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The Grandma Reunion

July 24th, 2011 by Melinda Blau

It started off-handedly.  It was an intriguing idea, and it was easy to do, so I created a Facebook page for my sorority sisters.  I built it, and I wondered if they’d come. Before I knew it, I was Social Chairman again, organizing what I thought of as a “pilot” reunion.   If it went well, we’d do others.

It went well.  It was a lot of things: a trip down memory lane, a chance to re-view our housemates–and to see them with fresh eyes.  It also forced us to remember–and cringe at–the not-so-nice byproduct of being in a close-knit, almost inbred community.  Legend had it that during rush-week, we made a grand gesture of folding the coats in, so as not to see the label.  It was untrue (I think), but no matter what others thought of us, we knew we were “the Iotas.”

Some have “joined” the page; others aren’t into social networking.  No matter, reconnection can happen on Facebook or in emails.  We go back and forth, sharing the Roman numerals of our lives: partnership status, children/grandchildren, careers.  It’s like time-lapse photography.

So what is it that’s so compelling about reunions–and reconnecting after so many years?  Ironically, I’m  coming up on my 50th high school reunion, and have been involved in a similar process with those classmates.  The woman–and former co-valedictorian–who’s organizing that event asked us to answer a few key questions for the reunion booklet, including your best and worst memories of high school.  (My worst was being spat on and called a “dirty Jew.”) I read the various blurbs, and then turn to my Class of ‘61 yearbook, juxtaposing this new information with each person’s 17- or 18-year-old self.  I read an inscription scribbled over his or her face and get glimpses of who that person was to me. It’s oddly satisfying.

The fact is, these people knew me when: when I went to sock hops and wore circle pins; when I acted in the senior play, when we ate French fries and cokes after school at my father’s diner.

And my sorority sisters know an even more significant “when.”  They knew the old boy friends, the ones I didn’t marry, the one I did.  They remember my favorite songs.  They remember spring formals.  One old friend still talks about the time she ate dinner with my parents and promptly splattered grease on my mother’s white collar.  It’s not just that our lives were intertwined or that they were privy to the details of my life.  It’s also that we can now piece together our young lives, the group experience, and see how we’ve been affected by it.   I sense that they know things about me I don’t even know.

Most of my high school friends and sorority sisters are now grandmothers, and we wonder how we got here. As one of my new-found sorors marveled, “Just yesterday we were putting on our dinner dresses and hoping not to sit with [our “housemother”] Aunt Edna.”

And what does this do for–or have to do with–our daughters?  For one thing, they see how important it is to acknowledge and keep up with one’s past.  Mine already gets this;  she has an annual girls’ weekend with her college chums, and is in contact with many characters from high school as well.  Thanks to the Internet, she doesn’t ever have to lose touch.

But there’s another important message here for our daughters: Despite the obviously  different frames of reference, we’re really not that different, are we?  I suspect my daughter and many of  her peers could relate to this statement, posted recently by one of my sorority sisters:

I loved the women! I loved being part of something, that quite frankly, I still think of as so very special. It was, and continues to be a memory of which I am so very fond.

And someday–just as we’re now doing–our daughter will be asking themselves. “How did we get to be grandmothers?”

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8 Responses to “The Grandma Reunion”

  1. gail says:

    Oh Melin’, it’s so true that going to “reunite” with the friends and acquaintances from our past brings back our past. Vividly, in some cases. And I love it. Thanks for taking back your old job, social chairman, (IAPi at Syracuse U) and making the sorority thing happen. And I’m equally grateful to Joan Parsley Sherman for doing the same for the class of ‘61 from Great Neck North High School.

  2. Melinda Blau says:

    Gail, thanks for commenting on–and appreciating–this post. You certainly knew me when!

  3. Joan Parsly Sherman says:

    Melinda, your article caught my eye as anything that says “reunion” I am hungry to read these days. I’m that one that Gail mentioned….our class of ‘61 Social Chairman, den mom, uniter, reunion planner. The joys of reconnecting have been demonstrated by our getting together to celebrate our memories good and bad, but mostly to revel in our survivorship. We have been gathering to lunch, shoot off news and support to each other in ways we could not have imagined today. We are all the richer for it.
    In some ways our lives have parallelled each other since we met on facebook ……I am still hoping to meet you. We would welcome you at lunch anytime.

  4. Melinda Blau says:

    Joan, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m on the road a lot, but who knows? Maybe I’ll spend more than 9 weeks in one place, which will give me time for lunch. I’d love to meet you, too.

  5. Dianne Arluck Begel says:

    Did Arlene C. join your group? She’s Syracuse 1963. My Curtis reunion 1960 was great. I helped finding people-not easy for the women. I enjoy your essays.

  6. Melinda Blau says:

    Yes, Arlene did. Thanks. I’m glad you read them!

  7. Lois Light says:

    I still remember the night my Iota bid was slid under the door of my dorm room… so afraid to open it, my roommate and I cleaned all surfaces in order to forestall the scarey news! Luckily we both were invited to our first choices. (actually my only choice!) I am so proud of the ladies who became my sorors, and there’s a unique bond whenever or wherever we meet. From Vail, to Kenya, and right back to a golf course in westchester, I love being with you. You are beautiful inside and out, and I’m so lucky that the upperclassman chose me!

  8. Melinda Blau says:

    Thanks for posting here Lois. You should also put it on “our” FB page!

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