I witnessed a most heartwarming event Saturday, August 29, 2015. Actually, I witnessed a day-long series of heartwarming events. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the “all classes” reunion of Cottonport High School and was totally enveloped in an almost surreal atmosphere steeped with all that is good about a small town in South Louisiana. It was a very special day for many. It was an extra special day for me.
“Big deal,” the eternally negative minds might utter. “Just another class reunion,” the half-glass crowd will opine. But it was indeed a big deal. You see, Cottonport High School has not been in existence since 1988. That’s right, the last class to graduate from “My Little Bayou Town” high school was the CHS Class of ’88. So, no . . . there was no football game. But, yes . . . there was a parade. The ever-proud residents of this quaint, Avoyelles Parish post card setting had declared, “You can take away our school, but you can’t take away our spirit.”
From the gathering at the center of town in the morning, to the final goodbyes after the dance that night, I saw an endless display of smiles, hugs, and laughter. And, of course, there was the obligatory eat, drink, and be merry behavior always present when the majority of participants are comprised of people whose DNA is spiced with Cajun genetic material. From the visit to the town’s cherished museum to the line dancing after dark, I witnessed the joyful recognition of names and faces, and I heard the heartfelt sharing of special memories both large and small. We were all part of an extraordinary day littered with random acts of kindness, steady expressions of love, and a group cheerfulness so incredibly organic that it could never be though of as synthetically manufactured.
The big gathering in the old gym was a certified nostalgic event. The cheerleaders and majorettes of the past moved along the floor in various groups according to their respective graduation dates. Some did a routine, some stuck a pose, but all were both gracious and graceful despite the passing of time. It was akin to a big pep rally and you could feel that festive energy throughout. And finally, of course, the football and basketball players of yesteryear were invited to the floor and a rousing time was had by all. Those of us who were sitting in close proximity to our old band room are used to being treated as step children . . . so we dutifully remained in the bleachers ;-)
I watched as others, like myself, seemed to constrain emotions while touring the old high school building. We shared tales of the teachers, and memories of the moments. We compared notes on classes and reminisced room by room. It’s amazing what an old collective of brains can remember once immersed back in the environment. From talk of the library time to votes for the favorites and the dreaded, we had a glorious time visiting with former classmates while strolling the old halls of CHS one more time . . . after a long, long time.
The parade was something that nobody who took part in will soon forget. It was more like a second line procession right out of New Orleans in that there were many more people in the parade than there were along the road watching the parade. Still, a great time was had by all. I watched the throwing of beads, cups, and mini footballs without much “throw me something mister” encouragement needed. I saw some skillful tosses and I giggled at the “can’t hit the side of a cotton gin” bead throwers. I witnessed the more energetic move on and off the trailers, cars, and trucks to carefully place cups, beads, and footballs in little ones’ hands. The character of Cottonport came through clearly from the characters on the various makeshift parade floats. I saw more kindness and tenderness in one hour riding that parade loop than you might see all day in the newborn section of a maternity ward.
After some cool down time, it was just absolutely inspiring to see the town’s major church filled to the brim with folks for Saturday afternoon mass. St Mary’s there on Bayou Rouge had a real reunion fueled crowd of the faithful packing the pews. It was a time for worship, but also a time when more visitors were spotted and recognized. And everyone was ready and willing to accommodate the numbers entering the church that day. The priest had a fun and meaningful message and I think each and every attendee was grateful to have been there.
The evening gathering at St. Mary’s School gym was both a highlight and a crescendo with a packed house and a boisterous bunch filling the chairs and bleachers. The food was fabulous, the music was memorable, and the time together was treasured. To have so many classes represented from an expanse of years was just so encouraging and so interesting. It was wonderful to reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances with folks where similarities in age was never a factor. The dance floor was active and the chatter was intense. The crowd thinned out a bit later, but the expected die hard remained to the last hooray.
It was indeed a most memorable day . . .
On a more personal note, I think I speak for many when I offer my most sincere thanks to all the people who organized and help put on such a great reunion. It is especially meaningful to those of us who live away from our old bayou town. You guys did a great job and many of us look forward to another one sometime in the future.
The Easy Cajun