September 8, 2010
I have tried to explain it many times. My kids don’t get it. My Air Force friends don’t really understand it. There is just something about coming from a small town. It is that feeling of family. That sense that the people you grew up with are always going to be there. That is exactly the thought that was running through my mind this past weekend at the PHS Classes of the 80’s Reunion.
I pulled into The ‘Ville on Friday afternoon and could just feel the excitement in the air. The town seemed more alive than I had seen it in years. I am sure most of this was in my own mind. I was excited to see old friends. I knew many of them were already around and I projected my excitement outward. But there sure seemed to be electricity coursing through the streets. After picking up my brother, we headed to the big tailgate party that was already kicking off in the old K-Y-Fried parking lot. This spot itself held so many memories. The half-time treks to get a bag full of “Chicken Littles”. The runs from the city pool for some hot wings and a big-ass Pepsi. It was just a memorable spot to hold our big Friday night gathering. A decent crowd was on hand. There was a lot of synth-heavy music blaring and pods of people reminiscing about the glory days. It was looking like this would be a great event.
Milling about, you could hear some of the stories being recanted. Talk of football games past, girlfriends and boyfriends and some of the memorable parties we had all attended. Every story seemed to have grown over the years. That 20 yard touchdown run was now a 40 yarder through all 11 defenders. Those 6 beers before the Poison concert was now a half-case AND a pint of beam. It seems our glory days had become somewhat more glorious. And that is alright. Because we were there. We all remember exactly how it all happened. And the fact that each story had evolved into legend allowed a little creative license. After all, even the actual events warranted a place in history. What is the harm in beefing them up a bit.
After the tailgating began to wind down, we embarked on a bold new adventure. Something most of us never envisioned throughout our high school careers. We were on our way to party in a bar in Paintsville! Where as we used to rely on the surrounding counties for our high-octane liquid refreshment, we could now purchase and partake right in our own back yard. This is great! And just a hop, skip and a jump from the city parking lot that was our drinking refuge in the 80’s, was now the Cafe on Main. And it is packed. The party continues…
Saturday comes around and we have some celebrating to do. There will be a Kentucky vs. Louisville football game, a surprise party commemorating a 40th birthday for one of our own…as well as his daughters 1st birthday. Then, to cap it all off, we will have the official 80’s reunion festivities in the place that will forever be the Carriage House (sure, it is now the Ramada…but that is not how I will remember it). The surprise party goes off without a hitch (he never saw it coming) and UK beats the evil UL. Now it is time to clean up for the reunion. A freshly shaved head and something decent to wear….I am out the door.
The crowd is thin at the Carriage House. People are scattered about in a few small groups. I grab a drink (still feels a little strange typing that) and pop in on a few long lost faces. Friends that go back as far as I can remember. The crowd grows by the minute until we have a full blown event going on. People are laughing, cameras are flashing and beer is disappearing. This really is just a continuation of life at PHS. And this is the kind of stuff that is hard to get across to people today. We graduated roughly 60 people in 1988. Of those 60, I am pretty sure I started kindergarten with about half of them. To me, that is amazing. A group of friends that began the first day of school together and graduated together. Not to mention many of us went to the same colleges. Those are bonds that will last a lifetime. And you could certainly feel that in the reconnections at the reunion. Conversations picked up like we had just left them yesterday. Although some folks stumbled to recognize a few faces, once that realization was made, they fell right into that comfortable place that comes with years of shared experiences. And that is something that my children may never get to have. They move around, their friends move as well. They may keep a handful together for many years, but they will not keep a large portion intact for the majority of their childhood and early adulthood. And that is too bad. Because they will be missing the one thing that made living in such a small town enjoyable. The people that transcended “friends” and truly became “family”.