Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley contemplates a trip "home."
Next year will mark the 30th year that my wife, Nancy, and I have called Hannibal “home.” I love telling people that while we have lived in Twainland for almost three decades, people are only now no longer considering us as newcomers.
Before coming to Northeast Missouri, my career took us to stops in Newton, Kan., and Neosho, Mo. But while Hannibal IS home now, when people ask where I’m from I still tell them Rolla.
While born in Jefferson City, I lived in Rolla from when I was a first grader until shortly after Nancy and I were married and we loaded up a van with all our worldly possessions and relocated to Neosho.
Unlike Neosho and Newton, which I haven’t revisited more than once since leaving those communities, I’ve been back to Rolla several times since leaving that south-central Missouri town.
The most compelling reason for many of those return trips to Rolla was the fact my oldest son, Caleb, went to college at the University of Missouri-Rolla, which now is called the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
I also went to Rolla a few times in behalf of my younger son, Jacob, before he decided to pursue educational opportunities elsewhere.
Another of my return trips to Rolla a few years ago was to interview for a job opening at the Rolla Daily News. And while they offered me the job, I decided that returning “home” just wasn’t something I was prepared to do at that time.
There have been other opportunities to return to Rolla, if only to visit. In recent years, every five years to be exact, I’ve received invitations to return to the heart of Phelps County to reunite with my former Rolla High School classmates.
For the past almost 40 years I’ve always found an important reason to skip my class reunion – it fell on the day in which I had to re-sort my sock drawer; it happened on the day designated to wash my delicates; it was scheduled on a day set aside for toenail grooming. Obviously, my reasons for not going were sound.
Since walking out of Rolla High School for the last time, the only classmate I’ve had any contact with is Ron Rowe. An over-the-road truck driver, Ron will occasionally make a layover in Hannibal and make a point of looking me up.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have other friends in high school. There were countless occasions when my VW bug was filled with far more testosterone than commonsense. But on graduation day, we all scattered without regard to maintaining contact.
Ron has gone back for reunions and has encouraged me to do likewise. But aside from the scheduling conflicts mentioned previously, there was just little appeal to attend an event sure to feature a lot of strangers, smoking, drinking and loud music.
Typically, reunion invitations were disposed of in short order. But when an e-mail from classmate Bob Schwaneke appeared in my cyber mailbox last week, for some unexplainable reason I paused to look over the 40th class reunion information with an open mind. And aside from a scheduled meal at a place called the Roadkill Restaurant, the itinerary didn’t spook me.
Although there will be some reunion-related activities to attend, it also looked like there would be ample opportunities for me to break out my cameras and have fun in a new setting, which I’m always hungering to do.
And while the prospect of being surrounded by strangers is more than a bit overwhelming, I’m assured of encountering at least one friendly face – Nancy’s. She seems more than willing to ride shotgun, despite the fact the event falls on our wedding anniversary.
While I’ve not committed to attending my class reunion, neither have I ruled it out.
Maybe it is time for me to go “home.”