On a journey, coming home

Tom Turk may have been the first person to “come home” to Alpena.

In 1840, Tom and a friend spent a night under the stars at the mouth of the Thunder Bay River. They were alone.

Forty years later, in 1882, Turk came back to that same spot, but failed to experience what those who return normally do — that things had changed. With Turk, it was different. It wasn’t that things had changed — it was there were things.

Ray Timm has pursued a variation on the Tom Turk theme. Both before he left home and after, Ray would leave people and things to go off to where there were none. When Ray came home, he noticed changes. Changes had occurred to him, too, but many failed to notice.

We leave for different reasons, going off to different places. If we come back, we discover people and things have changed, some more than others, or that people and things we knew no longer are. The longer we are away, the more differences upon our return, and the more likely it is we’ll need to ask for help: “Look homeward angel, tell me what you see. Will the folks I used to know remember me?”

Will they see me as I am or as I used to be? How much of what there, still will be?

Some experience another Turk variation: coming back to nothing — nothing of what used to be.

Max Lund left, went to war as others did, came home changed. He found home had changed, too, but not as much as he had. Now, Max goes back to Southeast Asia to observe changes begun long ago and changes he is now helping to create.

Burt Francisco and his wife left to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Thirty years later, Gen. Francisco and his wife came home to pursue opportunities different from those they moved away for. Homes change, people change, things change, opportunities evolve, rank changes.

Hope remains.

Hopes for our children and for closeness to family tug at us. Those hopes drew Patrick and Anne Heraghty home — as did grandfather Bastow’s Sunshine Muffins, kept warm wrapped in a tea towel his mother had sewn.

Marlo Broad: research librarian, thespian, valued information source, told me when she saw the Great Lakes again, she cried.

People come home for reunions, looking for something of what they left behind, finding some of it in those who come home with them. Our city has had three reunions: in 1915, 1925, and 1935.

Consider the 1915 reunion. The band played. But then things started to move, according to Robert Haltiner’s “Alpena Gleanings IV”: spellbinding acrobatic feats, horizontal bar performances with the Mitty-Demeraux troupe, leaping and barrel jumping demonstrations by the incomparable Bean and Hamilton, and last, but certainly not least, those intriguing maneuvers of Madam Derosa’s performing cats.

With talent like that, those in attendance not from Alpena doubtless wished they were.

On the front of the 1925 reunion program is this:

“Carry me back to old Alpena, where the Pine, Spruce, and sweet May flowers grow. No place on earth can I love so dearly as where I lived long long ago.”

For the 1935 reunion, The News published a special edition, including a list of those who had returned. A large majority came from the Detroit/Flint area, none from overseas. One came from New York City, one each from Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Duluth. It should be noted Gertrude Stoughton came home from Bolton. I suspect Gertrude was able to reminisce with the best of them.

Were we to have a reunion now, how different those places of departure would be. But the destination wouldn’t change, nor would the essence of the journey.

Coming home is to arrive at a comfort, one where “Sweet May flowers bloom.” Nothing more is needed: no band, no special entertainments, no performing cats.

Changes? Those the passage of time has marked upon us will be noted; those infused by what we’ve seen, learned, or instilled, may not, as we move along on a journey coming home.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs biweekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.