Tag Archives: lost a child

Not Just a School

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, attendingher 6th grade reunion at PS 94 Queens, her image photographed by Jane Seckel CassidyI’d never gone to any of my high school or college reunions. There had been no strong relationships, no compelling reasons, to attend these. But when announcements for the 100th anniversary of NYC Public School 94 and the reunion of its 6th grade class of 1963 flickered through my email accounts, there was no deliberation – I went.

Friday morning at the anniversary assembly, PS 94 was packed with people. Looking past the crowd, I explored the old building, searching for things that hadn’t been painted-over or replaced, for whatever remained from when I was there last, 52 years ago. What had my young eyes seen? What had I touched?

The wooden seats in the auditorium were the same. The trodden stairs, the tiles in the girls’ bathroom, the mysterious door ten-feet-up the back wall of the auditorium, and the original brass doorknobs had all been with me in this place I still knew so well. Later that evening, I discovered I’d come back to much more than just the building.

For two weeks prior, emails from familiar names had filled my mailboxes. My laptop was alive with excited chatter of long-ago friends who had gone from kindergarten through the 6th grade together. One by one, as eight of us met up on Friday, I recognized them. My classmates’ eyes had hardly changed over the half-century.

Over dinner at Marcy’s house, we shared stories of Mrs. Fagin, our teacher in the 4th and 6th grades. We named all the faces in our class photo. We went around the table telling our life stories from after 6th grade when the school system flung us into the larger JHS 67 followed by two different huge high schools. Then there were colleges and careers.

Things some of us had in common: Blue toenail polish, hair color, not-too-spicy ethnic takeout dinners, cancer stories, back pains, and work that involved writing or creating. I fit in, I thought. Even though no one else had lost a child.

“You taught me how to draw figures,” Jane said to me. I sat back in my chair sipping wine, smiling. I had done something and been remembered.

We promised ourselves we’d find more of the 39 classmates and have another, bigger 6th grade reunion.
“We’re not just a school; we’re a family,” one of the speakers had said during the assembly in the auditorium. That pretty much sums up why I think this just might happen.

 

(my image was captured by Jane Seckel Cassidy at our reunion dinner)

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