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Essay: After 50 years, hard feelings melt away

A sign from Gloria Schramm's 50th high school

A sign from Gloria Schramm's 50th high school reunion from the Sewanhaka High School Class of 1968, held at the Clarion hotel in Ronkonkoma in October. Credit: Gloria Schramm

If the opportunity comes up, everyone should go to his or her 50th high school reunion. There was a time I thought I’d never go. But now I feel sorry for people who don’t go or whose alumni do not plan a reunion.

I went to the reunion of the Class of 1968 from Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park on a Saturday evening in October, and I am glad I did.

About 55 of us, most with our spouses, gathered at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Ronkonkoma for a buffet, open bar and a great Long Island band, 60s Invasion, that took us back. Seeing us dance and jive again on the floor was amazing. We might as well have been 18.

Later on, the cheerleaders of that time came out and, garbed in the purple and white school colors, chanted once again. I must say, they looked good and were still slender! People seemed to come without airs, comfortable to be themselves, older and wiser. We were content to gather again for a few moments.

It was a gift to recognize some former classmates right away — and to be recognized. Thankfully, we had name tags and our original photos on our clothing to help identify us. I recognized one woman immediately from afar, but not just from high school; I remembered her from grammar school!

“You always had a book with you!” I said as I greeted and hugged her. Sure enough, she had a hardcover book in her hand. She looked exactly as I remembered — gentle, quiet and classy. We are now Facebook friends.

The most memorable and moving experience of the night was provided by a schoolmate and neighbor with whom I was once close. (I told her the facts of life when we were 9!)

Unfortunately, we had a falling out in high school. I never saw her after graduation, but this time, I saw her name on a place setting. At first, I dreaded the idea of running into her. But my better self won over, and I sought her out. I kept looking until I got a tap on my shoulder. There she was, smiling. We hugged as if nothing had ever happened and exchanged affectionate words. She took my picture with her iPhone and said her mother would love to see it. (I thought her mother did not like me!)

When the party ended, I waited for my husband to bring the car to the hotel entrance. My old-new friend walked out with her husband, hugged me again and wished me well. I returned her good wishes. All the bad memories and buried resentments melted in thin air. I felt her sincerity and matched it with mine. Our encounter left me with a warm glow.

I am grateful I had this opportunity to reunite with old classmates. After all, school lasted for 12 years, and it had occurred to me while deciding whether to go that I might never see these people again. After all, we are almost nearing the final lap of our lifelong journeys. Some classmates had already left this world, and their names were displayed at the reunion.

Sometimes you have to walk back into the past, just for the record, just for the closure, because time, the right attitude and life’s experiences do heal old wounds. We’re not the same people. We are better people. What better way than to reunite for a few hours to find that out?

Reader Gloria Schramm lives in North Bellmore.


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