Reunions remind us we can go home again

Luther Dorr

Do you enjoy going to class reunions, family reunions or anniversaries?

Or are you one of the many who have no time for that kind of thing? Or, maybe, the fear of seeing someone after so many years is thought to be too much to handle.

I’ve usually enjoyed reunions, although there can be some difficulties. Who do you talk to? How long do you talk to them? Will it be the same as it was 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago? And, who will recognize you and who will you recognize?

Please, let there be name tags. Many’s the time I’ve seen people shaking hands while both have their eyes firmly glued on the name tag of the other person.

Last Sunday I embarked on a 10-day tour of reunions and get-togethers that will test me greatly and I’m looking for a little support. I’m wondering if it’s the right thing to do and how it will go.

Last Sunday a drive of 180 miles through rich farmland in western and southwestern Minnesota took me to my hometown of Tracy, a place our family left 59 years ago.

The trip was for the 75th anniversary of a church in a town where five of my six siblings were born. I’ve been there a few times through the years but this time there was a chance there would be no one around who would know me.

Should I even go? That question ran through my mind as I made the long drive while listening to the Vikings taking another beating.

Back in 1940 the well-known American author Thomas Wolfe wrote a book called “You Can’t Go Home Again,” the premise of which was that it was sometimes hard to go back to your hometown. The character in the book was treated as a hero by some, while others weren’t so understanding. And the character realized later that it was an act of farewell, not homecoming.

Tracy is a town where I had snuck away from home (a parsonage, no less) at age 10 to a downtown bar at night and paid 10 cents in 1952 to watch a heavyweight championship fight on a tiny black and white TV. It was also the town where I learned to play pinball for a nickel in the lobby of a hotel, on the way home from a paper route, despite a sign that read “No Minors Allowed.”

I got my answer if it was a bad or good idea to go to Tracy a few minutes after arriving. I met a 92-year-old who remembered me and he told me my father had officiated at his wedding. His wife giggled and said that was true.

Others walked up, introduced themselves, and despite not seeing each other for nearly 60 years in some cases, we talked and talked.

The sister of my best friend, who died at an early age, recalled some of our times together. And others recalled, and praised, my parents.

It was a good decision to go, even though I was there for only six hours. Was it a farewell (yes, in some cases) or was it a homecoming? I’m still not sure.

But I’d tell Thomas Wolfe that you can go home again. The wonderful people of Tracy made it feel like a homecoming. And if it was a farewell, it was a memorable one.

The next morning, on Monday of this week, a guy from Illinois who was the star center on the college basketball team I played on  that made it to the national tournament, called and wondered if I was going to make it to the reunion of our college class on Saturday.

I’ve had that day planned for weeks but am now wavering and thinking I should go to Mankato. The five freshmen on that team became good friends and I’d like to see a couple of them again.

Three days after that I’ll head to Lanesboro where the annual get-together of my six sisters and myself will take place. I never miss that one but it will be the third one in 10 days. Maybe I’ll be “reunioned out.”

More likely, though, there will be laughter, good stories (some embellished, no doubt), good food and  warm feelings.

I’d be crazy not to go, right?