Last weekend I went back to my hometown for a class reunion. Our class decided to have a seventy-fifth birthday reunion. It was so much fun. Our foreign exchange student from the Netherlands came back for the first time since we graduated. That meant we had not seen each other for fifty-seven years.
Anne and I talked about the fact that we had a whole lifetime of experiences to share. We each married and raised a family. We each spent our lives working in various fields.
We rode around town so she could see what had happened to the community that she had called home for a year years ago. From the time of urban renewal, many buildings had been torn down so the city looked a lot different.
When I go home I always have three destinations in mind. First, I try to see my relatives. I saw one cousin on Friday and the other one on Sunday. We had not gotten together for a while so we had a lot of catching up to do.
Another thing I try to do is visit the cemeteries. While I was in Willowbrook Cemetery I cried. I knew approximately where the graves were but it was so hard to find them. The flat stones make mowing easier but finding graves is very hard. The flat stones sink and weeds grow up around them. I did not have a shovel with me to clean them up. If I did clean around them the stones would still be sunken in. When I got to Forest Hill Cemetery I rode right to our family graves. They were so easy to find even though that is a much larger cemetery.
When I was growing up I always went to the cemetery with grandma and grandpa. Often, we took flowers from the yard with us. I remember the peonies being filled with ants. We had to clean the car out when we got home. Going to the cemetery brought back many memories for me. I walked around the area near our family grave markers noting other familiar names.
The third thing I like to do is ride by the homes that used to belong to family members. My great grandfather’s place is in a rather depressed area but it looked okay. My great grandmother’s home looked good and so did the home where I grew up. My mother’s home looked different but it looked good.
The first night I was I town we went to the hotel then went out to eat. I chose a barbecue sandwich that I wish was anywhere but in my stomach before the evening was done. It tasted good, but the sauce kept me up that night. We met some other classmates who had already eaten their supper but we joined them anyway.
It was late by the time we got back to our room so it was lights out. The next morning, we were up early to meet classmates for breakfast. After a leisurely breakfast, Anne took off to visit the lady she stayed with when she was here. The rest of us did our own thing and met back at the hotel around lunchtime. I knew of a little café in town where we ate lunch. Then, it was on to a winery to see the local varieties of wine.
That night it was an outdoor party. It is a good thing we had great weather. That night we had our birthday cake. There were three high schools in town. We invited the members of all of the school’s graduating classes.
The next day Anne and I took a walk at a place called Point Gratiot. I parked in the middle and we walked both directions. We walked to the lighthouse, then to the beach. It was getting very hot by the time we finished our walk. I had been to the Point with my grandchildren a couple years ago. We ate a picnic lunch then went to the county fair.
In the afternoon we toured the lighthouse. We walked all the way up into the tower. The view over the lake was spectacular. It was fun. The lighthouse was never open when I lived around there.
Back to the hotel to relax before supper. The food was great where we ate but they did not have the air conditioning on and it was very hot. After a time of visiting we moved the party to our hotel. It was cool there. We rearranged the furniture so that we could talk better. I talked with classmates that I had never talked with before. One girl, excuse me, one lady told us she would be back for the classes 60th reunion in a couple years.
The next morning after breakfast Anne left for Amsterdam and I left for Russell. Although we were together a lot we definitely did not get enough time to visit. There was so much to catch up on. Anne had a very interesting life living abroad with her family part of the time. Now she lives in the country about twenty minutes outside of Amsterdam. We talked about all of the canals. I experienced them on my trip up the Danube two years ago. I told her that I bought some Delft pottery – a small plate that I use for my teabag.
Anne served as the director of the John Adams Institute that brought American speakers and artists to the Netherlands for ten years. I had a chance to read the little book they made for her upon her retirement. She seemed to be very proud of that period of her life.
I provided Anne with a copy of one of my books so she could see what I have done. She started reading it in the hotel and told me she would continue with it on her flight home. She will learn much more about me by reading the book.
All in all, it was a great weekend. I must confess that I have never had such an elaborate birthday celebration. I celebrated my seventy-fifth on that Sunday. When I returned home there were mums and coffee waiting, as well as an invitation to dinner.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.