The chairs and couches had been pulled into a circle and the joy and love was levitating in the center of the room. Our second reunion drew a larger gathering of the family. The short Friday evening through Sunday morning would strain the emotional heart-strings of each greying, smiling schoolmate. We were gathered, be still and hear the marvelous aria of friendship. No strangers here, older children at play. Every hour, every minute, every story was of gem, the passage of delight.
A year had gone since our first reunion and once again Houston was our rendezvous. Calvin, for a second time, helmed our ship but with over double our original crew, we now were met in an exquisite hotel, several floors ascended, seated in a perfect suite complete with catered cuisine, overstuffed chairs, and our most prized possession; luxurious privacy, privacy to enjoy the nearness of you, and you, and all...
Perhaps each, in entering this room, was embraced by that same quick, catch-of-a-breath-heart-lift-thank-God-for-your-recalled-face joy, I had experienced.
With every arrival our entire group giddily rose en masse with outstretched arms, and grateful spirits, and they joined a waltz of warm hugs for our yesterfriend. All were greeted by voices who called them by name and tightly squeezed with collegial familiarity a being who had once and now again, touched our spirits.
Before the day's end we would bloom into a "Bakers Dozen".
Marsha, Carl, Calvin, Karen, Dawn, Shawn, Jon, Clai, Stormie, Bob, Glen, Will, and Doug.
No description can do justice to the hours of happiness we spent together.
Our spirits remained the original seeds but we as grown plants were draped in different foliage; bell bottoms, leisure Suits, and the faded, hole-pocked jeans had given way to those now neat and comfortably stone washed and unambiguous Capri's. Chuck Taylors, breakneck platforms, and Jesus Shoes had evolved into multi-colored, richly padded tennis walkers, some with string ties others with Velcro straps or flat, low- sided leather or fabric loafers. Tube and tank tops, sleeveless army shirts, paisley's, psychedelic florals, super-short Daisy Dukes, loose fitting, silk screen or Tie Dyed, flower-child dresses with macrame belts had made an evolution into stretch waisted, Easy Wear, polyester blend, wrinkle free, light cotton blouses and golf shirts, in earth tones or floppy Hawaiian's emblazoned with golden sunsets or leaping fish.
Attending our first reunion in 2012 were faces I knew well, each had occupied one of the two years I had attended LMC. Loves I still cannot believe I was granted to join.
With this second reunion we added other classes beyond my time. I enjoyed now as I did with the first reunion an opportunity to search for the words to construct my emotional feelings, birthed, while in their company. They each brought that indescribable LMC something.
There is a 1962 gospel song I love. The author drew inspiration for the lyrics from Matthew 3:16. The song begins; "There's a sweet, sweet, spirit in this place". I have always felt that spirit among "My Own", and these new additions to our gathering brought this stanza to mind.
Each of these friends were long ago painted with strong stokes by an individuality brush.
I recalled meeting Carl Koellman in the summer following my freshman year. That was our only visit until now, forty years later. He is a full voiced man, rich with excellent stories, a commanding presence, and a bit of "seen most and done nearly everything else" devilment, in his eye. He leans toward his audience ready and expecting to capture an anticipated laugh or surprise. A not easily fooled guy that draws people in. He is fun, a deep growling bear with a grin. That weekend among the happiness, he lost a loving member of his family. I hope surrounded by those who loved him he garnered a bit of comfort.
Will Wiggins I could not recall having ever met but I knew the name and recalled fondly his brother Wendell. Will is a listener, with a gentle smile, and the self confidence to sit quietly while surrounded by a swirl of activity. In possession of a strong mind, clearly remembering facts and the reality of a long-ago tale, he can supportively, with few noticing, guide the tale or teller back on the rails when the embellishment has jumped the track.
For me, as again in the preceding years reunion, most of these new faces I had neither seen nor heard in the ever widening canyons of age. They each lifted my optimistic hopes and moistened my eyes.
There was Clai Ashton. Still cream of complexion, red of locks, standing straight, but with fewer sharp edges than I recalled. I told her of my youthful fear of her sternness an expressions reflective of the she wolf when she daily seen, decades past, during those few times she and I conversed while sharing classes at LMC. I always had the feeling Clai was in on a secret the rest of us would never know. Yet here I was talking to Clai, feeling adult, with no jitters, actually experiencing this new joy of friendship. She shook her head and gave a small laugh and then admitted that her shield of self-esteem in those teenage days, was to hide her shyness, her war-face was worn to guard her timidity. Once again a reunion jewel was added to my memories chest. I felt close to her as I never had long years ago and spent the weekend in the company of great gal, not once fearing for my life.
