“35th High School Reunion“ is a phrase that brings a hot shocking reality to how old I am. The trip to this event was also an opportunity to visit with my 88 year-old mother and my de facto step-dad, 100 ½ year-old John, who both think I’m a youngster.

Talking about age buries the headline of my biggest takeaway from the gathering of Teaneck High School Class of 1982. Picture a dance floor filled with black women (actual picture just below should help you).  IMG_E0318I stood there with Preston Thompson and our comment was that there was only one guy out there and we noted nothing about race. Something that was beautifully invisible was how this room filled with Blacks and Jews and assorted other folks was a story of kindness and memories; human beings enjoying each other’s company. My guess is no one saw this as a great feat of how we were all together in a very peaceful way, when the country has been so full of hate.

I’m not going to say that race is invisible, quite frankly, when I went to the “meet and greet” the night before the reunion and walked into a restaurant where I appeared to be the only Caucasian, I had the passing thought that I walked  out of Edmonton and into a Tyler Perry movie. We’re not all the same, but I felt an utter absence of malice. Sure we are drawn to spend more time with our “tribes,” but we intermingle gracefully. When you know scores of any kind of people, you learn that there’s diversity among them. Just like however you identify yourself, there’s people in all groups who are friendlier than others, brighter than others, more interesting than others, more like you than others, and that as my father frequently quoted from Harry Stack Sullivan, “we are all more human then otherwise.”

George&IOn point, one of my highlights was seeing George Martin for the first time in 35 years. When I looked through my old writing notebooks from second grade, I found a series of stories including “George and I” about my best friend of the moment (see more about this and our great teacher, Ellen Hampton Adams, in Chapter 2 of For Those Who Dare to Teach, recently released on amazon.com  and amazon.ca).

Then there were the other mundane and poignant sides of attending a reunion in my 50’s: not being concerned about dress code; feeling free to walk up to someone and say, “hey did we know each other in high school?”;  seeing where I still have ground to take — like having perverse pleasure at the idea of going out and beating a once phenomenal basketball player in one-on-one in spite of his health challenges and injuries; seeing where I have taken ground like not taking it personally that some people didn’t show up … and not rattling off any of my achievements to any one … and for not having said anything that might’ve been hurtful or confrontational or upsetting; and being stopped in my tracks and deflated from all the fun and reminiscing when Larry Sachs read the names of deceased classmates.

There are constant reminders to enjoy the moment, be grateful, and not take anything for granted.

Maybe we are just an anomaly – the success story of the first town in the US to have voluntary integration. Or maybe this is the way it can be for many others. As my favourite native son of New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen sang, “take a good look around/ This is your hometown.”

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