I believe in magic. Not those trippy, sleight-of-hand illusions that tap into your inner child and leave your eyes feeling scrambled with wonder. I believe in the magic that happens when you get together with an assortment of individuals from your past, and a collective joy emerges that is so much greater than anything you imagined it could be – especially when the emotions you felt prior to the meetup were a quirky mix of excitement, curiosity and trepidation (accompanied by a soupçon of nausea). Why the trepidation, you ask? Well, even though you’re no longer that quiet, socially awkward teenager with questionable fashion sense (because the 80s made you do it), it seems that you still haven’t managed to completely rid yourself of those last remaining shreds of self-conscious, teenage angst.
But you allow the excited, curious bits to take control, and suddenly find yourself registering for your 30th high school reunion. You’ve been reconnecting online with your former classmates for years, and if you happen to be an introvert like I am, maybe platforms like Facebook have allowed you to create a comfort zone that lets you put your personality on display in ways you never dreamed possible. The confidence you lacked back in the day – when you were sure that EVERYONE had more than you did – has finally taken root. You know who you are and you like the person you’ve become, and you love the idea of reconnecting in real life.
So you subject yourself to a marginally invasive full-body pat-down (because security theater) and wedge yourself into a cramped airplane seat, hoping your seatmate won’t be a chatty armrest usurper while quietly, fervently praying to the airline gods for no seatmate at all. If you’re like me, you’re on a transatlantic flight or two, because you really are crazy enough to fly in for a week just so that you can spend a few days with your old high school pals – and make a few new ones – in and around your old hometown.
Despite the fact that it’s such a cliché, you’ve got a sweet selection of John Hughes movie soundtracks playing on a loop inside your head as the reunion draws closer. You’re staying with a dear friend you’ve known since first grade, and you spend the afternoon catching up and gossiping before digging through your suitcase for something suitable to wear. You take one last look in the mirror to make sure your hair is doing that wavy thing you like, and it’s off to the pub you go.
You arrive a little early, and when you step inside, you see that others had the same idea. The setting sun plays games with your eyesight, casting shadows and dancing rays of light around the classmates who greet all newcomers with whoops of joy. You squint against the glare as hugs are exchanged – sometimes with people you barely spoke to back in your high school days, but now it’s all good. The years have softened the memories and made us all nostalgic, and the lines that once separated us into distinct social groups are blurred beyond recognition. Thanks to social media, you can skip much of the preliminary “getting reacquainted” stage and jump straight into the fray.
A private room has been set aside for the Niskayuna High School class of ’86, and one of your former classmates generously turns the cash bar into an open bar by setting up a running tab for all. Drinks in hand, everyone works the room, moving from group to group to catch up and marvel at how amazing we all seem to look, because apparently, none of us have aged at all and everyone looks even better than they did 30 years ago. Despite the proximity of the bar and the privacy, though, there’s a gradual move to the crowded outdoor patio. The room is stifling and your friends question the wisdom of a closed space with insufficient cooling for a large group of perimenopausal women in their late 40s. Jostling with others for a good spot in front of a fan in the corner while beads of sweat form on your forehead and in the small of your back, you’re inclined to agree.
At some point, you start to yawn and your friend seizes the opportunity to tell everyone that you’re still battling jet lag. You tear yourselves away and collapse into her car, rehashing the evening while driving through the dark, quiet streets of your childhood. You later find out that many people stayed until the 2am closing time and then moved on to Denny’s, and are seriously impressed by their fortitude, if not their choice of venue.
The next evening, after a leisurely afternoon spent in the pool drinking sangria and homemade limoncello (and marveling at the appropriateness of the Oreo flavors paired with each – Annette knows you well and it shows), you head out once again for the second official event. You talk, laugh and drink until the restaurant closes and throws you all out, at which point you move en masse to the pub from the previous evening, stopping by the car to change your shoes and drop off the bottle of locally produced wine that Lisa gave you as a gift (because she knows you love wine, and also because she’s clearly awesome and thoughtful).
