Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thank You

I hope that the peace and joy of this holiday season was amplified in some way for each of you who attended the Reunion events, or who couldn’t attend but who followed the news of our class here on the blog, or who were moved by the buzz to re-connect with even one old friend for a conversation, laughs and reminiscence.
This is my Amherstian Rhapsody: I have never attended a class reunion, and honestly I did a very poor job of keeping up. In fact with two single, fleeting exceptions after leaving town in 1980 I did not speak with a member of our class for 25 years – no sinister reason; I just never looked back. Until fate brought me back to Amherst a year ago, and I began to catch myself looking for and finding the old connections, and recognizing people.

And wow, how bizarre - they recognized me:

I saw Bob Brandts’ article in the paper and walked into his office at the Bangs Center and compared notes as prodigal sons of Amherst who’d gone off to see the world and come back to find home…. I ran into Peter Teraspulsky late one evening at Stop & Shop as we both reached for the same pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer…. I called Chris Collins to seek advice about my kids' "new" schools.... I found Dave Mazor, another prodigal son of Amherst, back home and hard at work on a fascinating service endeavor in a basement at Amherst College…. I looked up Janki at a memorial Evangeline Darity event on a snowy night at the Amherst College Octagon…. Ran into Justin Griswold in the hallways of ARHS parents’ night…. Like Ted Hughes’ “Iron Giant,” scattered in a million pieces after falling from a cliff and whose hand then picks up first an eyeball, then an ear, and crawls around the beach reassembling itself, I began to find my way in my hometown. When Jim Barr, Nick Cournoyer, Dan Winslow and Carl Bergquist asked for a volunteer to carry the organizing duties, I knew I had to do it. It was several months of countless hours and hours of effort, and I got the best end of the experience every single minute. I’m grateful to all of you.

Thank you, Amherst, for being the same great town in 2006 that you were when I loved and left you in 1980.

Thank you ARHS for being the same tremendous school you’ve always been. Even if peanut butter cornflake cookies have given way to a 'peanut-fee zone' in the cafeteria. Even if Freshmen are no longer in the Jr. High … OR the high school! Even if the school regularly appears on O’Reilly Factor every time the Theater department decides to present or to cancel a show. Even if the team name “Hurricanes” nearly bit the dust after Katrina swamped New Orleans. Even if the streakers now cover their private parts. Even if the Principal no longer wears a dashiki.

Thank you ARHS teachers for being the same wonderful and inspiring leaders you were then. Our debt of gratitude to you can never be properly repaid.

Thank you classmates whom I never knew well before working together on the Reunion, or knew in HS and didn’t stay in contact with for 30 years: Terese Keohane, Mike Fusia, Bruce Cleveland, Mark Conlon, Mike Mascis, Heidi Laufman, Jill Weinstein, Michele Matusko, Dan Winslow, Mike Sacco, Karen Elliott, Nancy Drake, Lee Leonard, Elly Newcomb.

Congratulations classmates who fell in love with each other, married, and came to celebrate together at this 30th reunion: Craig & Karen Elliott Merrill who’ve been together since high school, Dave Mazor and Kathy Matthews who re-kindled their friendship at the tenth reunion and then married – and now live around the corner from me! Steve Schwartz and Annie O’Connor who re-met at the 20th and married, and now have a beautiful daughter. Time will tell whether this 30th reunion was as fruitful an event, for some pair of classmates.

Thank you to my incredible wife Lisa, who allowed me to shirk putting-to-bed duties for two months as I tried to keep up with reunion emails, and who never failed to brighten on cue no matter how many times she heard me shout “Sweety, you won’t BELIEVE who I found today!!” What forbearance and devotion. Thanks for bringing me back home, sweetheart. ILY!

I enjoyed the class dinner very much, as I hope each of you did. There was not nearly enough time to talk with everyone, and I completely missed several people I’d really looked forward to speaking with – John Gibson, Jeremy Wolff, Jon Waldron, Pete Ziomek – and badly shortchanged many others. I’m sorry, and I hope we’ll talk more, soon. I got to sit down with Anne Feaster, with whom I hadn’t spoken since 1976, in the very same room where we’d gone to the Prom together 30 years ago – and how droll that our class's Prom theme song was Seals & Crofts’ “We May Never Pass This Way Again.”

During our class dinner last Saturday, I had to laugh as I looked out at many of my old Little League, Youth Football and ARHS soccer teammates, and recalled their fathers on the sidelines 30, 35, even 40 years ago. This time, I felt I was attending an awards dinner with Dick Bergquist, Homer Barr, Vic Fusia, and Stan Ziomek – but where were their sons, my classmates? I mean seriously: did anyone else see Carl Bergquist standing in ¾ profile, wearing a windbreaker, arms folded, and not think they were seeing champion UMass baseball coach Dick Bergquist? Déjà vu.

In weeks of preparing for the event I got to share in everyone’s countless stories; their travels, travails, losses and joys. I marvel at the accomplishments and the strength of our classmates. I am so happy to be home again, where everything is exactly where - and as - it is supposed to be. I wish every one of you, and yours, a very happy holiday and a year filled with peace, good health, and new surprises.

And everlasting youth.


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