We headed on to Palmetto and my 40th high school reunion. We stayed with my big brother, Rob, his wife, JongAe and their 9 year old daughter, Jessica. My youngest brother, Tom and his family (Pat, Nathaniel and Christopher) have moved into our family home and are making it their own. Christopher has what was my bedroom and he has made it his own. I can't tell you how many times I would open my bedroom door and my room would be completely different. New paint, new posters, new window treatments, my stuff all moved and changed. My Mother did this to surprise me and make me happy. It always backfired because instead I always felt misplaced and lost. I hope that I let my mother know that I appreciated what she tried to do for me, but to this day, I am not crazy about surprises. Opening the door and seeing the room completely different, but the perfect room for Christopher, it was finally that happy, celebration of change my Mother had always hoped I would embrace. Thanks Mother.
Bug and I managed to get out on the boat a couple of days. It was windy and choppy, but we enjoyed our time together and out on the water and in the sun. Thursday night for Samhein (Sabbach Samhein, everyone) or as most people call it, Halloween we went to Tom and Pat's and sat in the front yard with a fire in their fire pit and ate a picnic dinner and drank wine as the trick or treaters came by in their costumes to get candy. Bug had bought a gorilla outfit and would jump out of the bushes and scare the kids, they loved it! Then Nathaniel and Christopher came home from their party at the church and joined in on the fun. Nathaniel was dressed as a scarecrow with burlap wrapped around his face. He did not look scary, but he would sit in a chair with the cauldron of candy on his lap and when the kids reached in for their sweet treat, he would grab their hands and I think some of them may have literally wet their pants. They loved it!!. It was the best Halloween I can remember.
Friday night was the Senior night at Palmetto High School (PHS), the Tigers playing the Braden River Pirates in a champion playoff High School Football game. My youngest brother, Tom's oldest son, Nathaniel is a Senior this year, so is my other nephew, Desmond Brown. They had a special ceremony before the game with the seniors escorted across the field with their family. They were recognized for their high school achievements and cheered on by family and friends in the stadium. It was a wonderful time, and my first glimpse of many of my classmates who had come to the game to celebrate our 40th anniversary of graduating, and from the time we had once walked across that same field in front of those same stands. It was one of those moments where you feel the roots, the connections, the ties that hold together our community. Over miles, over years, over lifetimes, we shared our childhoods, our young lives as we grew and prepared to take our place in the world. Many of us had gone to school since kindergarten, others grew up in the same church, or the one across the street. I think there were about 140 in our class. There are about 105 of us left, some of those MIA.
Sixty of us gathered Saturday night, with our spouses or friends, or family. We came together at the Bradenton Yacht Club. The Bradenton Yacht Club is in Palmetto, not Bradenton. But you can see Bradenton across the river, so maybe that is the reason for the name. Bug and I walked into the room, I think we were late, but I mess up time all the time, so I was not worried. Everyone was milling around, laughter and talk filled the air around me like oxygen and I was sucked back into the flock of my childhood friends. I saw a few people I recognized immediately, but there were others, I was sure of. So, with my typical timidity (hee hee) I started walking up to people and showed them my name tag, so they could see my Senior picture and said, "I was Kathy Miller." This would then cause them to hold up their name tag and tell me their name. We would ooh and aah and hug and tell each other how happy we were to see each other and how good they looked. We were telling the truth. I have to say I was so happy to see how wonderful everyone looked.
