Why I went to my high school reunion

Actually, this post has nothing to do with the usual topics of this blog. I’d say it belongs under Nina Tracks Changes – a blog that is still struggling into existence. Or it could go into Nina MakesTracks, under the heading of “Time Travel”… only I don’t want to break the continuity of my China trip stories.

My colleague Ruth Ludlum has recently written a post entitled Why I’m not going to my high school reunion. I’d say she had good reasons for not bothering to go. I, on the other hand, had a good reason to go: I wanted to see a few old friends, who had been a meaningful part of my life for several years. 
In many ways, high school was a horrid period in my life. Some teachers were imposing and scary, tyrannical and terrorizing. I was forever dreading being called upon to answer questions or solve math problems on the blackboard. So much so, that I sometimes took refuge in the nurse’s room. Nurse Shoshana, bless her, was very understanding. In terms of friendships and puppy love, Paul Anka, Donovan, the Platters, the Shadows, and later the Beatles – it was a mixture of heaven and hell. It was also a time of discovery – from Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky to Flaubert and Francis Jammes, from the laws of physics to the intricacies of Talmudic debate.  Besides, learning French gave me an edge: I could understand the words to Capri C’est Fini, La Nuit, Aline

Of course, I wasn’t friendly with everyone in my year. But it was a small graduating class, since it was a brand-new high-school. Only 94 students in 3 tracks: Re’alit, meaning math/physics based track; Biologit, meaning biology/chemistry based track; and combined Humanit/Hevratit, meaning humanities and social studies track, in one class. Whereas Ruth Ludlum said the students were thrown together geographically, and basically had little or nothing in common, I found myself in a clique that had a lot in common. Though only Ruthie (Opatowski) and I were from English-speaking homes, several of the guys -- who were at the time new immigrants from Rumania, Poland, Russia – took to English like a fish to water, and got a real kick out of reciting quotes from Julius Caesar (“Beware the Ides of March!”) and singing songs from West Side Story. They were, and still are, a brilliant bunch with a smashing sense of humor. Hanging out with them was stimulating and exciting, when it wasn’t combined with teenage heartache. As opposed to some, I didn’t smoke, drink or throw up… But the accompanying existential angst was rather alluring. I did not refrain from these activities due to being a goodie-two-shoes; I simply never developed a taste for whiskey and cigarettes, not for lack of trying. Okay, yes, I was also a goodie-goodie, to some extent. Except, for example, when I disobeyed my mother and began shaving my legs when she thought I was far too young.

Ruth Ludlum spoke of competitiveness: comparing, judging, showing off, even distorting reality. I’m not sure -- there may have been a little of that at an earlier reunion, ten or fifteen years ago. I do recall one guy who presented himself as a university prof when he was in fact a high-school teacher. But in this reunion, where my classmates are around retirement age (Class of ’65, and we’re all around 65 years old…), these emotions seem to have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps we’ve finally matured. We accept who we are. Our nostalgia is limited: short-lived, good for one evening, then shrugged off.

Update: My classmate Mina uploaded some lovely pics. I'm the one in the pink top and red glasses, in case you were wondering :-)

Two of my high-school buddies:
Shimon Nadler has retained his cynical humor and observing eye, if not his stick-thin, lanky figure.
Ruth Opatowski is even more stunning than ever, and to my delight is a co-rebel against the social pressure on women to dye their hair.


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