where creative minds can interact
I wrote this as a memory of my reunion. It is fairly long.
Lisa suggested I blog it, so here goes!
You Can Go Home Again
I recently wrote a song called “Let Sleeping Icons Lie”
It is a bitter sweet song about revisiting old relationships I had held in my heart as iconic precious memories. These reunions ultimately ended in sadness, disappointment, and reality that left a hole in my heart. The final verse to that song is:
Let sleeping Icons lie
Time travel is too much to bear
Have pity on the fools who try
Only you know what awaits them there
Oh how I wished that I had kept them as fond memories, and not looked under that rock and awakened the beast.
As my milestone high school reunion drew near I had teetered on the fence for several months. Why would I want to subject myself to disappointment yet again? Had I not learned you can’t revisit the past without bearing the consequences?
A few things happened that made me have a change of heart. I looked at the list of people in my class who had died, and also I had recently lost some friends who were currently a part of my life, and who were younger than I. It was also a pinnacle reunion. So many years had gone by…so much life lived. As it will most likely be the last reunion, how could I not go? 50 years. Mind-blowing!
Finally I got an email from a classmate that said “Pleeeeeease come to the reunion”. That tipped the balance for me.
Just as I decided to go, another of my classmates from early childhood decided to go too. She is an actress and International storyteller, and had the same trepidation as I did. We had both made our decision to go to the reunion around the same time. We got the last available room at the hotel, and knew it was meant to be.
It was also ironic because 25 years ago she and I were sitting 180 degrees from each other listening to an Indian Medicine Man named Sun Bear. I heard someone say her first name, and although I hadn’t seem her since we were 17, I knew who she was. After I told her who I was, she told me our 25th reunion was in a few weeks. I had no idea, because I was not in touch with any of my former classmates when I left school. We decided to go. My mother was still living in Pittsburgh, where we went to school, so I told her we could both stay at my mother’s house. We went to the reunion and enjoyed it, but when it was over, no one really stayed in touch. A lot of it was listening to people brag about what they had done, their families, etc. Everyone went back to life as usual. It wasn’t until Facebook that I reconnected with her and a few other people.
As soon as I made my decision to go, I got out a photo I had from 2nd grade. I recognized half of the faces, and listed names according to rows. I emailed the photo to those people I recognized, and who were going to the reunion, and asked for corrections, and filling in blanks of people I didn’t remember. It became a mission for me.
By the time I was ready to go to the reunion, all but one name was identified.
I also grabbed a picture of the house where I grew up, dated Sept., 1951.
When I arrived at the hotel, the magic began. Several people from that picture were in the lobby checking in at the same time.( My high school class was comprised of several grade schools and numbered close to 600 students). I showed the picture with all the names to some people who were in that class. I told them I wanted to take a picture of us as we are today of those of us from that picture who were attending the reunion. There were 16 out of 32! Everyone thought it was a great idea, but no one thought it could be done.
That night many people came to the hotel to hang out and see who was there.
In high school there were cliques based on various social strata such as sports, money, where you lived, etc. I never felt part of any group. I had no idea what to expect. It seems that time and age are equalizers. From the most popular to the geekiest nerd, from the most brilliant M.I.T. professor to the person who raised a family and just enjoyed family life….it didn’t matter. We were all so glad to be alive and to see each other. It seems that when you recognize a face from your childhood or teenage years, there is a deep bond to the cellular level. We were all part of something at the same time in the same place all those years ago, and that is all that mattered. Some stories were told that cleared up puzzles. Some forgotten memories evoked. No one had anything to prove. We were just there hanging out and enjoying each other…..and laughing when we would focus on someone and recognize each other.
People had seen me come in with my guitar. At the end of the first night they wanted to hear me play, so I did. Since I was a non participator in school, it was fun to share a piece of my spirit.
The following day, my friend (that had stayed at my old house for the last reunion) and I set off to cruise the old neighborhood. I asked her if she would mind stopping at my old house…the one where we had stayed for our 25th. She was up for it.
I had picture in hand and rang the doorbell. I had dreamed of doing this. I had many dreams of that house over the years. Dreams where I spoke with my parents after they had passed away. I had no idea of what reception I would get. The man who answered the door said he was busy. I whipped out the picture and showed it to him, telling him I had lived there, and that the picture was from more than 50 years ago. We were immediately invited in, and met his wife and darling son, who had just won an award in Karate. I was given a tour, and told him about a stairway that no longer existed, and some other differences. The basic integrity of the house was the same, but the bathroom and kitchen were remodeled and a small store room gone.
The original brick fireplace was still there, as was the stained glass window.
I knew exactly how the rooms would be laid out. I went into my old bedroom, which was now the child’s. He was so excited to know that was my bedroom.
We sat on the sofa eating chocolate mousse, looking through the same archway that led to the dining room. Then I sat our on the front porch looking out at basically the same houses on my street. All of the houses were recognizable!
They took pictures of me, and I promised them I would send the some of the old pictures. I told them I was so happy that such lovely people were living in “my house” It felt so great to be in that house again.
Some of my classmates went to the high school, which is called Taylor Allderdice, in Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. I had no interest, because I knew it would not be as I remembered it. The interesting thing is now there is only one entrance, and security cameras everywhere. They check for weapons, drugs, etc.I did get to see some pictures, and I think it would have saddened me to go there. What a safe time it was when I went there. The most dangerous thing that went on was kids smoking cigarettes by the “smokestack” in the courtyard. The most daring thing that kids did was to cut class….or drag race!
I got to see the rest of my classmates that evening at the country club. There was a reception and dinner. They had a DJ playing old songs. Some people danced, but most just caught up with each other, cameras flashing everywhere. Voices and swells of laughter filled the room.
It was at this point I decided to fulfill my mission. Since I had talked to the 15 or 16 people from that 2nd grade picture, they knew who was in the picture. One of them said, “Great idea, but I doubt you can pull it off”. “Watch me”, I said.
I walked up to the DJ and told him I wanted to make an announcement.
I had lined up a professional photographer with a camera lens the size of Kansas. He was the husband of one of my classmates, and all for it.
The DJ stopped the music, and I announced that we were going to take a picture of the people who were in that 2nd grade photo. Everyone rushed out to the lobby, including some wannabees that weren't in the picture. It was hilarious. We were like royalty. Many people came out to check out the scene and take their own photos of this event.
The next morning many of us had breakfast at the hotel and said our goodbyes.
At the end I was asked to do a few sing-a-longs, which I did. It was a wonderful way to end a magical weekend.
Will I see these people again? Who knows. Will I remember all their names when I look at pictures in the future? Who cares!
Yes….sometimes you CAN go home again. It felt like I had come full circle.