I attended a hometown reunion a few days ago. Little did I know I would be gathering up countless memories and counting them as joys, one by one.
And what a joy it was to first arrive and look around and suddenly find myself amazed to recognize old and familiar faces…and to have old friends come up to say ‘hi’…friends I hadn’t seen since I was a small girl of eight or nine. It was as if time had stood still. There I was back in a place where warm camaraderie had remained alive and well, and where old friends had truly stayed the same.
The gym of the old school hummed with noisy conversation as the ‘homecoming’ got underway, and I was happily reminded that although time passes and many things change some things simply never change…like the tie that binds people together in lasting friendship.
My hometown was built by pioneers who established life through toil and enduring faith. As my dad used to say, “That old town was the friendliest place on earth…” He had reminded us many times for years after we left that he’d never found a place quite like it anywhere since. But I had never fully understood what my father meant by his sentiments until I attended the town’s 101st reunion. It was the 101st because the planned-for 100th anniversary had been forced into cancellation due to the onslaught of flooding last spring which was some of the worst to hit the area in over a century. Unperturbed and determined, the old hometown faced another test of time and came through in 2012 with flying colours.
The reunion was blessed with sunny weather and a bright happy mix of community events including big ‘homestyle’ meals, oldtime music, flea markets, outdoor barbeques, a main stage with Gospel and country music entertainment, kid’s games, an art show, competitive ‘olympics’, and a delightful old-style parade down Main Street, complete with a miniature pony, Clydesdales, and a wave from a stagecoach from the town’s oldest citizen, a 96 year old lady whose husband made many contributions to the community’s welfare during his lifetime.
The Main Street which was so wide when I raced down it as a girl now felt small and sports only one or two original buildings, including a remarkable museum filled with roomfuls of artifacts, photos, and memorabilia of days gone by. Everywhere you go in my hometown memories seem to speak louder than words. And as hundreds of people gathered there it became clear to me that there was nothing to recount but good times…instead of bad.
Many people spoke with my mom and mentioned how good it was to see her and to let her know too how much they still appreciate all the hard work and enthusiasm my father contributed to the community years ago when he was the high school principal. As I read my father’s commemorative message in a year book dating way back to 1966, I was moved by words he had written as a young man which underscored the caring legacy he was destined to leave behind, a legacy that was all about placing value in people, relationships, learning, and community service.
A strange humble happiness overflowed inside of me throughout the reunion. I realized that joy has remained a mainstay in my old hometown. And it’s not because the town is big or any kind of famous place…not by a long shot. But’s it’s all about the ‘down home’ caring, kindness and cooperative spirit…something money and fame can’t buy — It’s about abiding hometown ties. Ties that bind. Ties that have kept people together throughout the years, and which continue to keep relationships and positive memories held close to the heart.
It’s amazing how God’s love is the foundation of it all. You see, the little town where I spent my first few years of life was built on a firm foundation of Christian faith, hope and love. This was emphasized most clearly on Sunday morning when a few hundred people attended an interfaith church service in the community hall. Everyone gathered to mostly sing and praise and give thanks to God for His keeping throughout the years.
In the little hamlet where I was born…in an unknown and quaint place, I rediscovered that happiness is all about taking hold of ties that bind…and holding on forever.
© 2012 S. Michaels