Part 2: The Gathering
Thursday, November 4
After uneventful flights from Raleigh-Durham to Sky Harbor, I felt like a rube on her first trip to the big city as I attempted to exit the airport and find my ride. Several text messages with increasingly specific directions about identifying my location finally afforded me the opportunity to embrace my dear friend Pam and meet her husband, Greg. Our hearts were full as we talked nonstop and passed each in its turn the familiar sights on the always magnificent drive from Phoenix to Globe—the Superstition Mountains, Superior, Devil’s Canyon, Top of the World, the Pinto Creek Bridge, the saguaros, the tailings and slag dumps, and the view of town from G Hill, each with its own unique grandeur.
Since we were all hungry, our first meal together in Globe had to be at the iconic La Casita, whose unique Reynoso family recipes have lost none of their savor in all the 60-some years it has been my favorite stop for Mexican food.
Moving into our hotel rooms in east Globe was complicated by a malfunctioning lock on Pam and Greg’s door. We sat around the swimming pool waiting for a maintenance man and caught up on a fraction of the previous 50 years. From there, I looked across Highway 60 and saw on the top of a mountain an American flag, which I pointed out to Pam. The site of this flag provided a pivotal moment for me during my few days in Globe.
[Click on the photos below to see the flag from the way up–and the way down.]
Friday, November 5
Our first reunion activity was scheduled for Friday, but several close friends from our class and the one before us had arranged a mini-reunion at yet another Mexican restaurant in town, La Casita East, for an early dinner before the festivities. Our time together was so packed with talk, laughter, and reminiscence that few photos were taken. But the love and warmth of that group created better memories than photographs can possibly reproduce. Here are a few, though:
Next on the agenda was the the first official reunion activity, an informal get-together at the former Globe Café on Broad Street, famous/infamous for the popular activity called “bombing Broad.” Yes, the early 1960s as commemorated in American Grafitti continued for our classmates a decade later, who loaded into their cars and drove up and down the main street of town, honking horns and catcalling and probably doing some necking in back seats . . . Honestly, I’m not sure what they did because I was never part of that crowd in our class.
The amazing thing about the gathering at the Globe Café half a century later was that those “crowds” no longer divided us. I was delighted to note that I recognized the first person I saw as I approached the door—Bob Guttry, a classmate since elementary school. I had gone to the event with Leslie, but we made our ways into different conversations. Initially, I gravitated to the people I had been friends with in earlier times. Steve Mariscal and I grew up together on Noftsger Hill, and his sister Nancy and I have gotten to know each other better on Facebook. Randy DeVinney joined us midway through elementary school, and he and I attended the same tiny church and played together in the band in junior and high school. Bob Clark I knew from his father’s calculus class, the yearbook staff, and even a visit in the early 1980s to my home in North Carolina with his longtime companion, Judy Harrington (a close friend throughout school, who did not attend the reunion).
My circle widened as I mustered the courage to speak to those I have become friends with on Facebook—Carolyn Petty, Charlotte Bunney, Janet Walker, Deanie Lambert, Donna Rae Sachs, Elaine Bosse, Terri Perino. Our embraces were genuine, and our conversations, warm.
For those less attuned to the nuances of language, let me point out the significant choice of diction with which I began the previous paragraph: “my circle.” Indeed, that first-person pronoun reveals clearly that all the reticence was mine. These people were clearly open to me. So, as I realized I was in it for the long haul, I relaxed and moved more freely about the room. I had actual conversations with Ron Wood, Lon Winters, Leora Freeman, Mary Ann Quintana, Grant Boice, and John Panek, with whom I had at best casual relationships in high school.
And then came the real awakening, when people including Susan Aneas, Helen Renteria, Debbie Ledbetter, and Steve Drake spontaneously began talking with me about our shared lives and the intervening years as though we were simply carrying on a conversation we had abandoned fifty years ago. I scarcely remember even speaking to these people in high school—still less laughing together and sharing life events. But in retrospect, I realize that the fault was clearly mine, and if any of those people who have now become precious to me are reading this post, I beg you to forgive me.
