Reunion. Just the word kick-starts a movie-trailer of memories – sights, sounds, aromas, tastes and tears, faces and feelings welling up from the past.
I’ve never been a part of the Wise County Reunion, and although friends have tried to explain it to me, I admit it’s somewhat of a foreign concept. I’m not from around here, and it’s something that is unique to this place, these people.
That’s as it should be. That movie trailer is different for everyone.
The image that takes shape when I hear the word reunion is grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, cousins everywhere. It’s a screen door slamming over and over, great-aunts dabbing at their shiny foreheads with a tissue as they flip through photo albums. It’s porches and backyards and shade trees, tables groaning under the weight of fried chicken, watermelon, fresh plums and bowls of green beans picked yesterday.
It’s a dozen kids in the lake, with Grandpa in a floating chair out in the middle, presiding, cigar in hand.
It’s peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and cold glasses of milk. It’s running barefoot and getting introduced to neighbor kids. It’s trees that touch over the street and that big chifforobe with the drawer where Grandpa kept his “medicine” for all the kids’ bumps and scrapes – assorted peppermints and chocolates designed to soothe the tears, restore the smile and let him get on with his domino game.
I didn’t get to enough of those that I took them for granted, and I’m OK with that. The memories are vivid and real.
But there are other kinds of reunions. My high school has a big one, every five years, for everyone who ever went to school there. It doubles the population of the town and gives you a chance to visit with the seniors when you were a freshman and the freshmen from when you were a senior, and all those in between. It’s squeals of recognition and happy hugs, fond memories of band, basketball and biology. It’s missing those who won’t be back.
Just last weekend, we had a kind of reunion with a bunch of our dearest friends, most of them grandparents now. We sat in lawn chairs under whatever shade we could find and picked up conversations that started a couple of decades ago and show no signs of slowing down. We prayed over the food, ate and laughed and sweated together, basking in fellowship that is sweeter as the years go by.
Reunion is much more than the sum of its parts. It is much more than food, hugs and strolls through a world that lives only in our memories.
Reunion – whether it’s family, high school, college, military, old friends or old settlers – brings us back to who we are by reminding us who we were. Reunion is a chance, like Jimmy Stewart had in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to look back and see who we touched and who touched us, and the impact that had on us and them. It reminds us that no matter how far down the economy might be, no matter how far away we might feel at times, there are people in this world who know us well and love us anyway.
No matter how far we may go, how much we learn or forget, gain or lose, grow or shrink, those “reunion” people will always see us the way they saw us back then. Sometimes we have a hard time believing that’s a good thing – but we’re infinitely better off if we can. It’s healthy to be able to admit, even welcome, the presence of who we were, no matter how far we’ve come.
Reunion trues us up, gets us going back in the direction we set off in, so long ago.
If these people remember, and still love the child you were yesterday, how can you forget him?
RESULTS OF THE MR. AND MISS PAGEANT AT WISE COUNTY OLD SETTLERS REUNION
- Winner – Layla Tally
- 1st Runner-up – Harper Morales
- Winner – Collin Dobyns
- 1st Runner-up – Fynn Hanley
- Winner – Brynlea Smith
- Runner-up – Kynzlie Trachta
- Winner – Ledgen Caraway
- Winner – Mykah Kirbie
- Runner-up – Chelsea Cobb
- Winner – Jimmy Stone
- Runner-up – Lake Caraway
- Winner – Tayte Helton
- Runner-up – Brystyn Miller
- Winner – Zane Blythe
- Runner-up – Corben Smith