When Hunter girls get together in any number, there is going to be noise. Laughter, gasps at the old photos, even a couple of delighted screams formed the music of our gathering last night just off the New Jersey end of the George Washington bridge.
Seated on the patio of a cozy, delicious Greek restaurant, 14 of us along with one significant other (a man- either the luckiest one on the planet or…well obviously the luckiest one on the planet) shared memories and updates and yearbooks and pictures. Who has the oldest child, who has the youngest? What are you doing now, who else from our school have you been in touch with? Marriages, divorces, college experiences, businesses; all discussed with the happy interest of people who knew you when you were just beginning to grow in to the person you became (and hopefully are still becoming- remember: green and growing or ripe and rotting).
At first there was the slightly awkward experience of not recognizing each other’s current appearances. Even names, in several cases, only evoked a slight recall. But as soon as the old pictures came out, there were the smiles as solid recognitions and connections were made. I remember you! We had such-and-such class together…such-and-such teacher And then the stories flooded out.
Hunter College High School in the early to mid 70’s was a unique school. Located on the 13th and 14th floor of an office building, 466 Lexington Ave, we newbies wandered in at the age of twelve from Washington Heights and Little Italy, different parts of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn (I am sure Staten Island was represented but I don’t recall anyone from there). New York City was in the middle of masssive corruption, and the streets were filthy and unhealthy, but there we were. As we streamed into the building in the morning, we were greeted by prostitutes not much older than us standing in the doorways, as well as crazy bag-ladies screaming obscenities and hitting people with their overloaded shopping bags as they walked down the street.
The school was an all-girl haven for gifted city kids who had taken a test and passed, and then either tricked their parents or cajoled them into signing the permission to go. Since the school was in an office building, we waited in long lines for the elevators with people in business suits each morning. Our gym classes took us out of the building to experience bowling at Bowlmor, field hockey on the field at the United Nations, swimming at Hunter College, ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. We were given tokens to subway there and told to be back for our next class period. Our cooking classroom was located next to the biology room where the older girls dissected dead animals. The smoking bathroom was painted pink and purple, and being one of the girls who spent much time in there I learned last night that we smoking bathroom girls had quite a reputation (deservedly I might add). Ah, the perspective of years past…
Stories and memories flew around the patio last night, and took me back back back. Each of us had different recalled experiences that others had forgotten, and it was like filling in missing pieces of a puzzle. Remember mini-courses? An entire week off of the regular schedule to sample a smorgasbord of choices: movies, meditation, cooking. Remember our “big sisters?” Seniors who were supposed to ease our transition. Remember the mascots? Giant overstuffed creatures that sat by the elevators on the 13th floor to be hugged and photographed by all those blossoming young women.
It was a pleasure to spend some time with old friends, and new old friends, last night. My aging memory has forgotten more than it remembers, and it was fun to hear those stories about those days and those people in that special place and time.
A couple of then-and-nows. Susan, Pam, Jean in the old photo, Regina, me, Judy in the recent one. I’ll add more when I get them…