It was the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who wrote long ago that “in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
And while that’s true, although he didn’t know it at the time, he could have added some other things that folks’ fancies turn to in the spring, especially in June, although June is now summer.
Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend considerable time with couples, young and not so young, helping them turn their June thoughts into June weddings. It’s always been my hope and prayer that when that spring season has passed and they’ve moved into their autumn and even winter times that things have worked out so they’re still together in the same year.
There are other things June is noted for besides weddings, however. Some of those things include graduations — now over — and full-blown baseball seasons, although mostly for the majors and minors since high school is done and college is winding down.
And yet there’s one more great tradition when spring comes knocking: church homecomings. While not every parish celebrates in late May or early June, many do. Some folks, because of tradition, pick other times of the year, even late summer or early fall. But what’s really important is not so much the when but the that — that it happens sometime.
The reasons for these events are perhaps as varied as the people celebrating them. For some, it’s what they do every Sunday, worshiping at their customary place. For others, it really is the opportunity to go back “home” to their community and church. Whatever the reason, it grabs many folks like a magnet. Nothing wrong with that.
It’s been a privilege for me to share in many of them, near and far. And while they’re pretty much the same wherever, they’re also different in style and substance, sometimes in barely noticeable ways.
And the changes ... through the years there have been many, especially since the time of life I was a child.
As I remember them from then at this vantage point of 60-plus years ago, the weather was hot, the preaching was long, the music was loud and food was bountiful and good. From this point, I’m going to refrain from making similar comparisons to today because I could incriminate myself, so let me just note that the weather is still kind of warm and the food is still good.
But we no longer spread out food on pieces of heavy wire fence that sat on sawhorses to create tables, all safely tucked under a line of massive oak trees. And no longer are tea or real lemonade with slices of the fruit floating among the ice blocks dipped from a big wash tub or poured from a metal barrel. And while you can still eat outside on a picnic table or by holding plate and drink in your hands while trying to munch your chicken leg or ham biscuit, it’s often hard to resist the temptation of air conditioning. Plus, in those days, folks always kept an eye on the sky to see if there would be rain.
As a youngster, I liked eating outside, near the tables where I had already scoped out the fried chicken and ham biscuits and warm soggy Duke’s mayonnaise-laden tomato sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.
And the cakes and pies.
My dad was not only my idol then but my mentor as well. From him, I learned how to fill a plate, find room for dessert and balance my cup of tea all the while consuming various and sundry amounts of the good stuff. He also showed me the value of finding a Plymouth or Chevy with a big front fender, which could serve as a table if I got tired of not having four hands.
I think of those days often now, especially as they recede farther and farther into the past. And as my dad often said about various things, I wouldn’t take a million dollars for them.
So, find a homecoming to go to. Greet old friends; make some new ones; and have a tomato sandwich during this season.
It’ll do you good and help you, too.
Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.
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