This is what 1975 looks like today. Pretty damn good, I think.
Thanks to the patience and perseverance of a few dedicated folks, the Coffee County Central High School (Manchester, Tennessee) class of ’75 gathers for an official reunion weekend every five years. Saturday night we gathered at the fanciest place in town to eat, to spill my glass of red wine all over my purse to drink, to catch up and to lose at to play charades. We had a blast — as long as we studiously ignored the fact that we all are way older now than our own parents were when we graduated. That’s a little scary. And it made me remember that the whole time we were going through school, people kept telling us that we were the future of our country and America’s success and welfare were up to us. I’ll just let that thought sit there for contemplation.
But here are some other, more cheerful thoughts:
BFF Debbie Stepp Ball was my date since husband John Lewis Pitt
s, sports editor at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, had this little thing called THE FIRST COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND going on. As usual, Debbie Stepp and I both wore pretty much the same thing, both worried about our shoes and both could barely stay awake past 9 p.m. Because that’s how we roll. Also please ignore the senior picture on my name tag. I have no knowledge of who that person is. None at all. Nope, it’s not me. Debbie Stepp, also as usual, got tons of compliments and people said things to her such as “Oh, Debbie, you haven’t aged a bit!” People said things to me such as “Uh, hello? Were you in my Spanish class?” But it is true that she has not aged a bit and is a beautiful person inside and out and I’m just glad she still lets me hang out with her.
The much-anticipated charades team made up of the class Cathys/Kathys — we think there were eight of us at one time — lost because WE FOLLOWED THE RULES and didn’t talk. The Cathys/Kathys ALWAYS follow the rules. It’s what makes us who we are. Fingers pointing at you, team of Gordon Smith. Fingers pointing at you.
The generation that graduated in 1975 got kind of stuck, history-wise. We missed out on the Beatles, the Sixties and Elvis. In the months before
we graduated, Watergate conspirators were convicted and the Vietnam War ended. Our male teachers were a mix of World War II veterans and young guys with bell-bottom pants and hair touching their collars. Our female teachers were a mix of ruler-slapping take-no-prisoners ladies who’d been teaching for about a hundred years and young women trying out this new idea that they could have careers AND have families at the same time. Is it any wonder we were confused? Is it any wonder that when the photographer at the reunion told us we could do anything we wanted for a “silly” picture, we couldn’t handle it? We panicked. We froze. This picture is as silly and free as we could get. But it’s not our fault. We were raised to do what we’re told. We need rules and regulations! Parameters and limitations! It’s how we do our best work.
And one final thought — these folks are all fun and friendly and delightful to talk to. Why didn’t I know that 40 years ago? Why was I so insecure that I didn’t venture beyond my own circle of friends? Wish I’d embraced all the quirks and differences and strengths that made us our wonderful different selves. But maybe that’s what reunions are for … that, and getting to hear your mother tell you, as you head out the door, “You’ll knock all those boys off their feet!” (my mom) and “Don’t drink and drive!” (Debbie’s mom). So glad some things never change.
We think we in the 21st century invented green living? Huh. We’ve got nothing on our parents’ generation. My folks, both born in 1934, each grew up with the Depression-era philosophy of “why buy when you can make do?” And they’re still following that directive. My mom saves plastic butter tubs and bread bags for leftovers, my dad turns paper over to print on the other side and they would never think of going out and buying tomato stakes. This is their backyard garden in Tennessee, and you can see that they definitely reuse and recycle — from the rusted metal fence posts to the strips torn from old cotton sheets to the outdoor artwork of flags decorating the iron headboard from a vintage bed. And they water the flourishing tomato and pepper plants with leftover ice. When the ‘maters are ready to eat, my dad probably will put a salt shaker out there for the freshest possible eating. I just hope they share.
