When I think back to my teen years two things stand out distinctly – and I’m not talking about sex and cheap beer. No, in the small town where I grew up, a place with limited transportation options and even fewer entertainment opportunities, cruising (or walking) around listening to the radio (or cassettes) was our recreational past time. During my recent visit home, I discovered the familiarity I once had with the roads, be it on my two feet or four wheels, remains.
Decades have passed since I last resided in Greenwood Lake, yet the curves of the road continue to be as familiar to me as my own hand. I consciously approached the village from the east. I wanted to go over the mountain, the same mountain I had walked, hitchhiked and driven for years. While there have been some changes along the side of the road, particularly in Sterling Forest, the twisting and curving path of that black ribbon snaking through the woods and between rocks, hasn’t changed.
Driving over the mountain flooded me with memories. There was a fogged in night when my mother managed to negotiate the road with an open driver’s side door and the assistance of the double yellow line. I remember a late night return from work in a blinding snowstorm which caused my coworker (who was driving) to slide off the road and into a ditch. We were eventually rescued by a passerby whom we rewarded with bags of candy pilfered from the gift shop on the thruway rest stop where we worked.
At the top of the mountain there used to be a pull off spot to take in the view – and hang out partying. We used to claim that on a clear night the lights from NYC’s skyline were visible from that vantage point. I still like to think that they were. One of my most vivid recollections is from a wild night of drinking with a large group of people from town. When it was time to head back down the mountain, one of the guys decided he didn’t want to be in the car, he wanted to be on top of the car. I watched in horror, from the car immediately behind, as he climbed out of the moving vehicle and stretched his body long, arms extended, gripping the lip of the roof while traveling 50+ mph down the narrow and winding road. While he survived that escapade, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot a few short years later. In retrospect, maybe he was trying to kill himself even then.
I turned off the mountain prior to approaching the village. I wanted to drive down a different road, one I had frequently taken when I was in the mood to walk instead of hitchhike. It was a good decision. I was pleased to see that the area had remained essentially free of development and that the trees which stood vigil beside the road remained the most prevalent residents. I wondered who else might remember the year those same trees were devastated by gypsy moth caterpillars, the sound of the leaves being munched impossible to drown out even with my Walkman blasting Van Halen’s Eruption.
In my head, I can still hear both.
Despite my attempts at processing the hundreds of distinct thoughts and images in my head following my trip to the past last weekend, my mind is still in a whirl. During my drive north, while I tried to assert a sense of order to all that had been stimulated in my head, I realized that the 30th reunion I had attended had prompted more questions than it had answered and I wondered if other alumni felt the same way. I wished that I were better in those sorts of situations, more open to approaching others and initiating conversations. I had wanted to feel a connection with those around me, a connection which ultimately I could only find in fits and starts.
I’ve attended each reunion planned by the class Dynamo, Robin. There have been four. If I take the time to consider what compels me to insert myself in an environment which doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable, my only conclusion is that I’m seeking something, some sort of resolution or denouement.
Kind of silly, right? What can be learned from surrounding myself by people with whom I shared a building, along with some experiences 30 years ago? I just don’t know.
High school was not four years of social activities and academic achievements for me. I was not present for much of it, figuratively and literally. I felt lost in the hugeness of the high school after the intimate experience of my Greenwood Lake education, going from a class of 65 to one of more than 400 in the blink of an eye. Cliques and expectations were well established and I flitted between groups (heads, brains, jocks) committing to none.
Each reunion has invoked a similar lack of ability to engage. I simply don’t know what to say to anyone. There are familiar faces, some from high school so long ago, others from social media, and flashes of memories race through my mind. But where does one start when it comes to covering the last three decades? And – to what purpose? My high school experience will never change and my future probably doesn’t include any of the people I struggle with to make meaningful conversation. If an opportunity presented itself – say a classmate was going to be in the Albany area and wanted to grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, I’d be interested. I’m just more comfortable interacting in a smaller, lower-volume setting. Perhaps that’s my take away, my conclusion?
I think this was my last reunion.
It was summer and I was about 13 years old. I don’t know what initially started the disagreement, but words flew between me and the other girl. She was from a family of girls and she was far meaner than I. She wrapped up her verbal assault with a shocking assertion regarding my mother, my brother and myself. The sound of her words stung me with an undeniable ring of truth and I immediately recognized that secrets hurt.
Secrets are kind of like snakes – what makes them scary is that they appear unannounced. If only they would wear collars with bells which tinkled as they approached! Since that isn’t realistic, living life in the open without rocks to hide under seems to me to be the best way of preventing things from sneaking up you. So, that’s what I do.
The secrets that Mary Lambert sings about are not my own, yet this song still perfectly expresses my own sensibility of secrets. I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are. So what.
I’ve been a Yankees fan my entire life. In elementary school I flipped baseball cards with the boys to add to my collection and when Thurman Munson died while I was away at camp, I convinced the counselors that the American flag needed to be lowered to half mast in the Captain’s honor.
The Yankees’ roster of the 1970s was filled with huge personalities. Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Sparky Lyle were larger than life sports figures who attracted attention both on and off the field and I loved rooting for my guys in pinstripes. They were exciting, often controversial and always entertaining and I watched every game I could, including that magical playoff game in Boston when my least favorite Yankee, Bucky Dent, redeemed himself to me by hitting that 3 run homer for the win.
