By Jug Varner
It was 40 years after graduation when I attended our first high school class reunion back in Lubbock, TX. It also happened to be the first one our class ever held. What a great get-together it was – particularly for those of us who had not remained in the old hometown and seldom if ever had seen each other in the interim.
Our Class of 1941 was scattered to the four winds by WW II, and some who left never returned, but I was amazed at how many did return and lived in Lubbock the rest of their lives. Some of the girls had married military men in training at the local air bases, some of the guys married girls in other states where they were stationed, and, as it turned out, not many married their high school sweethearts. Bonnie and I were one of perhaps eight couples that had — about 2%. Not your typical average.
A number of our teachers attended the reunion as well — some looking as young as their students. Most of us had gone through both junior high and high school together, and knew just about everyone in school, including many of the siblings. America wasn't a move-around society in those years, and each person sort of bloomed where we were planted. But the war changed all that, and life has never been the same.
Not many of us had traveled much to speak of back then, so our world was the old hometown. Once the war took us to far away places, it gave us new perspectives and changed our minds about people, places, what we wanted to be, and where we wanted to live. I always had a special place in my heart for the town, but lived there only two years after WW 2.
Despite the joy of seeing old friends again and the fun of the moment, there was a bit of melancholy mixed in. After Bonnie and I returned to our then home at Lakeway near Austin, TX, I wrote the following poem about how I felt:
I went back to the old hometown to capture yesterday,
But somehow things were not the same as when I'd gone away.
Oh, there still stood some buildings that I recognized of yore,
And here and there a name I knew… a sign upon a store.
Most streets were as they used to be, but some of them had changed.
New ones had been added and the town was rearranged.
The old landmarks were all but gone, replaced by something new,
And seldom did I see a person that I thought I knew.
Those few acquaintances I saw had changed along with time.
“Friendly strangers, now,” I thought, “with lives so unlike mine.”
The passing years had not erased my vivid memories,
Of days gone by which I remembered in my reveries.
I saw myself still as a child in all those yesterplaces,
With all my family and good friends with their familiar faces.
The things we did, the way we were, the good and bad times shared,
The way we helped each other and how much we really cared.
Then as this dream began to fade, I saw reality:
Another time, a different place, had changed my life for me.
The “good old days” had disappeared like mist a wind could stir.
Things aren't the same as they were then. Perhaps they never were.
One can't go home into the past, or try to make it fit.
Our present thought about the past is all there is of it.
Our real home is within us, and it's right here where we are.
No need to search the old hometown, nor travel very far.
Today is all that truly counts. Tomorrow isn't here.
The way we live our “every day” affects our “every year.”
And when that year becomes the past we then can look back, seeing
The worthwhile things that we have done to justify our being.
Our 50th Anniversary reunion 10 years later wasn't quite as lively as the first. Age was sneaking up on some, and our list of the deceased had grown. However, a number who missed the 40th did attend the 50th. It, too, was very enjoyable, but in a different way. More talking, less dancing!
When another decade passed, there was no apparent demand for a 60th. I suppose we had enjoyed enough lessons in mortality. But I strongly recommend that you attend your next one, especially if you never have gone to a Class Reunion.