Gerald was one of 16 in his Wolf Lake High School graduating class. One alumnus and wife were in the habit of coming back for a late summer visit and a McClure grade school reunion. A few years back, the local social leader of the 1948 class—Irma Dell Eudy Elkins--started calling the rest of us to meet for dinner at Fox Hollow, the East Cape fish eatery.
Others who went to school with this class and some relatives might also show up for the gathering. I finally began to get acquainted with those long-ago buddies from Gerald’s high school days. A couple of classmates have died and a couple of the locals don’t feel the need for seeing long-ago classmates, but still there are always two or three long tables of us. When this year’s reunion was planned, last spring’s flood caused the fish place at East Cape to close. There was some question whether Foxy’s could reopen, so Irma Dell reserved the room in a Mexican restaurant at Anna for us on Thursday night before the holiday weekend began.
This year everyone was missing “Doc” Knupp whom classmates had sent funeral flowers for earlier in the summer. He had been brought with his walker from a nursing home the last couple of years, and we were glad to again see his sister Mary Ellen from Cape who had brought him last year.
We enjoyed picking up Ruby Morrison Treece from her assisted living quarters in Marion, where she had moved when her multi-floored Cape Girardeau home became too much to take care of. She is still recovering from open heart surgery, but is looking good. She and Gerald shared a birthday when they went to the rural Miller Pond School as children. (That building was just torn down this summer, and Gerald’s brother Garry acquired those bricks) For a few years back then, a small country church congregation met in the school house on Sunday, and Gerald and Ruby made professions of faith there on the same day. Ruby married a young farmer in the Mississippi River bottoms, and Jim was the brother of our sister-in-law Opal Treece Glasco. In small communities, there are often layered connections between people, and this has always fascinated me.
(Anyone who digs into genealogy when populations were more limited immediately begins to find such overlaps--siblings marrying siblings and such. When we had two daughters living in Nashville, TN, I became convinced from their stories that this was also true in city circles because they learned that a stranger at a party might turn out to be connected to someone they already knew. I regretted I had not majored in sociology to better understand these inter-connections of people better. I guess this is similar to the six degrees of separation that mathematicians and academics explored for us and popular culture embraced.)
Ruby was an excellent student with a wonderful sense of humor and later became a successful business woman when they left the Mississippi bottoms and moved to Carmi after Jim became an insurance agent there. We enjoyed talking all the way to and from Anna, and Gerald and Ruby caught up on many mutual acquaintances.
A sad message from my cousin Ken Johnson in California waited when we came in that evening. His brother Eugene up in Collinsville had passed away. So the end of that evening was filled with my reflections and reminisces of my Rockenmeyer family connections. Ken and Gene used to bring their Boy Scout tents to Mount Airy Farm, and we kids would all camp out in the front yard with cups of meat grease to put on our chigger bites. More recently, Gerald and I took our grandkids to Cahokia Mounts one summer and on to Gene and Elsie’s house, where Gene had an entire museum room devoted to his rock and Native American collections.
Suddenly we were into Labor Day weekend, and we had made no special plans. I realized as I read the weekend papers that many people were making the most of this late summer holiday weekend with visitors, reunions, cookouts, or going to the DuQuoin Fair, and I felt a little left out. Our nephew DuWayne had become sick at work on Friday and was in Cape Girardeau hospital for tests, so yesterday afternoon Gerald went with his brother Keith to see him. I was at our daughter Katherine’s as usual on Sunday afternoon. She and I were highly delighted when her sister Mary Ellen phoned. She and Brian had come down to clean out their grain bin today for this year’s crop and found no one home at Woodsong. So Brian brought her into Katherine’s, and soon Mary Ellen had Kate and me in stitches as only she can do. When David brought teenage Sam home from his youth group, Sam added to the hilarity with his impersonations and witty remarks and the belly laughing continued. I knew this was better than any comedy club, and I no longer felt left out of the holiday celebration.
Mary Ellen and I finally went home and joined Brian and Gerald at the kitchen table, where everyone fixed themselves hot pockets or pot pies from the freezer and visited more while also enjoying tomatoes and cantaloupe from Gerald’s garden. Since Brian had taken their camper up last week for the Farm Progress Show where Stone Seed had an exhibit, they and Fifi stayed over night with us. So there was more visiting this morning. And today Gerald brought in the first watermelon from his garden to finish our lunch menu. With no planning, my Labor Day weekend has been a success.
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