You Can Keep Going Home as Often as You Like

I started this blog in February of 2015, and have written faithfully every week since then. This week, I’m taking a vacation, heading down the Calistoga/Wine Country area of California with wife Cindy to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Getting away from it all.

But I thought to myself, that I really should say something this week. I’ll be taking a lot of time off this month, what with one thing or another. On September 18th I will be driving down to Woodland with an old friend to celebrate our 45th high school reunion together. Has it been that long?

Hell, yes, it’s been that long.

I walk into antique stores now and see my childhood displayed on the walls. It has most definitely been that long. And I ask myself, as I do every time this comes up, why bother renewing acquaintances with people I really don’t have any more in common with than a shared childhood. The friends I’d like to see rarely attend. It really comes down to a perverse form of sentiment.

My folks grew up in Danville, Illinois. They went to high school with Dick Van Dyke and were even part of the same theater group for one school year. They would go to their Danville reunions, renewing old lang syne every ten or twenty years. They always said that they hoped that Dick would attend each time, but he never did. I, too, always hope that this old friend, or that old friend, who may or may not have gone on to bigger and better things, will show up so we could compare notes on the past 40+ years. But like my folks and Dick Van Dyke, it will probably never happen.

Some people just don’t like reunions. And let’s face it, high school wasn’t a joy ride for most of us.

Me, I take a phlegmatic approach. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em, but generally tend to take ‘em. I didn’t have much in common with these people when I lived in Woodland, and I probably have less in common now. But there’s my old friend, John, who moved to L.A. back in 1970. And Walt, who moved to Arizona not long after high school and who I never see unless it’s in Woodland. Getting together with them is like jumping into a conversation that never stopped. Comfortable, familiar, always fun. And there’s Bob, who still lives in Woodland as a successful lawyer, and who might grace us with his presence. There’s Claudia and Debbie. There’s… The list is small, but significant.

And there’s Woodland itself—the City of Trees, as they used to call it, and maybe still do. It sits in the Sacramento Valley, a lush, green town filled with well-kept old homes, parks, a partially revamped old town with a restored live theater, lots of history. And lots of familiarity there. They tell you that you can’t go home again. I watched a video of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys driving down a Southern California street to visit his old home, only to find a freeway offramp where the house used to be. When I visit my old home on Third St, it looks better than when I lived there. The residents are keeping it up very nicely. I remember the street filled with shouting kids, always riding their bikes around. The last few times I stopped by the old home, the neighborhood seemed very peaceful and quiet. No kids outside, but lots of sycamores, elms, oaks and walnut trees—serene sentries to what has become an “older neighborhood.”

Truth to tell, I look forward to the next visit. I enjoy the renewal that comes with visiting the scenes of my childhood—driving by my grade school, now shrunk by time; strolling around the old high school grounds, now a junior high, the new school having moved clear across town back in the 70s.

Anyway, it’s getting time to reminisce with some old friends, the wild old men and women only slightly tamed now by time. Hopefully, the faces will still be familiar. And hopefully, the old friends, the real friends, will be there this time.

—Greg Shepard

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