Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Places, Familiar Faces


A couple of weekends ago I had the occasion to run Into a bunch of old classmates from my Our Lady of Mercy grammar school days, some nearly 40-45 years or so removed from when I had last seen most of them.

And yes…how is that possible for folks as young as we?

The funny thing is I wasn’t planning on doing anything like that; it just sort of happened.

In a nut shell, a group of industrious OLM alumni organized and hosted a come one come all reunion and invited anyone and everyone who had ever attended the school…except for me…and a few other local classmates.

My Uncle Jim, from the class of 38 was invited, as well as—rumor has it— Ed Sullivan, a notable OLM/St. Mary’s alum who still has a very active social media presence, even though he’s been dead since 1974.

Apparently, dead or alive, these days if you’re not on Facebook, or Classmates.com, you can’t be found, which I guess also points to just how well read these columns are.

Not that I really wanted to be found because, let’s face it, there are only so many apologies a person can offer in a night.

But still….

The truth is, reunions of any sort have always been frightening to me, therefore I’ve always made sure to avoid them. I have a hard enough time being with family on Thanksgiving so the idea of gathering in a room with a bunch of people I haven’t talked to or seen since I was 14 was unimaginable.

But, as fortune would have it, one of our old buddies had flown in from out of town to attend the event and told some other folks he met there that a few of us—“the shunned alum” as we had now taken to calling ourselves—were hanging at another establishment from our past, telling the same tired stories we’ve been telling each other for the last several decades.

To make a long story short, which by now is impossible, a massage/yoga therapist from both the past, and the party, suddenly materialized at our table of recluses and attempted to cajole us into joining her and several other of our classmates for an informal after-reunion gathering at Arrosto, the former Saw Pit restaurant.

After much hemming and hawing, and a few more beers—because hemming makes you thirsty and hawing is just plain weird—we finally agreed to join her, mostly because she was nice enough to track us down, even pretending to recognize us—Facebook be damned.  Plus, she threatened to beat us all up, if we didn’t come, something this particular person was prone to do back in the day, but which we didn’t mind since it was the only time we could get a girl to stand that close to us.

So reluctantly we went…onward into the past.

As you might imagine, the whole experience was somewhat odd, weird, confusing and anxiety producing …all at the same time…but most of all—and this is the most surprising part—it was fun.

Of course the first person I saw didn’t recognize me, and I called her by the wrong name…but that was pretty much par for the course, that night and 40 years ago, as well.

What can I say….it was a big class…times two.

The truth is, while many of the faces, shapes and hairstyles had changed…. all the laughs remained the same.

There were always a few seconds of hesitation and puzzled looks, but then, suddenly, you could actually hear the reconnections snapping back into place all around the room.

Amazing, really, when you think about it, so I couldn’t help wondering why this was… and then it hit me.

We were all kids together. Each one of us, a connecting piece to the shared center of the puzzle we now call our lives.

And, together, we lived through a place and time where those 9 years was pretty much all we knew of the world.

From scary nuns and teachers—to fire drills and air raid shelters.

From the excitement of space ships lifting off and flying to the moon—to the confusion of war and assassinations.

From kick ball and the “Friday Night Thing” in the gym—to
our first dance in the auditorium, with Jesus between us, providing the proper spacing.

I close my eyes and they’re all still there…those reminiscent markers…and all those 14 year old faces.

We were kids together...and we always will be.

Kind of comforting in a way, because it’s good to know…we really don’t wander far from the core…even though we might think we do.

So in the end, I’m glad I was “found” and happy to rediscover all those old connections.

None of us can be certain it will ever happen again, but at least we know they’re there.

So what’s this Facebook thing all about?

I ask people to be my friend and hope they say yes?

Hmmmm…that does sound a lot like grammar school.

But I’m all grown up now…right?

I don’t know…maybe I should pass….

On Friday I'll even open up and share the autograph book......

More from the Archive of Retort:

"The Past Signs In"

"There's Always Some Nun to Blame"

Looking for a fun, new Christmas Tradition to share with your family?

Pick up "The Little Red Christmas Ball"

Now available at Amazon

And don't forget

“The Kingdom of Keys”

also available at Amazon

And while you're at it

Like" the Retorts on Facebook 


  1. At age 11 I was condemned to be a non-catholic. For 3&1/2 further years I languished in C of E secondary school. I don't get reunion invites either. Too busy doing without guilt anyway.

    1. The nice thing here was that it kind of highlighted that none of us were connected by any sort of ideology; religious political, what have you. Sure, we all had a shared base to start from, which was hammered into us, but everyone went off and made their own way with it. The connections obviously were about a lot more than that; in fact it wasn’t even in the mix.

    2. My old orthodontist turned me down….
      Something about not wanting to rehash the past.
      What can I say; I had a highly sensitive gag reflex….

  2. "We lived through a place and time [which] was pretty much all we knew of the world." I ever thought of this before, but it is right on the mark. It really was a special time, not at all like the experience of high school. That was a period of great competition both academically and personally.

    1. Thing is we were only 14 but couldn’t wait to be 25; and in our heads that’s how we saw ourselves. Now I can see how we were really just kids pretending not to be….
      But that was the fun of it.
      Now I’m just a grownup pretending not to be.
      And that’s the fun of it, too.


Retort to the Retort -

“Is there anybody alive out there…”