I know its cliché but most of you reading this have a place, “where everybody knows your name.” Now that you have an NBC sitcom title sequence stuck in your head, let me amend that idea. That place, it isn’t so much a place as it is a group of people. The fact is, that wherever they may be does not matter. Those people know your name, they know more about you than that. You might call them your family, your friends? You might use another little word, that despite its length is packed with meaning, ideas and feelings, Club.
When I was young, some small-minded folks that were around thought (and maybe still do) that the club was a location, a building, fields, real estate. If we are talking about the small-c club its true. If we leave 4666, we are done for, someone intoned. I don’t think so.
If we are talking about Club, with a capital C, that’s something else entirely. The tragic thing is that we don’t as a people talk about the big-c Club often enough. It’s easy for each of us to get too deeply wrapped up in what we do. It’s hard to stop and reason, wonder, and appreciate what we have in the lifestyle afforded to us by the German Hungarians.
Clubs like ours often talk about gathering for the purpose of preserving culture and tradition. While that is true to an extent, my Aunt Marlene once said something to me that struck a chord. I won’t quote her directly, but the sentiment was that these clubs did not form for that reason. These clubs like ours formed for companionship and community. The preserving of a culture then was a secondary reason to continue to gather.
In our 50th Anniversary Book from 1960 the history opens with a paragraph I’d encourage all members to read. A particularly notable passage is:
“Everyone who has had the experience of being alone amidst strange surroundings will recall having felt a sudden glow of warmth upon seeing a familiar face or hearing a familiar voice. During the great immigration to this country in the early part of this century there were many people who upon arrival experienced a feeling of loneliness, and oftentimes fear.”
Those waves of immigration first created, and then later rejuvenated our communities. They added new but likeminded people to our Club. Since then we have maintained an ever-tighter grip on our customs and traditions. I’d argue the reason being that those traditions remind us of those immigrants. Again, it’s not the place or the what, it’s the people.
In modern Club life we often hold our contemporaries to impossible standards. Though it can be frustrating and is often a source of quarrels within our ranks I’d like to offer another view that there is a beauty in it. Pushing each other’s participation with such fervor as to offend stems from a deep-seated fear of loneliness, and a passion to be together.
My other aunt uses the term often “F.O.M.O.” or “fear of missing out.” Those following this way of life definitely have it.
I think we also have a sometimes frustrating, wonderful, beautiful need to be amongst our people as much as we can. Lately, with the spread and worry of this Chinese virus, the Coronavirus, the technical term COVID-19 we’ve been kept away from our club. Yes, social distancing is helping to stave off the spread of disease and we are all of us Americans safer because of it. Still deep in our hearts many of us might be feeling lonely and fearful in these times.
Our own special 110th Anniversary had to be postponed because of this. (Do not worry, we celebrated in our own way on Saturday and will celebrate even bigger and better again in November this year).
I believe things happen for a reason. A higher power than any of us leads us in ways we may not understand. Maybe big-c Clubs like ours needed this separation to remind us of how much we crave the warmth of each other. Maybe this happening is a challenge to our human fear. Maybe we just needed a reminder how dear we hold those folks that always know our name.
Michael N. Fricker