The adventure below is the latest in a series sharing my quest to explore Pennsylvania by visiting each of the sixty-seven county seats and eating a hot dog while in town.
Our earlier visit to Somerset County was shortened due to a snow storm. I shared in the blog that ‘home’ for me was Berlin in Somerset County. In this blog and the next one we will return to Somerset where I attended my high school class picnic and planning meeting. The planning was for the fiftieth reunion of our class of 67. (pausing to catch my breath). Twenty-four of us gathered at Shirley’s place in Brotherton, Pennsylvania.
I made this trip with some apprehension. Why? I hadn’t seen many of my class mates since we graduated. I hadn’t seen the rest of them since the twenty-fifth reunion. I didn’t want to be embarrassed or embarrass (or disappoint) my friends by not recognizing them. Well, I failed miserably! Allow me to share how miserably I failed in no particular order.
The afternoon started well. I was carrying the cookies I baked at Redner’s Market to the food table when I spied JoAnn who I greeted by name. (JoAnn is closest to the camera. Connie is in Red.) I knew her from band and chorus. But, that is when ‘the wheels fell off the wagon’ as they say.
A good-looking guy with a mustache and go-tee stood in front of me grinning, as I turned from setting my baked goods on the table, and asked, “Don’t you remember me?” Well, I didn’t have any clues to help me guess who he might be so I told the truth. “No.” A reply I would use too often on this sunny afternoon. “I’m John.” I didn’t feel to horrible not recognizing him because he had left school half way through our sophomore year. However, he and I did build a friendship in that short time together. I’m not sure how it happened but we both played trumpet and the band might have been the glue. Stu shared that John is playing better than ever as part of a jazz band in Somerset. John went to college in Montana. I expressed how interesting it was that he and I had to go to the far west to find colleges that didn’t know about our reputations! (I ended up in South Dakota.) Here is an interesting tidbit about his mother who was our French teacher. Near the end of my second year of French, after a butchered attempt to answer a question, John’s mom asked, “Monsieur Heckman (that’s the way we talked in French class) will you be taking French III next year?” “Non Madame!” I emphatically replied. To which she exclaimed, “Good!” I believe to this day that answer is the reason I passed French II.
Like in a bad dream I was staring into the face of an attractive woman who asked, “Do you remember me?” Oh no! I didn’t recognize Kerry who is even better looking then she was when we were in school. She came back to Berlin after years in Michigan and lives close enough to the football field to have tail gate parties on her back deck. Kerry is the one frowning because I caught her by surprise. (Cathy is next to her and Gary is next.) Here she is in the homecoming court with Laura (seated). The other girl, Elaine, is from another class.
And the hits kept coming! I looked up at this guy who asked, you guessed it, “Do you remember me?” Finally, I had a clue and could cheat. (the guy holding up the beer can beside George and across the table from Marsha who is beside Mary who is beside Linda who moved away after her freshman year. That’s Stu standing in front of John.) This guy was taller than me and we only had a hand full of guys that tall my senior year. (In my sophomore year all the guys and almost all the girls were taller than me. But that is another story.) Greg who was the drummer for our class band, Chalk and the Erasers spent some time in the Navy where he took up boxing. He admitted he might have taken a few too many punches to the head but was capable of entertaining us this day with high school sports stories. He was our quarterback and a ferocious rebounder on the basketball team as well as spending time hanging out in the outfield during baseball season. Something he reminded me of was how he copied off of me to pass a class we shared. (Remember my brilliant French knowledge? I wasn’t much better anywhere else!) This might be a good time to mention that the particular group of guys I hung with were not the class academic standouts. I’m not sure how any of us graduated.
While finishing my BBQ chicken-yes I ate chicken prepared by Shirley’s husband Ed and it was delicious – a guy with white hair and mustache sat down at the table with John, Stu and Me. Stu asked, “Do you know who this is?” AAAAGGGGHHH! No! Fortunately, Stu gave me a hint (thanks buddy) “Look, two PKs.” (That is an abbreviation for Preachers Kid) Oh yeah, it’s Gary the other PK in the class who is retired from government service. He worked for various government agencies so none of us believe anything he says. Here’s the thing about this ‘do you remember me’ question that is so frustrating. In today’s lingo Gary and I would have been called BFFs in high school. We lived less than a block apart and spent many hours playing basketball, wiffleball (including using entire lineups and batting averages for the Pirates, Cubs and Dodgers if memory serves me well) and board games. Jeez!
The pain isn’t over yet. Some one sat down beside Gary. So, I figured I’ll move faster and I say, “I’m Allen. Who are you?” Stu exclaimed, “His Allen too.” (Janet is the other one in the photo) It took me a minute more to realize that he was Alan not Allen. Alan is one of the few of us who hasn’t retired yet. He is still an active contractor remodeling houses and enjoying what he is doing. He will do an occasional garage with some part-time help. I remember him as a really nice guy and he still seems to be so. The only change in him is that he now has contractor’s shoulders, biceps and chest. To be perfectly honest, he is really buff!
After the picnic I sent my notes to Linda, our valedictorian, for a proof reading. And this is awful, but I didn’t recognize Nancy and she didn’t ask me if I remembered her. I will be certain to find her at the reunion. She is a retired phys-ed teacher and enjoys playing the dulcimer.
I am not finished yet with the torture. Oh how I wish I was!. Remember in the Somerset blog I shared my inadequacies where girls were concerned in high school? Well, standing in front of me was this petite blonde who, of course asked the dreaded question. I do not even know if I answered before she exclaimed, “And we used to like each other!” And that is true! I liked her so much that I almost asked Marsha for a date. (She’s wearing yellow) That is about the time Larry protested, “Why didn’t I get a hug like that?”
Well, do you feel my pain? During the four-hour return trip home I had plenty of opportunity to ruminate over the question, “Do you remember me?” Here is my profound conclusion related to this question. We all want to be remembered. We join musical groups, play sports, write books, run for office, try to get wealthy, attempt to invent something and sometimes act in an outrageous manner so we can be remembered. Somehow, we need to know that we have not been invisible along this life journey.
Those who follow Jesus of Nazareth know that he was so concerned about being remembered that he instituted what is known as The Eucharist or Communion to help folks remember him.
With this need in our soul we ask, “Do you remember me?” I believe this is the incorrect question. The better question is, “Do you recognize me?” These are two different questions! I need to recognize you before I know if I remember you.
Now, where Jesus is concerned we don’t know what he looked like. In the year ‘0’ no one had an I-phone, or Instamatic camera, or Polaroid camera or any kind of camera. There are no photos of him and his image wasn’t engraved on coins. The first painting of Jesus didn’t happen until three hundred years after he died. So, probably, we wouldn’t recognize him at a picnic. But, we can recognize the being Jesus is in a sunset, a new baby, an act of kindness or during Communion. Then we remember who Jesus is. I really do believe these are two separate questions.
I think Marsha and I made up before the picnic was over and yes, Marsha, I do remember.
See you next time.