Our lives are made up of an endless array of solitary moments. And if we try, we can remember snippets of time from the deepest recesses of our memory. But just ‘trying’ doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes memories need a little jarring. Sometimes those memories are not necessarily vivid clips from our lives, but more akin to a warm feeling—a sensation like arms wrapped around you in a bear hug. How we pull those memories to the surface to bask in their warmth and joy is easier than you think. Take yourself back in time with a party of the kids from your illustrious childhood!
I graduated high school in 1982. We had a pretty large class—in the 500 student range. I went to my 30th reunion 2 years ago and—thanks to Facebook—once again was able to share my life and stories with people from my childhood. Some of those wonderful people shared stories with me dating back to Kindergarten. As incredible as that was, it was a reunion, which meant it was sort of staged and stuffy, with me having to wear uncomfortable shoes.
Flash-forward two years. It’s 2014, and the majority of my graduating class is turning 50. A brilliant idea that we could arrange a mass celebration was conceived. I admit I hesitated for a micro-second. Then as if speaking to my quirky, silly side—Marla came up with the name ‘Geezerpalooza’. I was SOLD. At that moment I had no idea what to expect, who I would see again or how it would leave such an indelible mark on me, but I knew I was going. Months in the process, two very, VERY hardworking, local graduates took the reins. It would be a picnic event at a local beach from our childhood. The massive undertaking was handled—from the point of view of the unwitting party-goer—effortlessly and seamlessly. There was a great deal of interest in this milestone event—turning 50—being shared with people that not only shared the birthday, but shared so many memories. People were coming in from out of town or out of state either FOR the event or finding time to get to it while seeing family. This was BIG.
The big event would be Saturday, but those needing passes to the beach and those who had come in from out of town, would meet up at a local bar Friday night. THIS is where I began to feel a new level of excitement. So many faces, still familiar. So many stories to share. There is a common bond from a childhood like ours. A time where there were no cell phones to call you home—maybe you had that ‘be home when the street lamp goes on’ curfew, or maybe it was a call from the stoop. We played outside with friends we made—no play dates arranged by our parents. We were part of a socioeconomic group—middle class—that is all but extinct today. The amount of time we spent together without the myriad of distractions that come with today’s world is what I believe forged indelible memories, and lifelong friendships. I felt it as soon as I walked into the bar. There was one common denominator, “You from North?” “Yes”, was all it took. Everything after that might as well have been talking about a movie we all had seen. I had a smile that literally hurt from being permeated on my face. We were even lucky enough to have our high school band teacher join us! There was a surreal feeling about seeing all these people who had spent the last 32 years building personal worlds, with families and careers and still feel like we were kids again—back in Commack, back in the hallways and classrooms and the courtyard, and the band room, or in any of the elementary schools, or the two junior highs. At the end of the day, the reality was we graduated Commack North together.
The morning of Geezerpalooza was awash in a steady rain. Some of us were completely indifferent to it. I know I didn’t care. It’s water… No one cares what we look like, it’s not about that. So, a few of us went—in the rain– to set up for the day. About an hour after that it started to clear. More and more people would arrive and as they approached we would stand and guess who it was. There were various circles of people chatting amongst themselves—not unlike high school—but it was ALL good. Everyone was smiling, laughing, eating, and telling stories while music from our youth blared. And by blared, I mean at one point, a female officer approaches our party inquiring who the permit holder is. She was STERN! Something about loud music… asking for Wendi! (Our hostess!) There was a moment of WTF?! Then there was the moment of HOLY CRAP! It was a fellow graduate with probably the greatest stunt I have ever been witness to. Had this day been scripted, it would have taken one heck of a writer to get it this perfect. I—personally—cannot begin to explain what this day meant. A seemingly simple get-together of friends from 30 or 40 years ago made me feel nostalgic and overwhelmed with fond memories.
The party lasted till 8 PM and some of us even went out after that. It was crazy. And as if this wasn’t enough, a few of us had brunch on Sunday as well.
I sat around that brunch table trying to wrap my brain around why this was so significant to me. Why did I feel as if falling into a new friendship with an old friend was so easy? It dawned on me—it was the innocence of the time, and the innocence of us as kids in a middle class neighborhood in the suburbs of New York. There is a bond that we all seemed to share that was not just the classes we took together or the places we hung out. It was a shared culture, a shared neighborhood, and a shared place in time. We were really blessed to be from Commack, and I don’t think I ever gave it much thought. But, at 50 years old, and after a weekend with my fellow ’82 Rams, I have a clarity about what we all shared.
Of all the people that attended and a couple who were SORELY MISSED—I have to hope that one or more of us will make the effort to make this an event that can take place, not as a milestone celebration, but simply as a celebration of our friendships.
As far as I am concerned, this was the FIRST ANNUAL Geezerpalooza. I hope others walked away from the weekend with a similar sense of kinship. We shall always have our youth if we have people in our lives who share our stories.
Everyone is the age of their heart. ~Guatemalan Proverb
xoxo DDJ Debbie Dworken-Jaffie