About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Sunday, October 9, 2011

High School Reunion with Special Guest Hurricane Irene

In the game Two truths and a Lie, the object is to come up with implausible truths or convincing lies to befuddle your audience. Here are mine:

  1. I was voted most musical in my high school class.
  2. I played (horn) with the Chicago Symphony.
  3. I toured with William Shatner.
And the lie is number 1! (Numbers 2 and 3 might be topics for another post.) I was not voted most musical in my high school class. I was part of an amazingly talented cohort. When I think of how many continued in music, it's remarkable. The Most Musical title went to my good friend Sue (double bass) and Jeff (trumpet, arranging and conducting, all while still in high school!).

High school reunions are meaningful and fun for some people. Others avoid them like the plague. I had never been to any of my high school reunions; I think I was a "lost classmate." However, thanks to Facebook, I was found this time around and received an invitation in June to my 40th reunion.

My first response was not to go. I didn't think high school was that much fun, and I hadn't kept in touch with more than a couple people. Then my friend Sue, one of the few I had kept up with, said she would really like to see me. So I started thinking about going. Through the new Facebook page for our class I found out what some of my former classmates had been doing. There are a number of published authors. One has won a Pulitzer. Another (the one who found me on FB) is a Grammy award winner. It was intimidating, so I thought I would stay home.

I went back and forth, but in the end I decided to go. I booked my flight and hotel and told my friends.

Several of my friends in Illinois asked if I had realized there was a hurricane heading for Connecticut when I flew off to the East Coast. Yes, I knew. I had been paying attention to the news, but I also heard plenty of New Englanders poo-pooing the forecasts, saying hurricanes almost always petered out before reaching New England. I looked at weather maps. I asked my husband. And I went.

If you've been to any high school reunion, you know what they're like: a get-together the first night (Friday) in the hotel bar, then a dinner party with DJ the next night. My reunion was also featuring a tour of the high school and a beach party on Sunday. I graduated from Greenwich High School. Greenwich is located on Long Island Sound.  Our Saturday night party was scheduled for a yacht club right on the water. Cue the ominous music, it's the perfect set-up for a disaster movie. You can imagine the shots of the yacht club on the water, the storm approaching, then the gigantic waves, breaking glass and screaming people... but no, it didn't happen.

Indian Harbor Yacht Club, Greenwich, CT
When I woke up Saturday morning, my flight had been cancelled because all transportation was being shut down at noon on Sunday. The reunion party had been relocated to a hotel in downtown Stamford, next door to Greenwich, and the tour of the high school was cancelled for safety reasons. The beach party was moved to a club and then finally cancelled when the caterer shut down.

Before dealing with the approaching hurricane,  eight of us, three music teachers and five former students, met for a music reunion. Except for Sue, this was the first time I had seen any of these people since the 1970s. There was Chris, who was a friend a year older than me, who still plays violin. Tom and Jeff, both trumpet players in high school, with whom I had spent a lot of time in rehearsals. Our band director, Carmel Signa, and our theory teacher, Anne Modugno, both now retired, but looking pretty much the same as they had in the 70s.  There were lots of hugs and reminiscences. It was difficult to switch to calling my high school teachers by their first names, but very interesting to hear about our high school years from the perspective of the teachers. We, the students, all agreed that the music faculty at Greenwich High had been outstanding. We talked for three hours, and exchanged contact information and possibilities of getting together in other cities. Chris, Tom, Jeff and Carmel, I expect to hear from you if you come to Chicago!  I felt that coming to Connecticut and braving the hurricane was totally worth it to have been at this mini-reunion.

In the time between brunch and the big dinner party, I was able to get through to the airline and find out they had put me on the "first available flight," which was Tuesday morning, call my supervisor and partner teacher to tell them I wouldn't be at school until Wednesday, and call the hotel desk to try to extend my reservation. The hotel clerk informed me that they were booked and would let me know if there was a cancellation. Yikes! I had images of myself sitting in the lobby with my suitcase for two days.

The class of 1971 had a somewhat reduced reunion that night, as many classmates cancelled or were unable to get to Connecticut. As I ate and chatted I still didn't know what would happen on Sunday. Sue had come with her close friend Christine and Christine's husband Jud, and I sat with the three of them. When they all decided to leave, Jud and Christine turned to me and said, "We think you should come home with us. We'll take you to your hotel to get your things." I was overwhelmed with their generosity and immediately saw the good sense in their invitation.

Christine and Jud have a beautiful house nestled in a hilly section and right on a small pond. When I woke up Sunday morning, after sleeping soundly without worries, the power was out along with the water, branches were falling and it was raining.  We spent the morning doing the New York Times crossword and watching the storm outside through the picture window. After the hurricane passed, we took a ride through town. There were a lot of trees down and quite a few streets blocked or partly blocked by trees. Sue was able to drive home to the Philadelphia area that evening.

Cos Cob with high water

Christine and Jud were wonderful hosts. They grilled food from their defrosting freezer to make delicious meals. On Monday, Christine needed to visit her school, which is the junior high that both of us attended. In a bit of serendipity, both Christine and I teach gifted children, so we spent considerable time discussing curriculum (and I told my head of school, once I was back in Illinois, that I really had done professional development while stranded!). Because I was still in Connecticut, I was able to go to a second music reunion Monday evening, with additional former students. My other friend Chris, the violinist, picked me up and on the way to the restaurant she suggested we could drive by my family's former house in Cos Cob.  Though a number of the houses in my old neighborhood have been torn down in order to build McMansions, our old house is still there and looking good. Our second reunion was again wonderful. I got to see more old music comrades and catch up. We closed the restaurant that night.

So I have two strands to my high school reunion story. One is the hurricane story, the main theme of which is the generosity of so many people in offering me a place to stay, rides, meals, and most of all friendship. I feel very fortunate to have new friends because of Hurricane Irene. The other strand is the music. When I thought of my high school years, I mostly thought of the negative. Revisiting the music part of high school has reminded me of how much fun I had during those years.

Lastly, it was a rather Proustian experience. No madeleines or other food, but driving down roads that I hadn't been on in over 25 years, recognizing buildings that I hadn't thought about, brought up exactly the kind of memories Proust was talking about.