It’s October 1962. I’m swept back into the teenage milieu that molded my character; sitting in Mr. Yates’ music room at East Orange Catholic High School , rehearsing a quartet, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, that we will bravely perform in four-part harmony, at the upcoming Glee Club Concert. I’m consumed with the day-to-day challenges of senior year, striving to get good grades and SAT scores, fretting about college applications, and being acutely aware that the decisions I make, will determine the forward path of the rest of my life.
Fast forward to 2013: I’m packing an overnight bag for my 50th high school reunion, where I will reconnect with fifty, formerly young women. Many will be mothers and grandmothers; some will be noted professionals in their field of endeavor. A few will have traveled the world and seen amazing wonders. Some will have survived crises, and all will have dealt with the inevitable physical and emotional evolutions, that spare no one.
My memory is flooded with dozens of images and recollections, bobbing up to the surface like apples in a dunking barrel. But the old questions and insecurities lie just beneath the calm, mature smile: Who are these women? Will I remember them? Will they remember me? Will they like me?
I nervously park my Infinity in the last remaining space and stumble into the hotel lobby, dragging my ‘wheels’ behind me. There is barely enough room to wade through the crowd of people, chatting animatedly. I’m a little annoyed, until I realize that these are “my people”! Suddenly their eyes and facial expressions come into focus, and I strain to casually glance at their donned nametags. I hear my name, and turning to respond, my eyes connect with several familiar faces from the past. Suddenly, the years wash away and we are girls again, giggling in the hallway, as we pick up our welcome bags and information packets.
We learn that this evening there will be a Mass in honor of our class and, in particular, in remembrance of those who have passed away. Though they are absent, they join us, as we share humorous anecdotes about them and about who ‘we’ were. We know that though we all have had unique experiences, we are the same.
Half a century ago, we were given the very precious gift of ‘great expectations’. The faculty of nuns and priests who guided us, expected amazing things from us; and we, each in our own way, rose to those expectations. Revisiting the past through the lens of a life well lived, gives perspective to that life, adding texture and context.
I am happy to be present on this fabulous fall weekend, at a cozy suburban hotel in Northern New Jersey, sharing a few moments in time with these very special women.