No Place Like Home

Problem is, I’m having a bit of a struggle figuring how where (and when) home is: I’ve just come back from my 45th high school reunion in Birmingham, and am trying to re-center on the who and where of things.

Was it a worthwhile effort? Yes, for sure. Where there disappointments? Inevitably, when thrown together after so long for such a brief time and with such superficial encounters, considering all that had come before in our lives together.

I’m debriefing and will have more to say about that, for what it’s worth.

I brought my mom back home with me, so we’ll be sampling the cultural offerings of tiny Floyd–which are MANY this week–the National Music Festival, The Floyd Artisan’s Trail, that kicks off this weekend, plus the usual characters and events. More soon!

And regarding photos from the reunion: Fred the photographer went off and left his cameras in the back room. So I am counting on the several dozen point-and-shooters to upload hopefully to a common gallery. But then, for a 45th, it might be better to remember seeing everybody through the hazy lens of memory than the cruelly-exacting lens of The Present.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. For about 13 years after high school I bounced around several states until finally “settling down” in Eastern North Carolina. During those years I lost track of all my high school classmates as well as most of my extended family. So your comment about struggling to find where and when home is resonated with me. This reunion was my first, and the ten-hour drive home provided me quite a lot of time to reflect on the experience. One of the words that came to me was “home”. I am ready, tentatively at least, to say that even the brief time we spent together gave me a feeling of having come home for the first time in many years. And this is in spite of the fact that most of the classmates I knew best were not there.

    Two conversations stand out in my mind. In one, three of us shared our recollections of the day the segregationist demonstrators gathered on the lawn in front of the school, and I came away with what I believe to be a more detailed and more accurate narrative of that day, a day which I have always considered one of the formative days in my life. In the other conversation one of our classmates told a story that bridged then and now, there and then, in a most wonderful and heart-warming way.

    I am looking forward to your reflections on the weekend.