The reunion as summer highlight

By Kent Ward,
Posted July 08, 2011, at 8:54 p.m.

The hazy lazy days of summer have arrived, bringing with them our primal urge to reunite with members of the extended family, high school classmates and old military buddies.

Tribal law mandates that we must congregate at regular intervals to swap yarns about how much money we are making, why we insist on living where we do and how great things have been going in our lives, all things considered.

In rural small-town Maine where ancestral roots run deep, reunions are often the social highlight of summer. From early June to well after Labor Day newspapers carry items promoting the community get-togethers.

We learn that the Hooterville High School Class of 1957 reunion will be held at the old Grange Hall, where a potluck supper will be served after happy hour. Auction items needed, old photographs for sharing will be appreciated. Downriver, a town celebrating its 150th birthday plans a Fourth of July reunion of all classes and seeks to learn the whereabouts of graduates who have eluded all attempts by the reunion posse to track them down.

A dispatch from the hinterland reports that the Jones clan will gather on Saturday next for the traditional alcohol-free picnic lunch at the home of the reigning patriarch. The Smiths, keeping up with the Joneses and doing them one better, will meet on the same date. Adult beverages available, but lose the videos of your perfect kids and what they and their perfect friends did on last year’s summer vacation in the south of France. And so it goes.

The mind pictures wives throughout the state debating what to contribute to the communal meal and which outfit to wear in order to get the biggest rise out of the note-takers in attendance. Husbands make their ritual half-hearted attempts to get out of the deal, citing the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, to no avail.

When reunion day arrives, he is herded onto the grounds with his reluctant counterparts and admonished not to act like a bump on a log as he did at the previous shindig. The reunion is on, come hell or high water. Paste on a fake smile that puts Nancy Pelosi’s industrial-strength version to shame, make your grand entrance and let the renewal of old rivalries begin.

When I have attended such events it has struck me that the person who invented the name tag should be immortalized, much as should the visionaries who came up with duct tape and the all-purpose bungee cord. I can’t count the times when a name tag with the holder’s name in a type size large enough to spot at 20 paces has saved me the embarrassment of drawing a blank, recognition-wise, when approached by old friends from days when we were immortal and the world beckoned.

By contrast, I’ve also been caught squinting at name tags with type roughly the size of the fine print on a bottle of patent medicine. Under the pressure of the moment, odds against coming up with the correct name of the tag’s owner are roughly the same as chances of success had I been asked to name all nine Supreme Court justices in the Harding administration.

There are a couple of givens when it comes to reunions. One is that before the event is over the inevitable question, ”You don’t know who I am, do you?” will be floated as often as the observation that so-and-so hasn’t changed a bit in decades.

Another is that attendees often waste energy dreading these command performances, only to find that once they arrive they have such a swell time enjoying the temporary diversion back in time they do not leave until the cleanup committee throws them out and bolts the door behind them.

In the ensuing days before the reunion crowd disperses, returning to homes at all points of the compass, a certain glow of hometown pride persists. Enthusiasts propose that it all be done again next year, but cooler heads prevail on the theory that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Perhaps in five years, they suggest.

Or maybe 10.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. His e-mail address is maineolddawg@gmail.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/08/opinion/the-reunion-as-summer-highlight/ printed on September 20, 2014