Upon arrival following my hugs, the empty chair was beside Shawn Freeburg. She was vivid in my memory. I knew her when a ten-inch crescent wrench always hung from her belt. She was a "techie" with not an ounce of desire to tread the boards in view of an audience. She truly loved working in the shadows or the dim glow of a control board. If I recall correctly she was especially fond of the electrics. Hanging lights and judging the usefulness of a faded sheet of colored gel was as satisfying to her as the accolades received by the spotlight crowd. She told me of her work, the passage of years where life had led her. Among our band her Shawn-piece of our puzzle fit perfectly. Oh my! In short weeks, had we only known we were saying our farewells.
To know Jon Morehouse is to define a smile. If he walks by, the corners of your mouth climb. If he brushes against you something inside throws out a giggle, and when he is telling a story or enjoying another's tale, then you laugh, catch your breath, look at Jon and laugh again. He is one of those rare humans that sits down beside a stranger and improves their world. He is always impeccably dressed, seems never to age, and deeply drinks the magic from the " Cup of Life", and then astoundingly leaves it full for others when he departs.
Stormie Ingram was correctly named by the gods. She was the only one of the new faces who attended this second reunion, that it had not been decades since our last visit. It had been a dozen years since we both lived in LA and would meet for lunch occasionally, or I would attend a play she was in, and we regularly spoke on the phone. Seeing her is like yodeling across a deep valley where the sounds carrying a great distance into the seemingly impassable. Yet you know you can cross that void when in need of Stormie-time. She hugs with wonderful vengeance, and makes family of her friends. She has always had one of the premier abilities to listen with concentration to another and enjoy all the tiniest nuances of their story. She compels you to want to get up and go. Rooms become a little gypsy when she is in them. I've describe Stormie as an adventure, akin to a grenade with the pin nearly removed.
And then there was Karen. Karen Weems is the face of kindness and the spirit of acceptance. I had not rested in her giving light for four decades. Karen's absence is forever felt, her friends wonder where she is hoping for her return when she is away. Her voice is light in volume, but when Karen is near you, she is actually near you. She is unafraid of human closeness. Karen, now among those who loved her, brought her calm embrace of care. My recollections of her were how she treated handsome, beautiful, homely, unattractive, nerdy, unpopular, black, white, male and female with the same gentle, honest, kindness. She not only rounded-out this reunion's crowd but added an evening breeze to our group.
So the room was full of friends and friendship. People were constantly crossing to sit in different chair and spend time with another. Elbows would touch on the couch, people sat near one another. Shoulders would be leaned across other shoulders to read something or view photos, and applause often would erupt following the animated revelations of yesterday's dramas.
On this first glorious evening, sometime after eleven but preceding midnight, we who attended college in those early days of voicing the importance of "conservation", stayed true to form and wearily departed towards our private caves leaving the "midnight oil" unflamed, and full within the lamp.
But before we passed into the Sandman hours, Carl gathered us into a small impromptu circle. He proved that each of us held a glass then lifted a bottle of our southern border neighbor's libation and divided its contents.
This was not a solemn ceremony, yet words of yesterday and remembered names of those who had exited our living stage, found voice. We raised our offering in reverence, and drank.
These unanticipated moments are jewels for those who attend, and are placed in their personal treasure chests. The unexpected, the impossible to anticipate, links, are added to our collective chain of we, the LMC Theater Alumni.
Special, exceedingly vibrant, unrehearsed flashes of light, polish the experience of attending our reunions. Buried emotions brought by the ghosts whom we have never ceased loving and being loved by, breathes into our hearts an indescribable connection of spirit. A spirit which has been patiently waiting for that precise intersection of our coming together. These heaven-sent gifts are a balm to the broken yesterdays and a life-giving drink into tomorrow.
None of us knew that in only few days Shawn would take her final bow and pass beyond our reach. That wispy October weekend of her nearness we will always have. She continues to live, nestled among us, in that happy, reverent/irreverent room.
And then it was goodnight.
A full Saturday would meet us when we awoke. The hotel lobby held an
all-you-could-eat breakfast bar, so impressive to Bob, that with the arrival of each recently risen, bad-hair and bleary- eyed classmate, they were greeted with his effervescent tour guide descriptions of the plethora of delights waiting to be consumed. Though several of us were perhaps only planning on multiple cups of hot coffee, Bob's dynamically enthusiastic culinary soliloquy assured that most of our number began the day fattened with a fine breakfast.
We luxuriated at our lobby table past the departing time of the omelette chef, pots of oatmeal, bowls of fruit, mounds of sausages, bacon, and stacks of waffles. When the LMC herd finally departed only the coffee urn remained displayed.
