The 40th Reunion Weekend

Friday (11/7/08) & Saturday (11/08/08)

The week before the reunion was filled with many emotional events from the National Election of a new President, the continued roller coaster ride of the stock markets, the ailing health of the US economy to the passing of our dear classmate David Myers. The weekend was a good time to party and classmates of the Swampscott High Class of 1968 came from such distant states as California, Oregon, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and all of the New England States to forget about the immediate problems in the world and re-live a few memorable moments from the past and catch up on 40 years.

Although the weather was a little on the damp side it did not dampen the spirits of the class.

Friday night was a great icebreaker cocktail party at the Boston Yacht Club in Marblehead where Classmates could mingle and get to see everyone in a relaxed atmosphere. We were joined by two teachers, Dottie Winer and Joe Balsama and for sure the stories flowed without any concern about retribution in the form of grades.  The deck was open to those who ventured out and although it was a little misty and foggy over the deserted Marblehead harbor the weather was on the mild side. Needless to say some classmates were easily recognizable and others needed a little more memory skills to recognize.  Name tags with yearbook pictures helped for those whose eyesight was still operating properly. As pictures come in from our camera wielding classmates they will be posted. (first without names to keep some guessing and slowly the names will be added). You can compare the name tags on the “classmates directory” page. (yearbook photo).

Photos from the Boston Yacht Club on Friday Evening

Saturday night was a more formal affair at the Marriott Hotel in Centennial Park, Peabody and everyone in the class looked “Marvelous”.  Steve Stiles did a great job as MC by acknowledging the hard work done by our reunion committee, praised the efforts of Rick Eaton’s Project Reconnect, gave the SHS web site high marks and had the class laughing with his story of the “bomb scare” which emptied the school onto Greenwood Avenue  (that he had nothing to do with?) on a day he skipped school.

Photos from the Evening at The Marriott in Peabody

The class gave a warm standing ovation for Rick Eaton & his wife Rosemary after he outlined the 20 months of seeking out members of the class with his “SHS 68 Project Reconnect”.

The talents of Anne Tisdell were next with a solo she sang to the class that she sang for her 88 year old dad’s 62nd reunion of his WWII infantry division.

The evening continued with a full dance floor and classmates going from table to table to reminisce and share experiences over the past 40 years. One of the most beautiful sights of the evening was the presence of a very attractive classmate who took time out from her recent battle with cancer to enjoy the camaraderie of her classmates.

The class that was defined at graduation as “a class of 214 separate cliques” finally came together as a class of one.

More Reunion Photos

Comments from Classmates

REUNION MEMORIES from Jim Fishman

I had thought the 40th reunion would be interesting—fascinating—but did not let myself imagine it would be GREAT. Who ARE these people, now that we’re 58 years old, some probably grandparents or close to retirement? I haven’t seen most of them in 40 years…How would I, a bonafide MISFIT back in l968, feel in their midst? Who the hell was I back in high school, anyway, and would this be mirrored in others’ memories of me? Would the “gay” thing be an issue? Should I arm myself with another male as a “date” even though I’m single? Who would show up? Will it be awkward?

There were clues, however…

2 years ago, while visiting my Mom who lives in Vinnen Square, while shopping at Whole Foods, I ran into Betsy (Gerber) Hartford in the nuts and dried fruits aisle. “Betsy?” “Jim Fishman…” It had been 30 years… It was perfect: we could both BE ourselves yet connect the dots back to SHS. Then, once Rick got the emails coming in, Sherry Himmelstein came to SF to attend a wedding and we reminisced over lunch. Our values were – dare I say?—similar. Fellow Californian Paula Levenback (Rudnick) and I emailed back and forth in support of Obama and against some dangerous California Propositions. And Mary Beth Keenan and I became a de facto support group for each other over the cell phone. Mary Beth offered to pick me up at the airport! Rick Eaton, — who was put on this earth to unite us – kept sending emails, each one peeling away my resistance to flying out there for the reunion. After all – I reminded myself—if it’s a bust, I’ll just visit with family and friends and chalk it up to an interesting disappointment. How bad could it be?

