Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Home Is...

Robert Frost said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." It's Maya Angelou's take on Frost that resonates more with who I am..."Home is that place that when you go there, can't nobody put you out."

My weekend in Mayfield far and away validates Frost via Angelou.

Despite what I've thought and preached about "home," as it relates to me in my own story, I've lived too long with the thought that it's Thomas Wolfe who was correct..."you can't go home again."

I'm here to tell you that in this instance, Wolfe's wrong, and so was I.

The sequence of events that brought me to Mayfield on the occasion of the Class of '82's 30 year reunion is not nearly as significant as the keen sense of knowing that I was welcomed and remembered.

In that one openly wounded chapter of my life for which there seemingly could never be closure I found grace--grace in the celebration of memory. Now some memories are those I'd just soon forget, but to have them recalled in the company of those who knew, who were there, it was a remarkable thing.

While many of the people with whom I reconnected I had seen around my senior year (thus, the aforementioned utterly unforgettable episode), most I had not seen in 37 years.

"Hey, I remember you!" I heard that quite a bit...which was wonderful because with the exception of a few folks whom I knew were interested, I was expecting "And you are?
What are you doing here?"

I also heard, "I thought that was you!" Wonderful!

On seeing people I thought I'd never see again - Yes, we're all older. And yet through the signs of age, of life lived and sometimes lived hard, I could see the spark of people as I remembered them. The curiosity of what ever became of someone was present but the gladness of just being together was stronger.

A number of people live in Memphis. Who knew? One in particular lives not too far from my Church. So knowing who I am and what I do, he had no qualms about asking me to pray for the gathered bunch before the party really got started.

"Really Arthur? They don't know me like that, I'm just Johnny."

Well, actually for a number of them I was JJ. It was the early 70s. "Good Times" was a hit TV do the math. If "Dyno-mite" means anything to ya, there you go.

So I prayed, and it felt right because the emergence of the "me" I've long sought has found joyful passion in reclaiming that what I do is who I am. And to be who I know I'm called means that I'm bringing the fullness of who I am, without fear or worry, into what I do.

I was taken aback by the table on which many candles burned reflecting the memory of those no longer with us. It was so many. I remembered most and some very well. Car wrecks, drugs, violence...all of it was sobering reminder of life's fragility and the consequences of choices made that yield results never expected.

While there I had occasion to walk the old neighborhood, to see the places I used to live in Mayfield. Surprisingly, the walk didn't take me nearly as long as my memory would have me believe. The place is small, and as a community Mayfield struggles to find a viable way through amidst the exodus of industry across the years.

My old school isn't a school anymore. It's the County Health Department. That was an odd thing. But the new elementary school is a sign of progress, right?

I saw my first grade teacher whose name I had never forgotten (you always remember your first grade teacher's name, right?), but that was a long time ago, would I even recognize her?

Answer? Yes. Not even a question. And even more surprising was that she seemed to remember me. Evidently, I was quiet and sweet in the first grade (what happened there, I wonder?) "Yes, ma'am" came out of my mouth automatically when she spoke to me.

I saw and spoke to the first girl I ever called on the phone.  Age 6.  Thank you.
She gave me about as much time as she did back then, too.  Seemed about right.

I owe much to my friends who really wanted me to come back. Kenny, Liz, Elaine and so many others. It is a good thing to be wanted, no?

Because I have a gig on Sundays I didn't stay as late Saturday night as I would have preferred. But as I drove away I had this strange feeling. What I expected to be closure wasn't. The journey isn't complete, it's ongoing. No more than my leaving in 1976 left relationships undone only to realize closure in 2012, for a number of these people, my friends, who know me only as Johnny (ok, or JJ), it's just the next thing in relationships that last a lifetime.

As I was saying my goodbyes, my friend Michael (apparently he's Mike, now), says, "See you in December?"

"For?" I ask.

"For when Mayfield goes back to State. See you there?"

"Would not miss it."

And why wouldn't I? It's my hometown team.