Tag Archives: girlhood

Glory Days – Greenwood Lake Middle School’s Class of 1980

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It probably wasn’t coincidence that I heard that Springsteen song not once, but twice, on my way to the 35th reunion of my 8th grade class, right? There probably isn’t a song more appropriate for getting together with classmates and reminiscing about shared childhoods than that nugget that made its debut the same year I graduated from high school.

I’ve been to school reunions before,  4 of them actually. But this, the first middle school reunion planned and executed, was different. After a couple of days reflecting about it, I finally recognized what made this reunion so very novel. From the first M-W reunion in 1984, which I attended in a white crepe number I referred to as my Ginger Grant dress, I went with the intention of showing people who I had become, how I had grown and changed. Going to a reunion of my 8th grade classmates couldn’t have been more dissimilar.

Attending a reunion, in my actual hometown, with other members of the Class of 1980 wasn’t an exercise in validating who I am now. Instead it was a warm embrace from the friends who have always known exactly who I am. From the former teacher who remembered me as being “so smart” to the women who made a point of telling me that I had given them something intangible  that they had never forgotten, those that were present on Saturday night demonstrated that the value I held for them was completely unrelated to anything I may have achieved in my life.  It was simply because of who I am, and who I’ve always been,  in an absolutely organic way.

Getting together with those who shared critical, right of passage events – field trips to NYC, hitchhiking adventures, explorations with gateway substances, first kisses, was positively fantastic.  The hard work of classmates to make this event happen was greatly appreciated by all who attended and I truly believe every one there had a special and memorable night. For those who weren’t there, by choice or circumstance, you were missed.  Pencil this event in for 2020.  It’ll be epic.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, Education, Events, favorites, friends, girlhood, Schools, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

What home feels like

DSC_0001

The stone staircase alongside the waterfall

Memorial Day weekend probably seems like the ultimate cliché when it comes to traveling a couple of hours (or more) to revisit one’s childhood. Not to take anything away from our nation’s true heroes, but surviving our teenaged years in the small village of Greenwood Lake made us veterans of an entirely different sort.

DSC_0002

Fitzgerald’s Falls

Since we had been brought back to the lake to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Class of 1980, meeting at the Middle School for what we exaggeratedly called a “hike,” was the perfect re-entry to the past. Heading for the trail, we walked alongside the brick building where we had once ruled, recalling intramural soccer games, events from the bicentennial celebration of 1976 and the family of ducks who once resided next to the now fenced in pond. It all felt like it could have been yesterday.

The trail into the woods was filled with memories of hikes, both with teachers and without adult supervision. How lucky were we to have had the Appalachian Trail behind our school and to have grown up at a time when exploring our surroundings was considered a valid use of class time? How many nights did we spend in the woods drinking cheap beer, listening to the waterfall splash against the mossy rocks, gaining an entirely different education?

Pink lady's slipper orchid

Pink lady’s slipper orchid

When we got to town a little later in the afternoon, it was remarkably familiar, yet ever so different. Businesses have come and gone, as is to be expected, but the renaming of childhood landmarks was jarring. What was known as “the field” or Pembleton’s to the more precise, was now named after someone who made their mark long after most of us had left the lake for lives elsewhere.  It felt like a weird responsibility to be the bearer of memories of what came before.

If I squinted my eyes I could still see the flea markets and fairs of long ago, along with the remnants of what was rumored to have once been a play area complete with mini golf and a concrete pool in which to sail toy boats. Situating myself along Windemere Avenue, relying upon buildings which may serve different purposes yet eternally remain the post office and Christman’s Realty to me, I located the slab of concrete which will always time stamp both my first “serious” boyfriend and the year the sidewalks were installed in town.

Look closely - can you read it?

Look closely – can you read it?

I took a run around the arm of the lake, a distance which is far shorter in miles than I ever would have guessed. So many of the places are different yet easily envisioned in my mind’s eye. Frank’s Pizzeria, now a residential building, but once home to great slices and a nice man who often gave me a ride up the mountain on his way home. The Bristol Bridge, long ago replaced by a span with far less interest and minus my name written in surprisingly weather resistant red lipstick.  McMansion-esque home replacing the cottages and bungalows where my friends lived so many years ago.