I’ve heard that, for any great event in one’s life, there is always a last minute obstacle or challenge that tests one’s mettle. Well, getting to the Friday night event in Marblehead was mine. I had flown to JFK for a couple days (from San Fran) first, to visit my niece in New York and to meet my new great-nephew. Great! Yet, what was supposed to be a simple flight from there to Logan on Friday afternoon found me scrambling to find a rental car when Jet Blue cancelled the flight at the last minute. Thank God, Hertz does one-way rentals to Logan, where I then had to switch Rentals.

Threading through that thick Manhattan traffic on a gray Friday afternoon was certainly an endurance test. Put on the radio. Chant my mantra. Pull over for a snack. I was exhausted! Arriving at Logan 5 hours later around 8:30 pm, tired and croaking at the Enterprise Rental Car dealer, I phoned the Boston Yacht Club. Was it too late to drive up there? Maybe I should just skip Friday night. Sally Fisher got on the line – how amazing—and was welcoming and warm. “Just come!” she said.

Through a thick fog and winding down Old Marblehead streets, there, at last, stood the building I’d been building up for. It was 9:45 pm! As I walked into the function room, my former Drama Club director, Dotty Weiner, gave me a bear-hug and squealed “Jimmy!” Rick and I hugged. Light bulbs were flashing. From then on, I was in an altered state. My fatigue—what fatigue? Martha Rossman, Alan Abrams, Sue Goodman, Sally Dee Craig, Derek Gregory, Pam Rosengard (“Do you know who I am?” she asked. Of Course!) When I looked into Susan Goodman’s eyes, I said, “I see you.” What I meant was, “I now GET who you ARE.” I even read her palm! (more of that at another time)… Without the pressures of late-adolescence, through my adult lens, in fact, I didn’t need a palm reading to see who everyone had become, and — I really liked who I saw. We had ALL emerged from our former disguises as conventional high school students into our natural selves, like a pair of Musinsky’s shoes that had already been broken in.

I told someone, “I feel like I’ve died and gone to Heaven. This feels like a Past Life.” A former science classmate of mine shared a memory he recalled from our 11th grade chemistry class. The chemistry teacher had asked the class, “What chemical turns an apple brown when you take a bite out of it?” and my answer to her was, conclusively, “Apple Dioxide.”

This reunion was a turning point for me, in retrospect, no doubt about it. I guess Late Middle Age is a great leveler. Or maybe there’s something about being Boomers in the late l960’s together, having lived through JFK, John Lennon, Hippies, Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate, and Anita Bryant.

Perhaps the biggest revelation for me was what an “Non-event” my being gay was. “So? What’s the big deal?” or “Good for you!” were the responses. Some said, “I always knew,” and others said, “I never thought about it,” but in most cases, it was just incidental, another label– simultaneously a significant part of my life experience and also totally irrelevant. The labels fell away; there was nothing to rebel against. Oddly, when I went to the restroom and looked in the mirror that night, I saw someone both familiar and new: myself, an integrated 58 year old who feels good about who he’s become, and proud of his classmates.

The following night at the Marriott in Peabody promised to be a more formal event, and I feared a let-down after the previous night’s high. Would there be endless speeches? Would it feel stiff? The standing ovation for Rick Eaton, the MC’s humor,– helped. We could actually talk to our classmates. . Paula, Howard, Ina, Ellen, Barbara,…and Brad French!

DANCING—What a simple way to celebrate who we’ve become? Nothing had changed and everything had changed.

Now I’m back in my life in San Francisco, seeing clients, eating at the fabulous array of small restaurants that dot this city. Obama is president. We had a heat-wave. And yet I feel like I’m living in a tunnel, a time-machine. The reunion was like an hour glass, tipping things upside down, in a giddy and indescribable way.

“Healing” is too trite, too serious a word. “Celebrating” doesn’t capture how profoundly moving it was. The only true word that fits is,

GREAT!

Thank you, Rick and the committee who helped put this on, and for all of you who made the trek to connect.

