Let the Circle Be Unbroken

Family reunion season is officially over.

For the uninitiated, there’s nothing like a family reunion. Sometime between Memorial Day and Labor Day, families come together to reconnect, give thanks, see how much folks have grown and changed, and sport color-coordinated T-shirts to symbolize unity and be family. And family reunions are also not for the faint of heart.

The Broaddus family reunions take place in August and food is the centerpiece of the family. True family reunion professionals know to fix their “to go” plates when they first arrive (put in the cooler you conveniently have in the trunk of your car) and THEN when you leave, too. Fried chicken, ribs, jerk chicken, green beans, chitlins, pork and beans, greens, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes. If it was once a meat, it got barbecued. And then come the desserts, as everyone lines up to show out their family recipes (my grandmother passed before telling anyone the recipe for any of her pies).

More importantly, family reunions strengthen the roots of the ties that binds us as family. We honor the patriarchs and matriarchs, remembering those that came before as a part of where you came from and the struggles we’ve come through. Our elders are the quality control inspectors of the family. They set the tone for conduct, and they teach about learning to love and respect one another, often putting their fragile health in jeopardy to attend. That example alones speaks to the importance of family reunions. And then I realized that I’m one generation away from being the patriarch of the family.

Sure, there’s the bickering, the gossiping, the politics, (uh, not in our family, I’m speaking about OTHER families), but it’s been wonderful seeing the play cousins we’ve come up with take the leadership roles in the family.

You can’t always choose your family, but you weren’t raised in a vacuum either. For better or worse, family has defined us. Besides, only at a family reunion could I hear from my cousin “I read you every week in Indy.com. I never knew you were smart.”

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Twenty Years So Soon

The Northwest High School Class of 1987 Reunion.

It’s been twenty years since that four year rite of passage that we call the high school experience and I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to see them. I was the youngest graduate in our class due to me skipping a few grades which only gave me more incentive to keep my head down. So generally, I kept to myself. Sorta.

(L-R: Amy Majeske (Bird), me, Tina Hardymon, Jon Harp*)

I wasn’t the nerd, the jock, the cheerleader, or part of the fringe crowds. I found that if you were your own particular brand of weird and were comfortable with it, folks either left you alone or accepted you. Still, I had a mild curiosity to see what happened to the bullies of the day, the old cliques, the old “we will grow old together/a love like ours will never die” romances (most of whom apparently ended a few weeks after graduation).

Buoyed on waves of nostalgia, I chose to attend the reunion (and convinced my best friend* to go – man was not meant to suffer alone). Here’s what you need to know about our graduating class: we started the year at around 400 students but just under 200 actually made it to May. So it’s no wonder folks want to cheer at graduations. In the time since, far too many have been killed or incarcerated. There’s no point in complaining about how it was organized. I apply the same rule I use when folks come to me complaining about something I’ve put together: what did you do to help out? Since I pretty much sat back and watched it unfold, I’ve got no room to complain.

Though a strange and wondrous time, high school always did have its little quirks. For our first couple years, we were prone to race riots just prior to major breaks. In fact, I was worried that our reunion would break down like our lunchtime cafeteria typically did: split right down the middle along racial lines. Luckily, a lot has changed in twenty years.
(The Reunited Northwest High School Class of 1987)

If nothing else, we’ve managed to undo the unfortunate mistakes of 80s hairstyles, from the Flock of Seagulls look to the mullet/porn mustache combo to Jheri curls. (Luckily, there are no pictures floating around of me where I’d have to live down either a Kid ‘N Play or a DeBarge phase of hair.)

There was no great angst moment. No cathartic epiphany about my place in society or the universe. No mid-life crisis panic attacks. Just me connecting with folks whom I had lost touch with. However, allow me to tell you that there is not enough alcohol to get me on the dance floor 80s tunes. (Though at one point I was left wondering “why is my wife going down the Soul Train line?”).

Yeah, it was a bit of a ghetto reunion (and, yeah, I fixed a to go plate of food), but it was OUR ghetto reunion. In a lot of ways it reflected much of what our class was about: more than a little disorganized, loud, fun, and quick to just solve problems by getting on the dance floor.

Though, all told, I remember why I skipped my prom.

*Dear Jon: if you’re going to blog about your one-time crushes, maybe you ought to check and see if they’re going to your reunion. Cause the Internet is a big place and folks love to Google themselves.

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Twenty Years Already

Well, I opened up my Inbox only to find this letter:

Fellow High School Classmates of 1987:

I’m sure that you have all heard the buzz of a 1987 Northwest High School reunion floating around. Suffice it to say, it is all true. Curtis Burhannon, Bridgette Dawson, Devon Stovall, Adrena Jones (Morris), Danielle (Tootie) Arnold, Tawnya Harrison and I have been planning this special event since October. We know that we didn’t have a ten year reunion, but we definitely want the twenty. Therefore, here are the plans:

The event is going to be August 10th – 12th of this year. That Friday we’re going to have a social at the skating rink (at Roller Cave Skating Rink 8734 E. 21st St. Indianapolis, IN 46219) from 8:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. where we can catch up on old times. Saturday evening we’ll have a formal (at the Julia Carson Building 300 E Fall creek Pkwy off of Fall creek and Delaware) with our spouses or significant others from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. That Sunday afternoon we’re having a cookout at Eagle Creek Park (Eagle Creek Park shelter A 1p-6p) where we’ll bring all of our spouses, significant others and children. The fees for the entire event are as follows:

$35.00 for singles with no children
$40.00 for couples with no children
$45.00 for singles with children
$50.00 for couples with children

These fees cover everything except entry into the skating rink on Friday evening ($7.00) and the per car fee to enter Eagle Creek Park ($4.00).

Adrena Jones (Morris) is our treasurer. The committee has already paid their fees and we need others to jump on board as well. We are asking that you send in your fees as soon as possible so that we can begin to make purchases as well as other necessary deposits. Please make your checks out to NWHS 87 Reunion and forward it to the following address:

P.O.Box 26872
Indianapolis, IN 46226

What we also need from you is to get emails from everyone you know from our class as possible and forward it to me so that I can send this email information to everyone. If people don’t have email, just get their addresses. Whoever you know that graduated with us, send their information to me so that I can place them on our email contact list. That way they will always be informed about what is going on. You will all get an email from me about once per month regarding the updates from the committee about the reunion. [You may also e-mail me at northwest_highschool (at) yahoo.com].

Be on the lookout to volunteer for various committees that we’ll have in place. Right now Tawnya McCrary (Harrison) is over the Sunday cookout. She’ll need help. If you are interested, her email address is: trmassociates (at) yahoo.com. Bridgette Dawson is over the Saturday evening formal. If you’re interested in helping, her email address is: nadene35 (at) yahoo.com.

I look forward to hearing from and seeing you all. Don’t forget to tell folks!

Myron C. Duff, Jr. (Stynk)

I’m officially depressed. I was just hanging out with these knuckleheads yesterday. Well, it feels like yesterday. Well, it felt like yesterday, yesterday; today it feels like twenty years ago.

Over on my Intake Column, the issue of Hurricane Katrina and the issue of “convenient caring.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.