In Greenwood Lake everything feels familiar, yet nothing is exactly the same. Going home is like being dunked in a well of memories, moments from the past which, upon reflection, either gain or lose significance. There are ghosts everywhere – of friends lost to time or death and older versions of ourselves. But there’s a comfort in all of it. We were there and who we are today is directly related to the experiences we shared so many years ago. Going home feels like just the place I wanted to be this weekend.

1 Comment

Filed under aging, friends, musings, relationships, road trips, Schools, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Dirty laundry

image: ecoearth.com

image: ecoearth.com

With one child headed to college in a few months and another who constantly places clean clothes in the dirty laundry hamper rather than (re)folding it and putting it away in his dresser, I’m thinking it is time for me to allow both of them to enjoy one of adulthood’s greatest responsibilities – laundry. I’m done cajoling them into bringing the dirty clothes to me so I can have the pleasure of sorting, washing, drying and folding their stuff. It’s time.

When did you begin doing your own laundry? If I told you I washed my family’s laundry at the town Laundromat when I was in 3rd grade, would you believe me? Well, it’s true, I did. I have distinct memories of my brother and I walking 2 blocks, carrying baskets of dirty clothes, to the laundromat. I don’t remember complaining about doing it, either. The library was on the other side of the laundromat’s parking lot and I eventually got pretty adept at throwing the wash into the machine, walking to the library for a stack of Nancy Drew books and getting back in time to toss everything into the dryer.

When it came time for folding, the challenge was always the sheets.  My 9-year-old arms simply couldn’t extend wide enough to get the nice, crisp fold my mother expected.  If I was lucky, there would be some older women nearby who would literally give me a hand, teaching me that complete strangers were willing to help me as I made an effort.

I went downstairs this evening and moved my son’s load of laundry from the washing machine to the dryer so I could throw in a load of my things.  A bit later, I folded neatly placed his clothing into his hamper so I could toss my own stuff into the dryer.  Looks like I really did learn a lot from those kind women so many years ago.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, Boys, family, girlhood

Edith Piaf lives (in cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise

imageWhen I was 15, I went through my hardcore Doors’ days. Didn’t you? Although not their most commercial album,  An American Prayer became my definition of poetry. I eagerly awaited my turn to read the dog-eared copy of No One Here Gets Out Alive, a Morrison biography, which was circulating through my town and I promised myself that one day I would pay my respects at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. Assuming, of course, that he didn’t return from wherever he had fled to escape the fame which had made his life unlivable in the U.S.,* before I got there.

While my son was committed to visiting Napoleon’s tomb while in Paris, a trip to the cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise was on my must do list. On Easter Sunday we took a long Metro ride to make our my pilgrimage. The cemetery is quite large, walled in and covering a hillside in northeastern Paris. Despite our map, we became a little disoriented and missed Morrison’s grave on our initial climb up the hill. Maybe it was the encounter with the fairly fresh grave of one of the victims of the January Je Suis Charlie attacks that caused our confusion. Regardless, we found ourselves in close proximity to Edith Piaf’s grave.

I talked to Liam about who she was and described her rendition of La Vie en Rose, explaining that her version was the definitive one of that classic French song. We paused, paid our respects and then headed down the hill to find Jim Morrison’s grave, inaccessible due to the metal barricades designed to discourage the enthusiastic and devout vandals who have persisted in leaving their mark on his tombstone for more than four decades. It was completely cool and satisfying nonetheless.

Later, we went to Montmartre to view the artists and their work, along with Sacre Coeur. As we walked, from a distance, I heard someone melodically whistling a tune – La Vie en Rose. Perfect.

*if you’re near my age you probably remember the theory that Jim would come back a decade after his “death.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, France, Music, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

The song road remains the same

DSC_0011When 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.

2 Comments

Filed under aging, musings, road trips, upstate New York

Reflecting on 30 years

IMG_0314Despite 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, Education, Events, friends, girlhood, musings, Observations, relationships, road trips, Schools

I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Observations, secrets