From Anne (Moretsky) Perschel

I just finished reading Jimmy Fishman’s comments. Thank you Jimmy for taking the time to write this beautiful tribute. I am so proud of who we have become. From time to time I see patients who are still struggling years later with wounds inflicted in high school. I will now be able to talk about one very positive set of re-union experiences that resulted in not just healing but the transformation of these wounds into a new sense of self and others – integrating both past and present. And as for Rick and his merry band of helpers…I still encourage you to start a business called “Re-union Sleuths.” I’ve talked to current friends who are approaching their own high school re-unions. Hearing about what you did and what resulted from your work, they too see a potential business in the making.

Re-uniting with old friends was better than I imagined. The memories flowed like an easy river. I recalled Betsy Farwell riding her bike to my new home on Sheridan Road and greeting the new kid on the block. What a treat that was all those years ago when I had no idea how I would make new friends. I was so sad to lose my life-long next door neighbor with whom I communicated via the high tech device of two cans attached by a string running from her bedroom window to mine. Dear Betsy, what a life saver. And there she was again at the reunion making me feel right at home again. For years we walked the distance to and from Shaw Junior High School carrying stacks of books before the invention of the back pack. Then Diane Epstein reminded me that she would walk to my house every day during high school. She recounted my reliable lateness and waiting for me every day when she stopped stopped by to get me on her walk to the high school. You cannot imagine how much my husband, who has engaged in a 25 year struggle with me about being late, enjoyed this tidbit. Diane also recalled the wonderful buzz of activity always alive in my house. She spoke of the smells emerging from my kitchen as she recalled my mother always cooking a hot breakfast of eggs, pancakes, French toast and the like. Quite frankly I don’t recall ever smelling or eating such delights. Note to self ‘ “Remember to tell therapist. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad after all.” Peggy Britva – still that same wonderful sense of humor and heartfelt laugh. The opportunity to ask Jimmy Fishman what it was like for him back then. Did he know? Did he dare know? How truly wonderful finally to let ourselves be and to do this with and for each other. There was dancing, and dancing and more dancing. Martha, Jimmy, Mike, Jim, Pamela, Sally, everyone, dancing, sweating, laughing. And how about that spontaneous circle we formed on the dance floor late at night…all of us classmates without the divide just dancing, dancing, dancing together as one. Thank you everyone for making this such a wonderful re-union. And may we all be dancing with the same knees at our 50th.

From D Kate (Diane) Salerno

As I’ve read the comments and biographies posted by my classmates, I’ve come away with a renewed awareness of our collective search for a tribe during our youth; a craving to belong to, be an integral part of, and to be defined by something larger than ourselves. And, oh, the lengths to which we’d go in order to convince others, as well as ourselves, that we belonged and that we fit!

Imbedded within each story is also the act of scripting a different life in which each of us would become the creator, not just a hapless participant. Whether that act of creation took the form of bringing new life into the world, working with the Arts, physically moving to a new location, or simply experiencing all that Earth School had to offer, we all, hopefully, have now come to recognize our potential to create the life of our choosing.

We are of a generation at once blessed and cursed with the mandate to raise the vibration of this world. As young people, many of us felt the unease of the old world order crumbling away without any vision of what would come next. We were acting as an energetic bridge without understanding why we often felt so ripped apart; one foot in the known, the other groping for a safe hold in the yet-unwritten future.

Was there ever an era as rich with choice and potential as the 60¢s? Where just a few years earlier we had been choosing identities that would allow us to remain essentially anonymous and unseen, life was now offering us the opportunity to make conscious choices based on our individuality- to live out loud, to come home to ourselves.

From the vantage point of the present, it’s clear that many of us have found our road home to Self by being of service to the greater good; we’ve brought the energy up to the Heart where it expresses itself as love and compassion. This venue, Project ReConnect, has given us an opportunity to raise the energy even higher by removing our masks and expressing our individual Truths.

We now know that those sometimes overwhelming feelings of disconnection were just an illusion. We have always belonged; we have always been connected.