Reunion – The Power of A Smile

May 7th, 2011

In town for my 35th high school reunion, I also met up with my neighborhood pals – from when I was 3 years old. The two are like siblings to me – Y and A. We used to play baseball with my brothers and Dad in the huge backyard. Huge to a 3 year old anyway.

A and I met at his 95 year old father’s assisted living home. I drove up and couldn’t believe it. A, a cute kid and awkward teenager who had grown rather tall and large, was a sleek, good-looking man, happily married with a beautiful daughter. I was/am so happy for him!

We went in to see A’s father. At 95, Max is still sharp as a tack and his hearing is excellent. He filled me in on the old neighborhood. What happened to each family. Great resource! I remember Max as always happy to see me and nothing had changed this day.

I think he was probably happy to see anybody.

Y, who has become a lovely young woman, reminded me we used to put flowers on A’s door on May 1, May Day. I guess we used to compete over it. I didn’t remember her as being so funny. What a delight!

We talked about our parents, our escapades, how safe it was in those days – we just went out. To play. Y and A brought photos. I slowly remembered Y’s basement – pin the tail on the donkey. Wow. Birthdays. Otherwise we were running around outside, playing touch football, baseball, basketball, hide and seek, jumping in piles of leaves, going to the local library, the local bowling alley, the local movie theatre.

I remembered we used to have fairly large turtles in our fountain (aka second base) out back. The birdbath was first – it was the farthest distance to run. Raccoons used to invade it – we thought we were in the country with raccoons! Birdfeeder was third – the squirrels used to try to get the bird seed. Dad and I used to sit on the landing with his binoculars and look at the birds. He’d identify them for me. Just Dad and me.

A, a year younger, read to me about Thor and then would quiz me. Pretty cheeky and pretty cool.

My second birthday, end of first grade, Donna, my best friend, and A, my other best friend, and I were walking home from school. We walked 5 city blocks from our public school. And one of the streets was huge.

Mom was on the corner waiting – a rare sight. Usually at that time of day, she was at work – psychiatric social work at a hospital. She said: Mae, A’s Mom, wants you to come up there and play. I liked A’s Mom a lot. She had never had a daughter, so she saw Y and me as daughters.

We raced up there and played for a while outside until Mae told us to head to my house. How they got away with this…without a second thought from us…but we headed to my house. When we got to the back of my garage, I told A and Donna to head one way ahead of me, and I snuck around the other way. Tee hee.

Well. When I came out from the garage, there was a table on the driveway with about 10 kids. Mom was saying to A and Donna, “hurry sit down”, then, “where’s…?” I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

Just then B, Y’s brother, looked over toward me and pointed: THERE SHE IS!

Oh, Tor! My Mom cried out slightly crestfallen she had missed the look on my face.

It was a surprise birthday party for me!

Caaaake! Mom never threw another surprise party for me again.

Back to my reunions:

I had already had lunch with my niece that day. And the day before I had had lunch with my father and dinner with my cousin…

The next day, Friday, my high school buddies woke me at 8am – I had to see “The kiss”. The royal wedding. I rolled over knowing they’d be playing it forever.

I met up with the gals at breakfast, after “the kiss”. And caught up on the last five years – the last time I had seen them. We got a tour of our school – wow; they needed a better architect – what a hodge podge of buildings it’s become. We toured the former boarding department. Nothing has changed since my pals were there – it was determined to be too costly to upgrade. It was a bit creepy, really.

Lunch at Brownell House then cocktails at Lower School. Food was unbelievably delicious – I actually lost weight as I listened and ate.

Then the all-school party at 333, a bar. I walked in at the appointed time. The place was fairly empty and I recognized no one. It did occur to me that everyone else was told a different place. Ha ha.

Then I saw my brother – wow he looked great!

We talked for a while as people started pouring in. I still didn’t recognize anyone. It reminded me of the “recognition ceremony” we had at business school – a sort of graduation. Someone said they paraded everyone on stage and we all had to figure out who they were.

So my brother had to name some people for me. Some of the gals from the rival school are super. We went on a Spring break trip to Bermuda together while juniors in high school and had a great time. What a blast! Four to a room – so a constant pajama party.

Another’s uncle is Pete Conrad so some commonality.

I saw some of the guys whom I had known as a kid – they have become nice men. I have to remind myself that they are men, not kids – we get right back to kid-dom.

The next morning, breakfast with the gals, barbecue at Beechwood House, where I went to second and third grade. It’s a magnificent building, an old home.

At the barbecue, several people from different classes said hello – they remembered me or their siblings remembered me, or they admired Chuck Yeager. Lisa was there, as well as Cynthia, two very different, but very interesting, beautiful women.

From the barbecue, my classmates, not many had come to the reunion, headed back to the boarding department for another visit to their old rooms. I headed to Merion Cricket Club, a beautiful club, just to see it and then to the airport.

But  before all that, I looked around Beechwood…great memories.

I started at this school in second grade. I remember being the last to arrive on the first day and was ushered into the classroom from the back. One empty chair/desk in the back. The next day, I was in the second row. We were supposed to pass a message down the row. I passed it to Katie to my right (remember we were age 7). Katie then whispered to her right – but she was the end of the row. I thought it was pretty funny and decided I wanted to be that person – the funny (cleverly funny, not buffoonish) one. Katie was quite popular because of it and because she was a cute girl with long braids.

Sally said she looked at me, I smiled and she thought: She’s my friend.

The power of a smile!


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