Dakota. Why not? Seeing Jack was high on my agenda; attending the reunion was low on the totem pole.
So courtesy of Northwest Airlines, I flew back, in more ways than one. The Minnesota visit was beyond any expectation: the younger nephew showed up from Wisconsin with his wife so we had a leisurely four days to get (re)acquainted. The older brother, a retired computer type, lives on a lake, a resort area though many people work in the nearby town, amidst trees, wildlife and 42” circumference mushrooms. It’s an area where his mother and father had had a cabin; he and his wife built a place nearby and then purchased some sixty acres across the way, so effectively, he has his own park.
He is a keeper; doesn’t throw stuff away: has snowmobiles, boats and a Triumph Spitfire among other keepsakes. But then, he has places to store stuff: attics, barns and sheds. (I could have snuck off with the Spitfire!)
Though poles apart politically, it turned out my younger nephew, an attorney and former judge, and I were familiar with the same books and music. All of us had the same weird sense of humor. We shared much of our lives, contributing family information one or the other was unfamiliar with. Both wives were a wonderful asset and We may not have had much of a “past” but we certainly now have a “present”.
And the great thing was that the transplant was successful.
When I left, I really didn’t care how the rest of the trip turned out: this had been a great experience. And as I had no real expectations for the reunion, it couldn’t be a disappointment.
There were three gatherings, one at a classmates home atop a ridge on the edge of town. About twenty of the eighty in our class of l947, appeared. . Another twenty or so had died, leaving twenty left floating about in space. Name tags saved me, an unknown at these affairs. A number had remained in the area and another bunch seemed to be regular attendees. Several I recognized by sight but the rest - nada! There were a few who went out of their way to greet me, but generally I felt there was little change in the pecking order; I was still identified as the “Superintedent’s Daughter”! Which was one of the reasons I escaped with no intent to return. I was (and am) determined to be my own person!
The other reason I left, was the lack of privacy in a small town.. Still true. I walked the several miles to the classmate’s home for a lunch. That night and the next day, I was now identified as the unique individual who did the walkabout. (Since I didn’t have a car and didn’t see a bus, I don’t know how else I was to get there; I did hitch a ride back.)
That afternoon, I went to the home of a woman, who had been my close friend in High School and who didn’t attend the reunion. We talked for an hour or so; life hadn’t treated her well or vice versa, but I was glad to see her. The next morning I was asked what I was doing on that particular street!
I did enjoy wandering about, seeing the changes but also amazed at the remaining homes and buildings I remembered. The businesses had changed; I could find almost none from the high school days. The old library had been torn down and a well designed new one built, named for my father; I did get there and talked with the head librarian. The football field was the same but both my home and the neighboring Episcopal Church had been torn down.
It was a trip to the past. I don’t regret going, but been there, done that!
(interestingly, the day after I returned, I had dinner with a former coworker from at least forty years ago; he and his wife were visiting the Bay area from Pennsylvania where he retired from college teaching. Again, we were dredging up memories from the past. Loved seeing him, but enough already!)