What if someone you were in first grade with, got a hold of you and said “Hey, let’s have an elementary school reunion!” Most people would remember being in first grade, maybe they’d remember the teacher pretty clearly, and perhaps the names of a handful of the students. But to go back, and be at the school, and rub elbows with 40 or so of your classmates… what would that be like? Answer:
The Best. Day. Ever.
I’m still shaking my head in utter amazement.
There we were, a bunch of 50-somethings, rockin’ our greying hair, hard earned paunches and laugh lines, standing on the stage in the Multi-Purpose Room at La Patera Elementary School, about to pry open a copper box that had been sealed inside a wall since the early 60s, back when most of us looked like this…
…that’s me behind the cotton candy in the front row.
And it wasn’t just us, there were four generations present! Us, some of our parents and teachers, some of our kids, and some kids who could be our grandkids. It was a magical moment in time for everyone.
This day, to me at least, was the stunning realization of about 10 months of emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls, planning for and leading up to the event. And though the news articles, and TV stories that captured this day gave me the credit for coming up with the idea in the first place, all of the fancy footwork it took to pull this off was done by the superhero duo of Jim and Dorothy.
They tracked down and exhumed the Holy Grail, they secured the room, they marshaled the invitations, Dorothy brought the food,
and Jim brought the media!
and more media…
There were cameras, and reporters everywhere!
Of course we were there to open the time capsule itself, and to see what was in it. There were newspapers, and programs, and what we all vaguely remembered – a class roster of our names.
There’s me – number 20…
But the part that was most amazing to me, were the people that came! And the fact that despite the time that had elapsed, we pretty much all recognized each other. Aided, no doubt by recent checks of Facebook profile pictures, but still… for Southern California, this group somehow had shunned the botox, boob-jobs, and other airbrushing that has been so obscenely obvious at the high school reunion level.
Here are Diana and Sue! Diana and I have known each other since kindergarten, when we each had the same red swing style dress, with two red and white polka dot pleats down the front. We swore then we were destined to be best friends for life. So far so good!
This is Craig and his lovely mom Dessiree, we grew up on the same street, along with the neighborhood bully named Bill. Mild-mannered Craig became my hero that day, as his mom told me a story about how, he beat the crap out of Bill one day after seeing him torture one too many kittens, and terrorize one too many little kids.
I think the general feel of this occasion can best be summed up by something Dorothy kept repeating to the reporters in our many interviews that day. It was that in elementary school, you are innocent, and unaffected by the cliques and peer groups that define high school. The friends and acquaintances you make at that tender age tend to represent who you really are, and not who you try to be in order to be accepted. The group that showed up on this day were the ones that had stayed in contact with their inner child, and therefore wore their age proudly.
Then, just to prove that even though we’d aged, we hadn’t lost our marbles – we all walked out to the playground field to recreate a strange and unique version of a marbles game that, as far as we know, only existed at La Patera, and then only for a couple of years… It was almost a cross between a carnival game and a twisted swap meet, where marbles were the currency. Kids carried coffee cans and ice cream cartons full of marbles to class, then at recess they’d set up pyramids of marbles with names like puries, boulders, bumble-bees, and resins, for other kids to toss their marbles at in order to win them. I may have told one of the reporters that at the height of this craze, it was akin to a marble mafia.
Here is Ben with his pyramid of marbles set up in front of him while others try their luck at hitting it by tossing their marbles at it.
The cool thing was that the younger kids there that day caught on in no time, and vowed that they would reinvigorate the tradition of marbles at recess. I’m not quite sure if we inspired them, or corrupted them.
When we were running around playing handball, and wagon wheel, and marbles on this playground so many years ago, who in this group could have ever predicted we’d be posing for this picture? Like I said before. Best. Day. Ever.
I was reminded of Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town, which was performed in that very same Multi-Purpose Room, shortly before we graduated. The main character is a girl who dies young, but is magically granted the opportunity to re-live one ordinary day from her life. I think I can safely say I have avoided dying young, but if I, like that main character, ever get the chance to re-live one day, it would surely be this one.