Hundreds of state lawmakers - past, present, and maybe future - gathered for lunch on the State House lawn Thursday. Legislative Old Home Day was, for many, a highlight of the celebration marking the 200th anniversary of the State House.
You could hear it in the voice of former state representative and longtime former House clerk Karen Wadsworth as she greeted colleagues who were lining for their box lunches: Old Home Day can be an emotional experience.
“I’m just having a hard time remembering names,” she said.
But whether names could be immediately put to faces or not, the fellowship on display was unmistakable.
Former House members George Rubin and Liz Hager served together in the 1990s, and hadn’t seen each other in years. Hager was wearing a scarf in the state’s official tartan pattern. It was covered in legislative pins from the 13 terms she served representing the city of Concord.
"How can I declare my loyalty to the place?" she asked.
A few lawmakers sported colonial costume and tricorn hats. Many, including former Weare lawmaker Neal Kurk, wore State House bicentennial ties.
“I loved being in the Legislature, I love the people, I love the work, I love the intellectual combat, and besides, it’s good to see people with whom you worked for 20 or 30 years," he said.
It was also a day for recalling old stories.
Tamworth Democratic Rep. Susan Ticehurst sat with former GOP House member David Babson of Ossipee.
Ticehurst recalled the time Babson, who was then her representative, helped set her on her path to joining the Legislature more than a decade ago.
“I said something to him and he said, ‘And you should tell the speaker that. Go over and do that,' " Ticehurst recounted. "And I didn’t know that not just anyone just walks in and tells the speaker what to do. So I went and said, 'I'd like to tell the speaker,' and they said, 'Well, he’s really not available.' So I said, 'I’ll wait,' and they said, 'Oh, you might want to come back another day.' And I said, 'No, that’s really too long, I’ll wait,' and I sat there and eventually he really had to come out and listen to me.”
Ticehurst is now serving her third term, making her a relative newcomer in this crowd.
Dennis Fields of Northfield, meanwhile, has been in the New Hampshire House for three decades. For him, friendships made at the State House have been sustaining.
And when you are paid $100 a year, so too are free meals.
Fields was headed back into the building, two lunches under his arm.
"I’m going to eat them later," he said. "I might get hungry. It could be a long afternoon.”
Spoken like a true member of the New Hampshire Legislature, past or present.