Reunion by
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(106 Stories)

Prompted By Reconnecting

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A few months ago I wrote about three places,  each of which I can claim as a home town.  (See Parkchester, Celebrate Me Home,  The Lady with the Torch,  Kente Cloth)

I was born in Charleston, SC yet for most of my adult life I’ve lived on Manhattan’s eastside.  But the east Bronx neighborhood of Parkchester is where I spent my formative childhood and adolescent years,  and that’s where some of my strongest connections and reconnections have been made.

After I was married and long gone,  my parents sold the Bronx house and moved back to the Rockaways where they had grown up and had met.   By then I no longer had friends or family in the old Bronx neighborhood,  and had few occasions to go back.

But early in 2010 a Facebook group called Parkchester Teens of the 50s posted the announcement of a Parkchester neighborhood reunion to be held in May.

Of course I registered for the reunion,  and every few days I checked the website to see who else had signed up.   Married women were asked to include their maiden names,  and as I scrolled down the growing list,  in my mind’s eye I saw the faces of kids I hadn’t seen in decades.

Then on a sunny May day,  more than 1,000 of us gathered on a large swatch of lawn in the midst of the beautiful Parkchester housing development that gave it’s name to the surrounding neighborhood,  including the border street where my family had lived.

Four large tents had been erected on the lawn,  each marked with the name of one of the public or parochial grade schools that served our neighborhood.   We each headed to our own tent,  mine marked for my alma mater PS 106,  and there we sought out familiar faces.  And among the many now gray and balding heads,  we found one another.

Of course there were reunion activities scheduled throughout the day including a film about Bronx and Parkchester history shown at Parkchester’s Lowes American theatre – where as a kid I ate innumerable bags of popcorn while watching innumerable movies.  The theatre –  closed to the public that day – is on East Avenue,  one of Parkchester’s main shopping streets,  and is across from the small branch of Macys that,  as a wide-eyed young girl,   I thought was the grandest of emporia.

On reunion day East Avenue was closed to traffic and many food trucks were parked there to feed us.    And at one point during that wonderful day most of us walked down our own street and up to own house to look,  or if lucky when we rang the bell,  to be welcomed in by the strangers now living there.

Many of us had brought photo albums and yearbooks,  and we showed each other pictures on our cell phones,  and we reminisced  – about our teachers,  our childhood games,  our teenage romances,  how as inexperienced pizza-eaters we’d burn the roofs of our mouths with our first bite.

By 5:00 that afternoon the event was winding down and we exchanged phone numbers and emails,   gave each other final hugs,  and promised to keep in touch,  and in fact a group of us who reconnected that day have stayed in touch.  Since reunion we’ve been meeting several times a year for day trips and,  among other fun destinations,  we’ve gone  – appropriately – to the Bronx Botanical Garden for their delightful exhibits.

But on that sunny spring afternoon as I said my good-byes,  I just couldn’t let that wonderful,  very emotional day come to an end.   So I invited two dozen or so old friends back to my Manhattan apartment for pizza,   and I called my husband and told him to order ten pies.

It wasn’t Bronx pizza and it didn’t burn the roof of my mouth,  but surrounded by those old Parkchester friends it tasted pretty good.

Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!
www.WorldThruBrownEyes.com

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Tags: REUNIONS
Characterizations: funny, moving, well written

Comments

  1. Laurie Levy says:

    How lucky you were, Dana, to have this reunion that reconnected you to childhood friends. I hope you have been able to maintain some of those reconnections during the pandemic.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Wat a delightful reunion, Dana, and so cool that it was a whole neighborhood, and not just the usual school class. 1,000 people is an amazing gathering.

    I belong to a fairly large Facebook group of “kids” who grew up in the New Haven area at around the same time. It is a lot of fun — particularly the photos some of the members have shared. And, like your group, a lot of the talk is about the great New Haven pizza we all had back then — and which the ones still living in the area still enjoy.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    How fabulous that such a large group was able to reconnect in the place where you all grew up! Your warmth, happiness and enthusiasm just shines through, Dana. It’s downright infectious. I can’t imagine inviting 10 couples back for pizza, spur of the moment, but sounds perfect. And now a group of you really do stay in touch. Just wonderful!

  4. Suzy says:

    Wow, Dana, I just love this story so much! How fortunate that you happened to see the notice on Facebook, or you might have missed the reunion entirely! What a fabulous event it was too, and you describe it so well that I almost feel as if I had been there too. And now, eleven years later, you are still in touch with many of those friends. Wonderful!

    • Thanx Suzy! And that FB neighborhood website continues to be wonderful as folks post memories and questions, often beginning “Who remembers when ….?, or “Is anyone still in touch with ….?”

      Then, as with our Retro prompts, the memories come flooding back!

  5. Marian says:

    Like your story, Dana, and I could grasp the fun you had with this set of reconnections, especially since I doubt I could name five people in my elementary school classes!

  6. What a terrific story, Dee! You have inspired me to search FB groups for some of my own schoolmates. I don’t know why, but I remember the name of each and every one of them! But that you happened upon “Parkchester Teens of the 50s” intrigues me…I wonder if I’ll find anything that specific. Will let you know…

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    The power of reconnecting people through the internet is astounding–and what a wonderful reunion you had! While we rue the fact that, in this cyber age, people maybe have fewer personal connections, that also enables events like this one.

  8. What a satisfying kind of “reconnection.” And a really well-written ending. BTW, one doesn’t often see the expression “housing development” paired with the adjective “beautiful.” Yet there is no reason they should not be paired. (“Another world is possible.”)

    • Thanx Dale, and yes the Parkchester of my youth was beautiful, and certainly so in my eyes. I hope you’ll read my earlier story, Parkchester, Celebrate Me Home.

      Despite the Ogden Nash line, “The Bronx, No thonx” (sic) it was truly a wonderful place to grow up!

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