There were two Karens and two Robins in my sixth grade class of 1963 at PS94. We met in Manhattan last weekend for our second reunion.
“Who else is a cancer survivor? Who became a teacher? Who went into medicine?” Fifteen of us threw questions across the huge table at the Lincoln Square Steak House. “Who’s retired? Has anyone filed for social security yet?” We noted who was gay, who was single, and who had “not changed a bit” over the fifty-two years since we graduated. In the corners, we whispered about who had died. And also, probably, about who had lost her daughter.
My claim to fame in grade school used to be that I was voted the best artist. Now, many of us had art and writing in common. I would always be the only one with a sibling who was also a classmate, but I was not the only one who had married and divorced more than once. In how many more ways were we connected? How were we different? With my eyes, I stroked the familiar faces that yet contained the smiles of the children I’d grown up with. It was like coming home to long lost cousins.
“We should have asked if anyone else has a living parent,” my sister said later, still trying to find connections.
“Or who has a tattoo,” I added. “Or who’s Republican and who’s a Democrat, maybe.”
After the dinner, several of us walked the few blocks from the restaurant to an apartment owned by one of the Karens. I would never live in the city, I thought as I trailed the others down hallways and into the elevator of the thirty-floor building. But we soon opened the door to a beautiful space with large windows, artwork all around, and a serious but comfortable area devoted to work. The TV had been left on for the dog. A fuzzy white Westie greeted us. It looked like my dog. The place looked like my own home.
“Entertain yourselves while I walk my dog,” Karen said. But I grabbed my coat and followed her back down the elevator and hallways, and out into the streets of New York City where, like silent magic, from all directions, solitary people walked their dogs under bright streetlamps.