When you see all the photos from Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this weekend — the crowds of folks and tents and arm-swaying humanity — remember that this is what it looked like before the gates opened today. Bonnaroo home Manchester, Tennessee, also is my hometown. I was there earlier this week visiting my mom and dad and we drove out to look at the 700-acre site, just about four or five miles from my parents’ house. On one hand, it’s out in the country on one of those narrow winding two-lane rural roads that natives take at about 80 miles an hour and everybody else creeps along. On the other hand, Bonnaroo is only a few yards up a hill from an everyday residential neighborhood that in the course of normal events usually does not play host to the likes of Steve Martin and Dave Matthews. Except during Bonnaroo. Because then my normal and everyday Tennessee hometown goes suddenly crazy. But in a fun way. On the Tuesday night of our drive by, the muscley official Bonnaroo guys riding four-wheelers around to check out the generators and fences and all the million details of the Bonnaroo infrastructure — they’ve built a city there, people — far outnumbered the trickle of regular folks who were starting to congregate. And on our closeup view, I noticed that those who live adjacent to the Bonnaroo site adopt one of two strategies for the duration: They either 1) abandon all hope and rent their houses out to Bonnaroo people or 2) go all in and rent out their yard space to vendors, open their doors to anyone who needs a roof and join in the party. One enterprising woman set up an awning, tables, chairs and grill and declared it to be “Momaroo’s Kitchen.” Why not? This morning the long line of traffic from everywhere else made its way slowly but efficiently to the Bonnaroo gates, and the good times began. Learn more about Bonnaroo and follow along at http://www.bonnaroo.com/.
It’s almost strawberry time here in the South, and I had a preview at the Tater Box in my hometown of Manchester, Tennessee, with this luscious piece of silky and sweet fresh strawberry pie. The Tater Box restaurant is in a former country store that stands at an intersection of two rural roads: Fredonia and Hoodoo. It clearly used to be a bustling spot and today at mealtimes, it still is. You can order the meat-and-vegetable-plate special or get a tasty and delicious hamburger, hot dog. sliders or chicken or grilled bologna sandwich, with homemade desserts — the banana pudding is a crowd favorite — to reward yourself. The Tater Box folks also do catering, so they may be working on elegant wedding cakes and mouthwatering trays of appetizers while they’re dishing out your fried okra and fried squash. And don’t forget the fried pickles and the sweet-potato fries. Worried about that word, “fried”? Just do an extra mile on the treadmill and remember to take your Crestor, because it’s totally worth it. This is fried without greasy and crispy/crunchy without inch-thick batter — fried at its best. The Tater Box also serves breakfast, with everything you would imagine a Tennessee breakfast to be, and has music on Friday and Saturday nights and karaoke on Tuesday nights. Check it out yourself at http://www.taterboxcafe.com and especially read the fascinating history of this building, which has been a hub of its rural community for almost 100 years.
I admit I’m not young and cool. I admit I think Lady Gaga should put some pants on. I admit I’m in that demographic of Super Bowl halftime-show viewers who said, “You know, Pete and Roger haven’t changed that much since I first saw them in ’75. When we had to walk 10 miles in the snow uphill both ways to get to the show.” But I was blown away by the great music I heard on the recent Grammy Award broadcast. I mean, despite Lady Gaga’s weird green Tinkerbell ensemble, her performance was powerfully awesome. Same with Beyonce and Pink. And Green Day and Kings of Leon. And I found myself tapping and clapping along with newcomer the Zac Brown Band. And Taylor Swift was intriguing — I mean, she knows she can’t sing but she’s so supremely confident that she does it anyway? Who is this kid??? So then I wanted to hear more from these folks — and of course classic favorites such as the Dave Matthews Band and even the Black-Eyed Peas. If I were music-savvy and had plenty of money, I’m sure I’d already have a Grammy-worthy CD and iTunes collection. But I’m not and I don’t. So, Wal-Mart to the rescue! Running past the electronics department — between office supplies and dairy — I spotted this $11 CD of Grammy nominees and I’ve been rocking out ever since. I promise you have to smile when you hear Fergie promising you a good night and Sugarland bemoaning that “It Happens.” You can order it from http://www.grammy.com/, too. This is like bullet points for pop music of the past few months — your kids and friends will be impressed.