Site Meter

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hello again, It's me.

Fantasy advice I needed

There is without doubt, a sweet pleasure in seeing long lost faces from an idyllic childhood after many years. We were a tribe of little children united by our geography and similar socio-economic conditions. Like any other tribe in history, our connection was temporary. The ebb and flow of our shared educational experiences brought us together and apart in the intervening years. We grew up in the woody suburbs in New Jersey at a time when most of our Moms could stay at home and we played outside with our neighborhood friends till the sun began to set; a rite of passage that has come and gone in this post 9/11 world. But for one too brief night in an overdressed hotel, we were transported back to those beginnings; the occasion, our 40th High School reunion.

Some were faces I had not looked at in over fifty years, never even expected to see again. Some evoked poignant memories long forgotten.  While those moments may be fleeting, they are the touchstones that chisel and define us in our journey.

I could write about the memory of singing “I’m ‘Enry the Eighth I am” on the blacktop with my classmates or sharing a fascination with those handsome men from U.N.C.L.E.. I could write about learning the truth of the birds and the bees with my playmates Linda and Jayne from a new girl on the block seeking our friendship, from whom we were then collectively forbidden to play with. I could relive with witnesses that moment in Mrs. Berg’s fifth grade class when we learned our beloved President Kennedy had been shot and we saw that our teachers could cry. There were the field trips to Becker’s Farm, the air raid drills where we hid under our desks to avoid deadly nuclear fallout, the brightly colored S.R.A. leveled readers or the gender defining assembly when all the girls and their mothers watched “Growing Up and Liking It”, a salute to menstruation and none of the boys were invited. But there was barely time to say hello again, how are you?

We were some of the last representatives of the Baby Boomer generation at a time before political correctness had constrained the structure of public education. There was no dyslexia, no ADD, no processing issues. There were only kids who were dumb -- evidenced by our trading in our grammar school meritocracy for an academically stratified Junior High School with three other tribes from neighboring schools. It’s hard to imagine what was in the minds of those educators who thought chopping all of us up and labeling us 7-1 (the brightest) to 7- 10 (the least) was somehow beneficial to all the learners. This first demarcation into haves and have nots was based solely on what our teachers thought our potential and destinies were to be.  Those relegated to 7-10 became the dropouts and the bullies. How else might one defuse the humiliation they must have felt being placed in the “dumbest” class?  We all knew what the numbers meant. We had spent hours in classrooms with these children. Awkward!

Thankfully, in high school the tracking was somewhat mitigated by our after school interests. The competition for grades or scholarship had nothing to do with these experiences. It was here that we might find like-minded friends. As the Art Editor of our High School Newspaper and Yearbook, as well as a very active member of the Drama club, the friendships forged from these efforts were ones that I carried forward. It was the in the spirit of collaboration, of teamwork – whether on the field or not – that a person’s true mettle might be measured. It is no surprise that those are the people I most wanted to see at this event or continued to see or had already reconnected with somewhere down the line as our lives went off in all kinds of different directions.  There were too few of you there on Saturday night, but we will talk again soon.

A classmate remarked at the reunion that it was like Facebook LIVE! And I think for many it was just that. Facebook took away some of the surprise as well as some of the need to reconnect.  We came armed with information about one another already.  What was really left to talk about? I was “friended” by close to 30 of my former schoolmates before I even walked into the stuffy hotel.

Nonetheless, seeing all these faces again, in one small space was sweet for they are the keepers of your early memories. Reliving moments with first loves, first play dates and sleepovers is a special treasure while we still have the health and good spirits to do so. Nothing is funnier than laughing about our crazy neighbors (We had so many!), kooky siblings, and wacko parents with people who experienced them as you did. This is a time to share those we lost in the intervening years as well. There is no small comfort in this.

My advice? Should you choose to attend your own 40th reunion, come with an open heart and mind. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Stay in touch with those who touched your heart and reminded you of those sweetest times. Don’t bother with those who hurt you or offended you. Life’s too short. Then go home and hug your family. And remember, your kids will probably be laughing at you at their own reunion. 

No comments:

Post a Comment