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You can go home again, at least for a day or two

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This is the time of year when people enjoy the changing fall colors, football games, carving pumpkins and, of course, homecoming.

Oh yeah, homecoming.

Without going into details – and hoping the threats to put my antics on YouTube don't come true – I had a great time at my 35th high school class reunion this past weekend. It was nice to take a night to lose my inhibitions – oh wait, I don't have any of those.

Anyway, I was blessed to grow up in a small town, Vincennes, Ind., that celebrates its homecoming in a big way every year.

 There's a parade, a mixer in the town pavilion where any and all classes mingle before and after the football game, and big dinners for the classes being honored that year.

So special is the homecoming in Vincennes, a few years ago CNN did a feature on it.

I started thinking while driving home on Sunday that one reason it is a big deal in Vincennes is because a lot of kids from each class leave after high school or college. It's a small town (under 20,000 people) with a good deal of medical services for its size and the college there takes a lot of acreage and provides a boatload of jobs. But there isn't much else.

I had classmates who now live in Canada as well as the four corners of the continental United States. Indianapolis, Chicago and Louisville are now home to many Vincennes natives. Peoria even has a few besides me.

Our class has doctors and lawyers, bankers, educators and journalists, a colonel in the U.S. Army and a few retired from military careers. We even have a state politician.

Many come home every few years to rekindle lifelong friendships forged decades before, classmates from kindergarten on up. Old girlfriends and boyfriends, former partners and rivals, cheerleaders, jocks and nerds ... well, you get the picture. We had core groups of friends, sure, but we all knew each other and were glad to see each other.

Most of us in our class have succeeded in life, in one form or another. We're not all rich or have fancy titles but we're comfortable with our lives, with the choices we've made, with who we've become. We know it was largely our upbringing that got us there and that includes the kind of friendships that cause us to come back for homecoming.

I contrast our homecoming with others I'm familiar with and have learned those at schools in bigger cities are different, less celebratory. That's likely because bigger cities have more to offer in the way of careers after school is completed so more stay around. Therefore they see their friends more often.

I guess my point in all this is pride. I am proud of where I come from, proud of what I've done (most of it, anyway) and proud of where I am now. Those from small towns should not lament that; rather they should take advantage of all such an upbringing offers.

It was great seeing everybody. It was fun reminiscing about the teachers, the classes, the parties, the places we hid out from the principal so we could sneak a smoke and jeering at those who claimed "I never did that."

It was special to talk about the classmates we've lost and remember the good things about them and wish they were still around.

It was fun talking about making road trips to see each other in the near future, even if they never happen.

I'm going to leave off here with a poem written by one of my classmates, Kathy Edgin Burch. While she wrote it for our class, some of the words could probably fit in with any class celebrating their homecoming.

"Here's to homecoming queens

And bell bottom jeans

And staying awake past ten.

To cars made for cruisin'

And desks made for snoozin'

And floats that never win.

To fleeting romances

And taking dumb chances

And class rings that fall of your finger.

To leaving home early

And coming back late

And soft goodnight kisses that linger.

To pimples on noses

And cheerleader poses

And shadows of peach fuzz on chins.

To rushing to classes

And getting hall passes

And smiling through tinsel tooth grins.

To all of the memories

We'll cherish forever

To all of the good friends we've known.

It's been thirty-five years

And so dear friends, here's

To us and to your coming home."


Thank you, Kathy. See you in five years.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).