Anxiety gripped my heart at the thought of going to Mentone for a get together with seven childhood classmates, some of whom I hadn’t seen in 40 years. They had successful careers, marriages or long-term relationships. Some had already retired and were on their second successful career. As someone on disability with four failed marriages under my belt, what contribution could I make? My stomach turned as I pondered whether I had the strength to face them and not feel shame. I squelched my desire to cancel. In two hours, it would be too late and, as I was riding with a friend, there would be no turning back.

The Ford Explorer “hiccupped” as we traveled towards Mentone up I-59 to J’s residence which she described as “the red house.”
“Can you stop and pick up some ice?” texted J as we exited I-59.

We swung into the South End Market and P purchased the ice. But as we sat there idling waiting for traffic to part so we could continue on our journey, the Explorer decided it was time for a rest. P got it backed into the far end of the parking lot and we talked while waiting for J (who was stuck behind a train). After 45 minutes, P tried the Explorer again, it complied, and we were once again on our way to meet J to be guided to the red house.

L arrived while J was bringing us back. We ate dinner and received lessons from J on how to play various poker games. Although there was some doubt in my mind whether J’s rules were consistent with the actual rules for said games.

Saturday morning came and we enjoyed coffee on J’s screened in porch amongst the quiet of nature interrupted only by the flutter of hummingbirds’ wings. J and I took breakfast duty. She cooked bacon in the oven while I attempted to cook a frittata in a griddle pain. I got the eggs whipped, ingredients sprinkled on top and slid the pan into the oven beside the pan of roasting bacon. After closing the oven door, I noticed eggs platter on the oven door. I opened the oven to reveal egg splatter on the bottom of the oven also. I had failed to notice the oven rack had an upward curve at the end and when I closed the oven door, it jarred the griddle pan spilling my previously-scrumptious looking frittata mixture everywhere. I told J I was going to have to clean her oven after breakfast, but she had a self cleaning one which burned the food off over three hours. Great, except for the smell of burned eggs.

“Hey, I think I’m lost. I can’t find the Rhett house!” came a text from M who stopped before continuing towards Rome, Georgia. Was Scarlet invited also?

J, P and I pile into J’s truck and go meet M to guide her in. W and R arrive while we’re gone.

H arrived from Tennessee. As J and I assist in bringing in everyone’s belongings, she looks at me and remarks, “It’s Denise’s fault it smells like this in here!” I admit my guilt and then set about periodically spraying my Febreze Jolly Pine air freshener in an attempt to combat the overpowering smell of burned eggs.

We gather in a circle on the large carport and catch up on each individual, our families, and mutual classmates from the day. Annuals and photos are circulated with some of them confiscating their pictures so they won’t appear (again) on Facebook at the hands of the original photographer.

Memories are compared, corrected, expounded upon, then saved as new and improved.

Superficial conversation changed over the course of Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. We had spent time together, cooked together, cleaned up after one another, laughed together, bluffed our way through hands of poker and Rook, slept in the same rooms, and now it was time to cry, console, and encourage one another.
We discovered several deal with a chronic illnesses from hypothyroidism to bipolar depression, two are Cancer survivors, several have overcome various forms of abuse with two being PTSD survivors. We’ve dealt with the loss of close loved ones. Two are caring for loved ones now.

While riding back home, I realized the purpose of my going wasn’t to contribute to the group; it was to receive an immeasurable gift of acceptance, love and support.

1st Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.

Each one of us left there thankful for the friendships and love preserved over 40 years and expectant of a closer relationship among each other during the coming years.