My husband graduated from Louisiana Tech in 1976. He and his fraternity brothers and other college friends were in their early twenties in the 70’s. There is a group that have remained friends and in contact over the past decades. If one does the math, it is pretty quick to see that if they have not turned 60 by now, they are going to soon. A couple of the guys decided that such a mile-stone must be celebrated, and celebrated BIG. After all, with all they did then and have done since, it is a miracle that any of them have reached the Age of Gray. So, thanks to the modern marvels we have embraced, emails flew, Facebook pages boomed and calls circulated. Before you knew it there was a plan. And oh what a plan it was. Tom (and his lady Laura) offered his lovely Galveston lake house for a gathering place. Another took on the task of moderating available dates. One plotted and planned what to eat. Still another knew there needed to be music. Now, none of these guys are slackers when it comes to pulling something like this together, they have had years of practice (ask about Brian and Lane’s other birthday parties). Finally, the weekend came, June 4 thru June 7. I have not seen Norton so excited in years. He was online e-chatting, texting and old school phoning. Days off work had been cleared since the first mention of the Bacchanalia on the Bayou. Attire had been planned and replanned with appropriate hats selected. Finally, the big day was here. Our luggage looked like we were headed for the grand European tour. The camera was fully charged and loaded with two cables for recharging as necessary. Routes and alternate routes (lots of rain in Texas remember) had been selected and the GPS hooked up just in case. The car was cleaned out and healthy as an aging car can get. I grabbed some knitting (since I am a grandmother and it is illegal not to have knitting on a road trip), gave last minute instructions to Luke and the dogs and we were off. Texas, here we come.
The trip was perfect. The weather and traffic cooperated like it knew how important this journey was. We talked all the way down as Norton tried to explain the “family tree” and it’s many branches. Who was a fraternity brother, who was a roommate, who was a dorm buddy. Who had moved where and who was married. There were going to be people he hadn’t seen in too many years. There were going to be people I’d never met, but felt like I knew due to all the stories I’ve heard (many ended with… and then we took Jerry to the hospital). As we headed to the Bolivar/Galveston ferry, there were signs to expect a 45 minute wait. I was not sure Norton would be able to wait that long, but again, fate smiled on us. We pulled up, got in line and promptly boarded. [Now this is where I got excited. My sister and I loved going to Galveston and I think the high point was always the ferry ride. Getting on the ferry, I was as giggly as Norton had been for weeks.] Then we were there. We got out of the car and were nearly to the door when we heard voices from the back. I wish I could describe the joy I saw on my husband’s face when he said, “I hear them.”
At first there were gentlemanly hugs and handshakes. There was a chorus of Man You Look Great; a quick refrain of What Happened to Your Hair; and a snappy riff of I’ve Put on Weight Since I Saw You Last. Drinks were poured and gumbo dished out. Everyone talked at once telling where they lived and what they were doing now. Then another couple arrived and it began again. Pictures of children and grandchildren were exchanged. Wives were introduced and greeted like old friends. Plans were almost made and then shelved until everyone arrived, with the exception of a fishing expedition the next morning. Finally, sometime around 1:00 everyone ran out of steam and those of us staying “on campus” headed to bed. [As an aside, we had the cutest bunk room provided by a neighbor. This room was done up in beautiful beachy colors and sported three sets of BUNK BEDS. There is a reason that plump sixty(plus) old women do not as a routine sleep in the top bunk. Middle of the night potty breaks are dangerous. Just sayin.]
By the time I made my way to the coffee the next morning, more friends had arrived and the whole song and dance had begun again. There were homemade biscuits, jalapeno deer sausage, maple deer sausage and much more for breakfast. Tom and Lane manned the outdoor kitchen and grill like professionals. Then it was time for some real talking and story telling. Every “Do you remember when we…..” was met with an equal tale, which brought on another story which begat an even wilder one. And even more people arrived. Same song, second verse. There were boat rides, Seado rides and kayaking in the marsh. All that whetted appetites so red beans and rice made an appearance. And more drinks and more food. Again, Tom, Lane with Jerry acted as chefs. Fajitas on the grill and crawfish. The Kahlua and pound cakes did not last long. There were freshly made tamales, red fish and some blue crab. At some point there was even pizza . People got in the pool and others got out. Drinks were poured and annuals passed around and someone even brought an old photo album. (How some of those pictures were developed back then and not confiscated is a mystery to all of us) Somehow, it was 1:00 again and still the only plan made was another surf fishing trip to the beach.
On Saturday evening, we did make it out of the compound for cocktails and appetizers and headed to a great place on the lake. Some left by boat and some of us by vehicle. Waterman’s is a very cool place with a loyal following. Consider me a convert. Downstairs is the screened/open bar area that is super casual (good for us slugs). There was a country/Texas band that rocked and a few of our members did “cut a rug”. Rumor had it that the sunset was spectacular from the upper deck. Not to miss a great sunset, some of us headed up for the viewing just as the appetizers made their appearance. Even though I really needed to eat some more, I went up for the view. It was all it was billed to be, beautiful. (Don’t worry, we did make it down for wonderful snackys). For a couple of hours we drifted in various groupings up and down the stairs. Upstairs we could look off the upper deck and watch the fish in the underwater lights and take in the view. Downstairs was the band and an equally great view. No matter where one was, there were even more stories to tell.
People gathered in Galveston from Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Virginia and other parts of Texas. Charlie brought his girl friend from Germany. How brave was that! She had only been in this country about a week and her English was spotty. Jerry’s wife, Cheryl had some friends from Alabama join us so new friends were made. At best count, at least thirty people congregated at the Cabin on the Bayou (we have t-shirts to prove it). Greg traveled the farthest from Connecticut and Gary and Debra made it even though Debra was still recovering from surgery. The first of the group started at LA Tech in 1973 and by 1978 most of the group had graduated. Many different fields were represented in our bunch, from lawyer to engineer to forestry to nursing. While I refer mostly to the male friends, Wanda proved the exception to the rule. She was in the thick of it from the beginning and remains so now. Since she and Reid are core members of the gang, it is a beautiful thing to see them together as an old married couple (with grands!) sharing stories of their youth.
Guitars, drums, microphones and amplifiers also appeared. Brian, Lane, Ed and Reid still rock. They sang original songs and Led Zepplin. There were heart felt ballads and raucous guitar solos. And oh the free form jams! (I played my painted frog and sang along with gusto). Old men became boys as they sang and played like they had nearly forty years ago.
When we arrived, there was a group of older, gray haired men and women sitting around reconnecting after too many years. But with each story told, each song sang and every laugh shared, I watched years fall away, until there was only a group of kids laughing, teasing and loving each other.