They had one of those photo booths where it takes the 4 pictures on a strip of paper. I have always wanted to do that with my sweet Bug, so here was our opportunity. We started to go into the booth, not too many people had tried it out yet, but the guy in charge asked us if we wanted to put on some props. Props?!?! I love props. We scurried around the corner, I picked out a bug hat and Bug picked out some Grocho glasses and a dragon hat. We took 3 silly pictures, and then the last one, we did just sort of our normal. When we stepped out, the guy told me that they would print out two copies, one for us, one for the memory book. I went out and grabbed my Jennifer and drug her to the booth. We choose pink cowboy hats and stepped behind the curtain. Then another classmate was walking by so we drug him in, and then another classmate stuck her head under the curtain and we drug her in. Then I went out and grabbed a few more friends and literally drug them into the booth. Three of them were on the reunion committee. We stood there smiling at the camera and looked like a "normal" photo. I was like "really??" This is not how I want to be remembered so we tried to be a little more goofy, then we did peace signs and then it got a little crazier and our photos were done. I took them with out even looking, saying that I was dying first, so I got to get the photos first. They didn't argue. Jennifer laughed, the others just smiled and shook their heads. I then started grabbing people at random in groups of four and shoving them in front of the prop table and then lining them up outside the booth. It took off on its own after that and people started having so much fun crowding into the booth together and being the silly happy people we were in high school. The booth guy made some comment to me about appreciating how things were going, and I said that the Reunion Committee did all the work and organized the reunion, it was my job to make sure we were silly and had fun. That is sort of the part I have always played. I am not the biggest or best organizer, but I do love to have fun and sharing it with my sweet precious loved ones.
It was a wonderful night. It was full of thankfulness, humility, joy, humor and honesty. Things like drugs and who dated or whatever when we were young was common place in our years at high school, but not all of us partook in everything, or even in most things, but now we have 40 years of life experience and our outlooks have changed, and we can actually be honest and talk about it now. One of us, Bill Manning has written two books. He signed and gave me one. It is stories from his 35 years of fire fighting and EMT work. He is still as funny and wonderful as he always was. We have a lot of people with their PhDs in our group, especially woman who now are principals and the people involved in educating the future generations. I am so very proud of each one of them.
It was the first time I say Darlene since we graduated. Darlene and Jackie were the two of the first black children sent to our white school. We were in 6th grade, and I remember Darlene and Jackie because they were in our class. I didn't know the other kids as well in other classes. But Darlene and Jackie were precious and fit right into our group like they had been with us since kindergarten. A couple of things had happened with Darlene and I and I had never ever talked to her about them. Mostly because I didn't know what had happened with the first one when I was in school with her, and the other involved dating and I wasn't able to talk to her at that time. So I managed to get her aside to talk to her at the reunion. When we were in 6th grade Darlene, Lisa and I were all playing at a football game at the high school. My Mother walked up and in a very strict and strange voice she ordered Darlene to return to the stands to her parents and to sit with them and stay there, not to leave her parents again during the game. Darlene ran away to her parents, then she looked at Lisa and I and told us to immediately go to the stands and sit with Lisa's parents and not to leave the stands again, and she would come to get me when she was done with working in the concession stand for the band. I was devastated, humiliated and so confused. My Mother had never been prejudice. We were not misbehaving, we had just left the concession stand and heading back to the stands. I didn't understand. My Mother would say no more, I didn't bring it up again. Well, until after college and then one day when we were out to lunch it somehow came up. I asked her, and she told me she remembered it quite clearly and had wondered if I would ever ask her about this situation. It seems that after we had left the stand some men had come over and told my mother that Lisa and I had no business playing with Darlene and they would kill her and teach us a lesson. My Mother did not argue with them. She simply told them she would take care of it. She was terrified. The nation was struggling with so many issues and she only thought about the safety of "her" three girls. As far as I know she never spoke to anyone about this, including my father. I think she was worried that if she said something that my Dad would have gone to talk to the men (animals, might be a better word for them). It was not that Mother was not embarrassed by the situation, she was, but her only concern was for us. I think she was worried if they were approached they might have retaliated against another black child, and she did not want to take a chance. As far as I know they never hurt anyone, but I have walked around with that in my heart for so long. Finally Darlene knows. I told her that my Mother loved her and was worried for her. Darlene looked at me and said that she knew that my Mother loved her, but I could still see the moment of fear in her eyes when she remembered back to being a child. I don't think she remembers the exact moment. I only do because of the "secret" Mother and I shared. I never played with Darlene at any other game. I never remember seeing her at another game until we were all in high school.
