Originally posted July 25, 2009:
I’ve gone to two high school reunions since walking out the doors of St. Cloud Tech in 1971: The ten-year and the twenty-year. Both came in two parts, with a get-together over beer on a Friday evening and more formal dinner followed by a dance on Saturday evening. I was underwhelmed at the first reunion in 1981; there weren’t a lot of folks I wanted to see – high school had been a generally solitary time – and my then-wife didn’t want to be there, anyway. The twenty-year reunion in 1991 was more fun for a few reasons: We gathered together with the Class of ’71 from St. Cloud Apollo – our senior year had been its first year of existence, and we’d all been together at Tech for two years before that – for both evenings instead of just the first. I was single, and it seemed we’d all grown up a little more (or perhaps it was I who had matured). Still, I didn’t stay in touch with anyone. The reunion was fun, as I said, but that was all.
I’ve never been back to a high school reunion since. Will I go when we mark forty years in 2011? I’m not sure, but I doubt it. Nor have I ever been to a true college reunion; given the size of St. Cloud State at the time I graduated – about 12,000 students – a true class reunion is unlikely. Reunions generally fall to groups that had common majors, and I’ve pretty much ignored those, too.
But there are two reunions I will never miss, as long as I am healthy enough to get there: a get-together of those who worked for the Monticello Times during the more than thirty years my friend and mentor DQ was the editor and then publisher of the paper, and a gathering of the more than one hundred friends with whom I spent my junior year, the 1973-74 college year, in Fredericia, Denmark.
I knew from emails sent out this spring that DQ and his wife, who currently live in Portland, Oregon, would be in Minnesota during July, and that plans were taking shape for a picnic get-together. I also knew that this spring was the thirty-fifth anniversary of my return to Minnesota from Denmark; we’d gathered in 1994, 1999 and 2004, so I was certain we’d gather again this summer.
I worried a fair amount that both gatherings would be scheduled the same day, and I would have to choose one of the two. Or – depending on location – I could split my time between the two, satisfying no one, including myself.
Happily, the two events were set on Saturdays two weeks apart. On July 11, the Texas Gal and I drove the thirty miles to Monticello and spent several hours with the newspaper’s alumni. I know most of them by name, but I worked with only about a third of them, as I left the newspaper in 1983 and then Monticello in 1987. But there still are bonds: Through our boss and friend, DQ; through our experiences in living in and reporting on the same small town; and through our love of newspapering. Most of the newsfolk from the Times have moved on over the years to other facets of the communications field, but at heart, we’re all still reporters, as we realize when we get together.
As satisfying as that gathering was, it’s today’s reunion that I’ll probably find more moving: The Denmark folk will gather for a picnic in the Twin Cities suburb of Ramsey this afternoon. I would guess that about half of the hundred or so who remain – some have passed on during these thirty-five years – will be there. Many of them live elsewhere and likely won’t be present. But almost all will be accounted for: Since our string of reunions began in 1994, we’ve learned the whereabouts or the fates of all but four of those who were together in Fredericia.
We’ll take over the lawn of one of our gals, share a potluck picnic and plenty of beer. (I’ll likely contribute a six-pack of a pretty good red ale from St. Paul’s Summit brewery.) There will be laughter, as we tell and hear once more the tales of our times together (with some of the tales having become taller over the years). There may be a few tears for the friends we’ve lost, one of them as recently as last November.
My dad once told me, when I asked why he got together annually with his Army buddies, that when one shares a unique and intense experience with a small group of people, as he did with his Army Air Corps unit during World War II, bonds form that outlast time. I can’t think of a better definition for the time I spent in Denmark than “a unique and intense experience with a small group of people.” So this afternoon, we’ll share that again, as we share the news of our lives, lives that have been built on the foundations of what we learned about the world and about ourselves so long ago.
I’ve long said that my time in Denmark was the most important time in my life, and that my years at the Monticello Times were the second-most important. I no longer believe that. The most important time of my life is now, these days and years that I share with my Texas Gal. But those times – and the people I shared them with – helped create who I am today. So here’s a song for all of those who shared those early years with me, both in Fredericia and in Monticello, today’s Saturday Single.
“Forever Young” by Bob Dylan and The Band from Planet Waves