There are baskets of stories and anecdotes that I could relay during the passage of that Saturday. But two, like the lighthouse beam, illuminate brightly those happy hours.
A wonderful story is the secret and complex mixture of tale and teller.
Marsha is a master at word sculpture. In her dry humored, easy strolling style she told us of her unexpected visitations. During evenings in the women's dorm or emphasized across tables in the dinning hall, several of her companions had embroidered their lives, back home into the palace on high Olympus. In Marsha's actors imagination she was assured to one day visit the rambling hacienda of a Cattle Empire and the Rockefeller mansion of an Oil Barron. Not to be outdone, if I recall the story correctly, she had spun a yarn of her families Swift-Premium dynasty of meat production. Yet the reality of her visitations were to a small ranch, a filling station, and her father's butcher shop. The room rolled as Marsha would lean forward to make her points. Stormie was near tears, several were bent over holding their sides, and all we others were head-back barking happiness toward the ceiling. We could all picture these young women in oneupmanship, and in Marsha's relief to discover the Astor's daughters were not attending Lon Morris. empire waist wedding dresses with sleeves
After a time a discussion ensued about the campus, and how it's uses were dependent upon your personality. A statement was made about someone using the library rather than their dorm room as the best place to study. Jon, who is often standing and always smiling, with wide eyes and a look of total confusion, spun around, fixated on the storyteller, and asked robustly, "There was a library at Lon Morris?" The room fell pin-drop silent for only a moment and then was filled with laughter and descriptions of the location, appearance, and size of our library. Jon remained incredulous that he had no idea at that time or in the forty years since, that Lon Morris had a library.
And so it went all that day. Small, quiet, personal conversations, loud boisterous stories, the sharing of family photos on cell phones, remembered friends, parties, shows, classes, instructors. Days at the lake, nights at Funny Rocks, decades in the scene and costume shops. Jimmy Journey, Miss Dwyer, Miss A, Mrs. Earl, this show and that, the dorms, the front steps, different cars, Dennis tightrope walking for weeks on the pipe in front of A Frank Smith. The wondrous revelations of lives, children, jobs, adventures, joys and sorrows beyond those short years we tossed frisbees on the lawn and sweated through the critiques, in our cloistered Zula Pearson Theater, performing "Dem-labs".
That evening around eight our final scheduled gathering occurred. A small but formal dinning rooming had been procured by Calvin, with expertly chosen menu which allowed for personal choices of fowl, fish, or hoofed beast.
Both meal and company were warm and satisfying and though a delicious dessert followed, the sweetest flavor was something none of us expected. Bob McClendon sang to us all. Any performer knows that being before your peers can be ones most agonizing times. But Bob gave to us his most precious of possessions, his heartfelt renditions of several songs. He had already constructed a display of LMC memorabilia around the room, enjoyed by us all before dinner. But now, accompanied by Mr. Bose, we sat watching and listening to this lovely man serenade his friends. We were silent, each far away in spirit and memories, transported by this gift of music given unselfishly to each of us. Another memory placed kindly in our treasure chests.
Though we had a few remaining hours, weariness tapped each shoulder and beckoned us back toward the realities of our lives the following morning. Though there would be hugs of farewell too soon, we lingered as long as possible in the overstuffed chairs and on the comfortable couches, looking into eyes still bright with the horizons of yesterday.
In that room, through that weekend, for virtually all our waking hours, did we sit and share and laugh and at times dry tears, rich with the memories of youth in Hippie times. Inundated by the discoveries of our personal journeys, long ago taken, when Denver "Filled up our Senses", and how we each had separately, boarded the Doobie's, " Long Train Runnin' " toward life.
Join us in October. There are more treasures waiting.
October 20-22-2017 (Weekend Friday-Sunday)
Information concerning Hotel Reservations;
Bob McClendon has reserved 20 rooms under the name "Lon Morris Theater Reunion"
at the same hotel we used at the last gathering.
The hotel policy requires that you reserve your room by September 20 to assure its being held.
Holiday Inn Express
1923 South Jackson St.
Jacksonville Texas 75766
(check in 2:00Pm-check out 11:00Am)
Bob also wishes to once again share a feast with entertainment for lunch on Saturday at his home. All are invited.
More information concerning exact times and any scheduled gatherings will follow.
Please let everyone know if you plan to attend as soon as possible by posting on the LMC Theater website so we can have a better idea of our number.
Reunions, like other gatherings, of groups who know one another are often pushed to grow by the knowledge of who will attend.
I will post the confirmed attendees in the next few days. If your name is missing don't hesitate to call or text me. At times mail can go to junk and be missed.
Also feel free to call if I can help or answer any questions.
Glen Veteto 361-876-1171