Tonight you stay until the end, until the gruff-looking bouncer with the loudest voice you’ve ever heard (who surprises you with a gentle smile when you jokingly ask him if he’s going to yell again) announces that the bar is closing and everyone has to leave. We are drunk and sober and every shade of tipsy in-between, leaning into one another and against each other as we shuffle towards the door. We are makers of magic, a magic that follows us outside to the parking lot, where we cling together for as long as possible and then some. Nobody wants to break the spell this weekend has cast on us, and we linger for long moments before splitting up to go our separate ways.
Two days later, the trip is over. Airports make you teary-eyed and this visit is no exception. To pass the time until your flight, you keep checking Facebook because your classmates are still posting about the reunion. You’re finally able to the board the plane, and blink back tears while quickly writing one last update, clicking “Post” just after the plane doors close. Your mind is still on the reunion and you feel like you’ve left a piece of your heart behind. But you’re okay with that. After all, the missing piece has been replaced by magic.
Photo courtesy of Annette Wertalik-Collinsby Liza Rosenberg
Woven through the stories and the summers of our youth
Your laughter threaded through the soundtrack of our days
And nights spent in the camp that hugged the Delaware
Where slivers of our hearts will always stay
They say time flies too fast, my friend, and I believe it’s true
For it seems like only yesterday I first laid eyes on you
Or maybe just this morning, not so very long ago
So tell me how the hell are we supposed to let you go
I’ll remember you with laughter and I’ll think of you with joy
Of long-forgotten moments when you were just a boy
While sifting through the memories that span across the years
Of words sent over miles where you shared your hopes and fears
Now I’m sitting here in sadness ‘cause I can’t believe you’re gone
It shouldn’t have to end this way – it seems so very wrong
As I listen to the songs we’ll never hear you sing again
My smile slowly drowns in tears with thoughts of you, my friend
Quintessential Dave, who always made us laugh:
In memory of Dave Alpert, who left this world way too soon…
Links to Dave’s music:
by Liza Rosenberg
You don’t talk
Or catch my eye
As I walk by
Cross the street
Change your path
I don’t exist
Erase the past
One by one
Destroy them all
Until it’s done
Forget that we
Were ever friends
I don’t exist
It’s all pretend
Lives and souls
That never touched
Laughed so much
Love and trust
I don’t exist
It breaks my heart
Picture created by Talya Shachar-Albocherby Liza Rosenberg
So long, my friend; I wish you well
As you embark upon this journey of searching for your self
I understand – you need to go
To walk this path alone
So I wish you strength and love
To help you find your way back home
I hope I cross your mind from time to time
And if I do it’s with a fondness and a glimmer in your eye
That you’ll dip into our well of memories at least once in a while
And that maybe you’ll allow yourself to think of me and smile
It’s not for me to question and it’s not for me to know
Even though I love you – I have to let you go
I’ll think of all the fun we shared and not of what was lost
And be grateful for the gift we had despite the heavy cost
But for now the only thing that I can do
Is let you go and hope you know that I’ll be here for you
And if our friendship’s meant to be
Then maybe you’ll come back to me
But for now, my friend, I wish you well
By the time our son was in pre-school, we already knew that we didn’t want to send him to a regular public school. My husband grew up in the Israeli school system and didn’t like the way it had evolved over the years and I, who had grown up in an idyllic small town in Upstate New York, was disturbed by the prospect of turning my son over to a seemingly problematic educational system that I could hardly relate to at all. We examined our local options with increasing dismay; when someone mentioned Rimon, a young, growing Waldorf school about 15 minutes’ drive away, we jumped at the opportunity to check it out.
We didn’t know anything about the Waldorf philosophy (which draws on Anthroposophy) when we started, and while we were skeptical of certain aspects, there were others that resonated right from the start – the strong emphasis on creativity, learning through art and music, the connection to nature and an appreciation for spiritual values, to name just a few. I have fond memories of the art and music classes that were an integral part of the elementary school I attended, and Rimon seemed to present a curriculum that touched on the best parts of the public school education I’d received. I’d be lying if I said we were completely sold, but given that the pros (including the fact that our local elementary school had approximately 40 children in each first grade class as opposed to the less than 30 students we could expect at Rimon) far outweighed the cons, we decided to go for it. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
There’s something about my birthday drawing near that always makes me feel like putting the proverbial pen to paper to do a bit of soul-searching. In 2009, it resulted in a blog post about musical influences, and in 2010, it resulted in a mind-spill of self-reflection.
