Guarding the purses at the mass school reunion

Published 4:33 pm Saturday, September 8, 2007

We went to one of those Mass Class High School Reunions a few weeks ago, the kind we have in Leland now about every four or five years. Matter of fact it’s promising to be at lesser intervals for the immediate future, at our ages.

However, this was for a different school and a MUCH more recent class period than my own Reunions. I really didn’t know but one other person who would be there, and had met maybe a half dozen others: one a fall political candidate for state Insurance Commissioner, Mike Chaney, who had married above himself to a Lexington Belle like I did; one couple I knew most recently through the Mississippi Main Street Program; and three or four other girls who had been attendants at our wedding. Matter of fact, two of the latter were standing at the door when Betsy and I walked in. “Betsy Harper!” they cried, advancing with open arms. Betsy handed me her purse so she could hug freely, and ran to meet Jean and Judy.

I remembered Jean best: her mother had volunteered to stay at Betsy’s house during our wedding, and had sewn the pant legs of my getaway britches together while we were being wed and partying afterward. Uncle Sam and Godfather Frank Tindall got us away cleanly from the church to the house, and we rushed to change and run through the hedge to our already-packed honeymoon Buick Wildcat. I threw the tux coat, pants, cummerbund, suspenders, and bow tie to the corners of the room in my haste, for my groomsmen had promised terrible things if they could catch me in Lexington. Pulling a shirt over my head, I grabbed my trousers and literally jumped into them. I went head over heels as my feet would only go as far as the knees into my pants. Luckily, I had a pocketknife in my tux, but it was a near thing, to keep me from using it on Jean’s mom after I cut her threads aloose!

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I spoke to the ladies who had gotten us safely wed, then strolled over to the bandstand, trying to hide the purse I had been bestowed with. Mike came over to talk for a few minutes, but left again after noticing my purse. I couldn’t blame him, so I looked for a solution to my problems: 1) I hardly knew anyone there, and 2) I was a man carrying a purse.

Aha! I spied an empty pair of seats at a table, against one wall, so I made my way to claim them, and stuck the purse under the table. Not five minutes later, the only person there whom I knew well came up to hug me, then asked for Betsy. I pointed and said, “I’m guarding her purse while she visits with her classmates.” Gin nodded enthusiastic approval, handed me her purse, and left to greet her own classmates. Two purses under the table.

Not five minutes after that, another girl who had been in our wedding walked by, and we recognized each other. After her inevitable question, I pointed toward Betsy and explained that I was guarding hers and Gin’s purses. Gwenda promptly handed me her purse — more like a small piece of luggage — said, “Well, guard mine, too,” and left. Three purses under the table.

Two ladies I didn’t know at the next table leaned over to ask would I watch their purses for a little while, and I agreed. Five purses under the table.

You know, I sat there and had the best time that evening, though I knew very few people and didn’t get to talk to them, really. Gwenda would come by now and then to change shoes and clothes; Gin brought me a coke and some food, as did Betsy twice: the ladies at the next table returned, claimed their purses for a while, then slid them back and left again. But people I didn’t even know would stop in front of me and talk loudly enough for me to hear over the band: “Did you even recognize Bubba Hugh?” Or, “Can you believe Jessie May had five kids, and looks like that?” Or, “That’s Bubba Lee…no, that’s Mickey…who IS THAT?!”

There were some more folks sitting around who had not graduated from Lexington High, so were obviously not having much fun. Not me! I watched Betsy having a good time not worried atall about keeping up with her purse, as well as Gin and Gwenda, and the ladies from the next table. I had found my niche!