The other time I needed to talk to Darlene about was when she had dated a guy in high school. He had gotten me caught in the middle and I wanted to tell her my side of the story. She did remember him, and we both laughed at the fact that we were so young and ignorant then. A few shared moments of teenage angst shared with someone I went to school with from 6th grade until graduation. A beautiful woman with a voice of an angel. Jackie also had an amazing voice, and was cute as a bug and skinny as I was. I loved those women like I love all the other people from my class, and this weekend we opened our hearts and souls. We made confessions, we reminded each other of good times and bad. We shared secrets that had laid hidden in our hearts for decades, but in the light of time, these secrets finally told brought us all closer together.
This morning Bug and I were heading to the class brunch at the Yacht Club. We had not planned on going, but I had had so much fun Saturday with these dear precious people, and we would have to eat breakfast somewhere, so might as well go to the reunion. We loaded up in the truck to head over and the truck would not start. The batteries? The starter? Please let it be the batteries, pull them out, put new ones in, good to go. Nope, it was the starter. We borrowed Rob's truck, got Christopher and headed to the brunch. There was only about 25 of those from the previous night showed up, but it was wonderful to spend that last few moments together. I left and hugged everyone, they hugged me back like they might never see me again, which is very possible for some of them. One, Joe, he grew up a block away from us and when I left he hugged all the air out of me. I had lots of long, hard hugs. Hugs meant to say, "I love you" hugs meant to say , "Goodbye" I may not see some of them ever again. I wished them all a very happy life. I said I had had a happy life. They hugged me to live. They hugged me because we are all part of the same. We were that weird and special class. The last of the hippies, the last of the wild crazy ones. We were the last whisper of a time that was passing, and we celebrated who we were and were a strong and mighty force. We still are, and we looked good. And we still loved each other as much , if not more then ever. It was all good.
Tonight we had one more night together as a family. We met over at Tom and Pat's. The neighbors, Ron and Nancy and their two kids came over and we had a picnic in the front yard with the fire pit. We sat around the fire and marshmallows were roasted and stories told, laughter and the murmur of our voices joining with the smoke from the fire and lifted up into the clear autumn night. The stars above in the ink dark sky twinkled maybe a little brighter by the love and laughter of friends and family gathered together. No reason, just to be together.
Tomorrow Bug and I will hook the boat back up to the boat with it's new started that Bug took today to replace, bless his talented little heart, and we will continue our journey south to the Keys. We will stay in Homestead tomorrow night and then onto Key West in the morning. We will pick up our precious friend Marty at Boca Ciega Air port. He will be flying in from NC. The sweet and precious Shelia will not be able to join us for our little vacation in paradise.
I am tired, and the discomfort in my shoulders, and my chest, front and back is increasing. I have had several moments where I struggled for air. Not a life and death struggle, just like running 5 miles with a bear chasing you struggle to catch your breath. If I sit down and breath through the discomfort, or try to relax and slow my breathing, I am just fine. But all the laughing and talking, seeing dear precious friends and remembering those gone, bear hugs and doing too much, and I am really feeling it this evening.
It is fall back to real time, and we are all once again confounded and fuddled by this time change. Please stop it, and just let us live with the time the way it is. I know that "they" have reasons for why they torture almost an entire nation with clock changing, but really, stop it. We have had enough already.
I got to spend time with My Christopher and get a pedicure with my sister, Patricia. I got to have a very open heart discussion with so many, and my dear precious Bird and I remembered our friend Debbie who recently died. Bird had not heard, so we talked about what I knew. It was good. We talked about my time, and it was wonderful. I am happy, I am tired, but my heart is full of joy. I am heading south tomorrow with my honey.
I am still so amazed at how blessed I am in this life. All the important things in life, family, friends, love and joy overflow in my life.
I know it
Yes, I know how very
lucky my life has always been
thank you for everything that I have been given in my life.