Saturday morning, November 6
Our first scheduled activity for Saturday wasn’t until 11:00, so I got out moderately early to check out the hiking trails at Round Mountain Park. I had been there briefly with my sister the previous afternoon and had learned that the flag I saw from the motel tops the eponymous mountain. When I got to the park, I met Randy DeVinney and his wife, Twila, who had already been to the top of the mountain and down again. Although I had had no intention of actually scaling the mountain, their success inspired me to choose the appropriate trail, which turned out to be only a two-mile loop, with an elevation gain of 380 feet to 4,167 feet at the summit.
Not only were the views spectacular on that verge of the Sonora Desert. More important, they were familiar–familiar peaks, familiar vegetation, familiar vistas. They were images rooted deep in my soul. At various moments, I found myself confronted with the kind of rare and under-appreciated beauty that caused me to say aloud to the pervading silence, “I am home. I am really home.”
Despite the clock and the calendar, the hike was warm, but not taxing. When I reached the top, I saw two seated men in conversation. And they turned out to be two more of my classmates, Steve Drake and Lon Winters. We talked a bit and took photos of each other. While Steve and Lon had visited Globe fairly frequently in recent years, I noted that I hadn’t been back since 2007 and then mentioned in passing that I lost my parents in 1999 and 2000. When Steve asked me if my family was from Globe, I responded that my father had been born on Noftsger Hill and never lived anywhere but Globe.
After that brief reference ensued the mountaintop experience that inspired the title of this series, occurring as it did on top of an actual mountain. “I remember when your dad umpired us in Little League ballgames,” said Lon. At that moment, tears began streaming down my cheeks. This classmate with whom I had had minimal contact during high school had suddenly provided me with a vibrant and palpable connection with the long-ago, when Daddy walked with us on summer evenings to the ballpark just past the school. My sister and I watched the games and ate cinnamon suckers and Pixy Stix from the concession stand. And sometimes Daddy was called on to be substitute umpire. Lon remembered those rare occasions and even said, “He was my favorite umpire. He was always fair.” He later speculated that perhaps the fairness resulted from what his own father told him: that Daddy had only girls, so he had to indulge his sports fever with these little boys of summer.
As Steve and Lon returned to town, I savored the perspectives exterior and interior that my brief hike had favored me with. And as I made my own way down the mountain, I began thinking more deeply about the people from my class–especially those whose friendships I had missed because of my own lack of confidence and compassion. Empowered not only with gratitude for Lon’s memory, but with the details of many shared and overheard conversations of the previous evening, I experienced moments of clarity in which I finally knew in my heart something fundamental that I had previously glimpsed only in my head. That is, I understood that we have all lived lives of depth and significance. Some have remained in Globe, protected and isolated by the encircling mountains. Others have ventured away and made homes in California, in Washington, in North Carolina–and even in the Philippines. Some have had long marriages blessed with children and grandchildren–one with 42! Others have muddled through multiple relationships, none particularly fruitful. Some have lost spouses, and other have lost children to illness or suicide. Our class produced doctors and lawyers and teachers, but also those equally essential miners and plumbers and car dealers and owners of local Mexican restaurants. Some of us have remained in good health, but some have experienced major medical problems; some, of course, have been taken from us. According to one my favorite songs by Neil Diamond, “We have swayed beneath the same sun, looked up in wonder at the same moon, and wept when it was all done, for being done too soon, for being done too soon.”
This walk up and down the mountain revealed to me the value, the authenticity, and the richness of each of these lives individually, of all our lives collectively–and of life its very self. How fortunate I am to have attended this reunion, to have taken that hike, and to have learned that Lon Winters remembers my father as an umpire for the Little League. How grateful I am for all these people who have shared their lives with me as the Globe High School Class of 1971. And how blessed I am to have finally absorbed these important lessons given to me on top of a small mountain in a small mining town in the West.