While life changed in the ensuing years, my love for the Yankees never abated. My team won the World Series during my first two pregnancies and I seriously considered contacting George Steinbrenner to see if he might be willing to sponsor my third pregnancy, seeing that we had a shared history of both being able to “produce” simultaneously. Those late night World Series games were when Derek Jeter first came to my attention.
I recall him as being an earnest, hardworking and enthusiastic player. He limited his drama, unlike the players from the 70s, to the field, and his boyish good looks and shy smile made him an immediate idol. When I learned that he had a close connection to my hometown and oldest friend, I loved him even more. He has been a joy to watch and my team will be hard pressed to fill the gap he leaves in their roster.
At a time when heroes are in such short supply, Jeter allowed us to consider him to be ours. He represented a team, a sport, a city and a country better than anyone else has ever done. Jeter’s humbleness made us proud and I am heartbroken by the thought that there will never been another sports figure with as much character and positive influence as Derek Jeter. Enjoy your next chapter, Derek. You’ll be missed and remembered forever.
“In the sweet old country
Where I come from
Nobody ever works
Nothing ever gets done.”
There was a summer a long time ago, in the mythical (to some) town where I grew up, when it seemed that the Rolling Stones’ album “Some Girls” was in constant airplay. It didn’t seem possible that so many good songs could all be on a single piece of vinyl, but they were.
When I look back at that particular summer, it seems like I spent a lot of time hanging out in a gas station right in town. Those were the days when gas stations were places where the bays were devoted to car repairs rather than being set up as mini markets. There was an office with a big desk, a cash register, a phone which rang a surprising number of times a day and an old (even then) soda machine that had been jerry-rigged to dispense nips of beer instead cans of cola. I absolutely cherish these memories.
Over the years, the gas station was owned by the fathers of two different friends, I still am uncertain of the order. One of those fathers lost his child, my friend, to a motorcycle and a sense of invincibility decades ago. The other is now close to being lost to his daughter, and his other children, at what still seems to be too soon. It’s made me sadder than I ever imagined.
You should know that fathers were a bit scarce amongst my friends and me. Many of them were absent in one way or another, something we never explicitly questioned or discussed until years later. This particular Dad, though? This man was present. I came to know him and the quiet and amused manner in which he accepted me, always made me feel comfortable in his presence.
Although it has been many years since those days, I’ll never forget them. Time passes and life changes. It all becomes much less simple. Parents get divorced, they get sick and a future without them to look to guidance and validation becomes imminent. The memories though, the feelings of happiness and appreciation that can be summoned by a song on the radio, will be there always.
Some girls are really lucky.
I grew up in a house surrounded by books. Holidays and birthdays always came with books and I have vivid memories about my favorites. Two titles which greatly impacted me are Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House. Now, these are two seemingly different books, but, I’ve recently realized they have a consistent message about the importance of home.
The story of Miss Suzy is a sad one. Poor Miss Suzy, a grey squirrel, is forced from her home (complete with acorn lamps!) because of a rough group of red squirrels. She is able to find a new place to live, a home she realizes she shares with an army of wooden soldiers.
Miss Suzy befriends the soldiers and, in appreciation for the kindnesses she shows the soldiers, they reclaim her home from the red squirrel gang. They lived happily ever after, but I still harbor negative feelings about red squirrels.
The Little House is a completely different tale. In this book, a lovely home is built in the country. As times passes, development occurs and the house transitions from rural to suburban to urban. Eventually, the little house is surrounded by skyscrapers and busy roads, in a fashion which is similar to a recurring nightmare I had with frequency during my twenties. Change is scary. Finally, the little house is purchased and loaded onto a truck and taken to a new country setting and everyone is happy again.
I hope there is a similar outcome with this house on New Scotland, near the intersection with Whitehall Road. What once must have been a beautifully located home is now sadly wedged between an Amedore built condo development. I know nothing about the circumstances which caused this to happen, but the property has been on the market for quite some time and I would hope that it will ultimately have a conclusion similar to that of the Little House.
Q’s favorite Bond
My 7 y/o is currently obsessed with James Bond. He gave up Star Wars at about the same time that George Lucas sold the galaxy to Disney. Coincidental? Perhaps. If you offer him something to drink, it is completely plausible that he will request a martini, shaken not stirred. It’s adorable. Well, to me it is because I’m his mom. Someone else might find it obnoxious or cheeky, but I’ve always had a soft spot for 007. And my children, of course.
Over the recent holidays, I did some reflecting on my own memories of the Christmas season and I thought about a family from my childhood who taught me what a blended family might look like. There was a mom and a dad and a daughter. And an ex-husband and the children shared by he and the mom. And the ex-husband’s son from his second marriage. And also the son from the Dad’s first marriage. The kids all referred to each as brother and sister and the relationships seemed pretty relaxed and fluid, kind of like a well mixed martini. They were Italian-American and Westchester Jewish, a combination which resulted in great food and wonderful traditions. I loved them and everything they taught me about family and love and backgammon, truly.
As a divorced parent*, I might one day find myself in a similar position. You know, blending children and families and friends with a partner. I’d like to think I can do it with as much tasteful grace. I know that none of those relationships was perfect, I mean what is?, but the central thread of children which wove them all together created an inspiring family fabric, a patchwork quilt that gave at least as much comfort as a familiar cocktail, I imagine. How about you? Do you have any experiences like this to share? Grab yourself a cocktail and share, why don’t you?
*I’m not a “single mom.” The boys very much have two parents.