Now here I am in 2013, trying to figure out how to mark my latest trip around the sun (in writing, anyway – the real-life celebrations are being taken care of as I write this…). I’ve been tossing a few ideas around in my mind and brainstorming with a few of my closest friends, and what you’ll find below is a result of that process. Since my son turned nine last week (and because nine fits nicely into 45, but we all know the first reason sounds much better…), I’ve divided the list into five categories with nine items each, mostly in random order. I’ve included a slew of links to relevant old blog posts, and just for fun, I’ve linked almost every instance of the word “poetry” (or variations thereof) to a different poem of mine, so be sure to check those out too. You can hover over each link to read its brief description.
About me: (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
When I heard that the wife of one of my brother’s oldest friends had lost a child, I sent a carefully worded email to her husband, asking if Stacey might want to talk to someone who had been through something similar. She did, and the connection was made.
That was approximately eleven years ago, and over the years, Stacey and I kept up our correspondence at varying degrees of frequency, never losing the special connection we’d created out of a mutual, almost desperate need for support from someone who understood. As we managed to have other children and move on to other subjects, that shared, profoundly visceral understanding of devastating loss has always been at the heart of our friendship.
Stacey and I have exchanged hundreds of emails, yet no opportunity had ever presented itself for us to meet in person – until recently. My brother and his family were celebrating the Bat-Mitzvah of their eldest daughter, which – conveniently for us – fell during my son’s Passover vacation. I was looking forward to seeing family and friends, but from the moment I decided that we’d make this trip, much of the joy I felt was in knowing that I would finally have the chance to meet Stacey, whose painful journey had been such an integral part of my own healing process. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
Getting tangled in the words
Of a song from long ago
Old forgotten moments
And stories left untold
As children we allowed ourselves
The innocence of youth
When everything was easy
With no complicated shades of truth
I remember lazy summer days
And all the crazy games we played
Imagination and adventure were our guides
Grass that scratched between our toes
While splashing through the garden hose
And counting cloud formations in the sky
Life was full of simple joys
Our world seemed so complete
Snowball fights in winter
Autumn leaves beneath our feet
We didn’t want for anything
It all seemed like a dream
Climbing trees with secret forts
And skipping stones across the stream
I remember lazy summer days
And all those nights we stayed out late
Catching fireflies in little jars
Giggling as we set them free
Got so dark we couldn’t see
Holding hands while watching shooting stars
A memory’s never flawless
And your mind plays little tricks
Changing hazy details
Of the things you couldn’t fix
No childhood is perfect
Though some days were pretty close
And those lazy days of summer
Are the ones I miss the most
When I think about tomorrow
And what the fates may hold
I wonder where your place will be
What mischief will unfold
I think about the fun we’ve shared
And all that lies ahead
Private jokes and silly notes
Forever in my head
I think of how you gained my trust
It’s not an easy task
I let you slip inside my heart
And hug me when I crack
I can’t believe the luck I’ve had
And hope it lasts a while
For every time I think of you
My soul begins to smile
For me, one of the most remarkable aspects of Facebook is that it provides so many of us with an opportunity to come full circle; to reach beyond the relatively shallow aspects of our former, younger selves and build on the positive aspects of the relationships of our youth. We have, hopefully, shed our bitchy, divisive teenage angst and injected wisdom and maturity accumulated during the years that have passed, allowing these relationships to grow on new, wonderful levels. Perhaps you weren’t friendly with everyone back in the day, but to a certain degree, each individual played a role in the tapestry of our formative years – loving us, hating us or not knowing we existed, with a never-ending palette of grey shades in between.
As a member of such a community, I feel very blessed. I am often in awe of how we have come together with a unity that deserves to be celebrated, despite the time gone by and the great physical distances between us. I am encouraged by our collective urge to reach out to one another as adults and the desire to cast aside our childhood differences and form friendships with those who knew us when.
My friend A is one of those. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg