Today, the first Tuesday of this May, Mary Ann and I will drive to China Grove for the monthly mini-reunion of my A.L.Brown high school class of 1964. We never know who will attend, but the number is usually over twenty classmates. The great equalizer age has removed the competitive and cliquish days of high school, so we will enjoy sharing stories, plans, and news.
We will drive North out of Mooresville along State Route 150 and as we leave the housing developments and small businesses, we will turn onto Route 152 East, a good secondary road that crosses the fine farmlands of Iredell and Rowan counties. The spring wheat will be greened and tall, but the corn sprouts bursting through the red clay dirt will be barely visible. The trees far past the fields will be leafed out, and the old and new houses along the way will be in full shade of their oaks and maples. We will chat along the way about mostly small matters and comment on changes we notice of the landscape since last month’s gathering. Coming into China Grove one of us will comment on the well-kept, old mill houses and remark that several still have the “Thank you, Jesus” sign in the front yard. Turning onto North Main Street, we will pass the stores and arrive at the restaurant. We will spend time with each other, will be read announcements by our leader Gail, and she will remind us that today, May 01, over fifty years ago, our classmate Tommy died from an accident in P.E. class. A stillness of respect will take over the room, but soon, as it should be, we will return to our eating and talking. However, it will soon be time to leave and return to the present demands of living. Mary Ann and I will travel a bit south to visit my mother and the sister who is with her.
She and I have travelled this road before—U.S. Route 29 through China Grove, Landis, North Kannapolis, then Mary Ann will say, “Oh, I know where I am now,” as we will enter Kannapolis at Loop Road, next to one of the many vacant lots that once, when I was a boy, held part of Cannon Mills Plant 1. As we will turn right onto Loop Road and head to 312 South Juniper Street, I will point out where classmate Bill lived during high school, and the site of the tall water tower that was painted in white and red squares. We will turn onto South Juniper and have a good, but short visit with Sonsy my sister, and we each will talk with my bed-ridden mother, who we are not sure hears or sees us, but we will share with her regardless. Soon we must leave to get home and let our hounds out of their crates, so we will cruise up White Hill, through Ehnochville and onto Route 3 North. We will pass familiar sights such as the road which my father used to drive to take my brother and me fishing. Divorced from my mother, he would ask her to let us go fishing with him at Earnhardt’s Lake on Sunday. She thought that a sinful way to spend a Sunday, but sometimes she relented, and we shared a bit of time with our father. I have a memory of him once reaching into the water from the bank where we stood holding our cane poles and grabbing a snake by its tail, whipping it in the air to cause its head to disconnect from the body. Young boys, my brother and I were impressed by our father’s act, as we saw it, of bravery and knowledge. We learned later that it was neither.
Earnhardt Lake Road behind us, Mary Ann and I will soon enter and pass through our home town of Mooresville, but not before I will comment that I see Ricky out in his yard, working one of Belinda’s and his many hives. Soon, we will arrive onto our quiet, LKN road, and release the hounds to the backyard. Mary Ann will change clothes before planting the purple clematis between the library windows while I will play with Sweeney, our three-year-old neighbor. She and her mother will soon return home, and we will join our animals on the screen porch to reflect on the day, the first Tuesday of this May.