I am frequently confronted by a situation that would appear to be a statistical improbability but is nevertheless true.
My husband and I are out for the evening. Our destination is of little importance. We could be on line to purchase movie tickets, or waiting for our table in a restaurant. Or even preparing to board the first flight to Mars. It doesn’t matter. Invariably he will run into a guy he knows from high school.
What makes this so astonishing is that his high school class had all of 106 students, while my class had about 900. And yet, I bump into nobody.
So these old acquaintances, (frequently, the wife is a hometown girl, as well) acknowledge each other with great surprise and delight, and sit down and join us at the dinner table. Or plan to meet up after the movie for coffee. What ensues for them is a thoroughly enjoyable three-way conversation about old times. I just sit there and smile.
My husband grew up in a small town on Long Island, New York. For those of you not from the New York area, Long Island is a strip of land that is actually a part of Brooklyn, although its inhabitants would rather jump in the Long Island Sound with rocks in their pockets than admit to that.
In addition to being given fluorinated water to prevent cavities, and inoculations against whooping cough, I am firmly convinced that children growing up in or near his town in the above-mentioned location, were implanted with a homing device that enables them to find each other in whatever hemisphere they happen to be residing. Or vacationing. Or golfing. Or visiting the proctologist. I refuse to believe that these encounters are mere coincidence.
As a result, I have become a silent participant in a fairly steady stream of both informal and formal get-togethers during which I witness, somewhat enviously, their nostalgia.
Just this winter alone, there have been three such occasions, and as an observer, I have begun to notice a pattern. Besides the good will, the pleasure of seeing one another, and some requisite whining about how their golf games are deteriorating, each reunion seems to have three essential ingredients. These are: “ The Medical Update,” “The Geography Game,” and an activity that I have named “Alive or Dead?”
The medical update consists of a general review of everyone’s body parts. In this segment we are informed about recent hip surgeries, knee replacements, shoulder operations, and who knows the absolute best doctor to see if you need work on your right arm between the elbow and the wrist. This inventory may or may not be followed up with what has come to be known as the “organ recital,” and includes any pertinent information about liver, kidneys, pancreas, and of course, the heart. Cholesterol count is optional.
The Geography Game is one of my personal favorites, although it can become a little contentious. This is the part of the evening when those who are no longer living in the home town ask those who are, about historic landmarks.
“Remember Romeo’s Pizza Parlor on Main Street? Is it still there?”
“That wasn’t on Main Street. That was on Jones Street, across from the movies.”
“No it wasn’t; you’re thinking of the ice cream parlor.”
“You think I don’t know the difference between an ice cream parlor and a pizza parlor?
Similar inquiries take place regarding the bowling alley, kosher butcher, and the pharmacy where you could get the best egg creams. Or was that malteds?
Finally we arrive at that inevitable part of the evening when the discussion turns to those former classmates who are not present at the current gathering.
“Whatever happened to Bill Mason?”
“Didn’t he die recently?”
“Are you crazy? He isn’t dead. I just spoke to him at a member-guest.”
“Are you sure you spoke to him? Because I heard he was dead.”
At a typical reunion, at least five other people are discussed in this manner before dessert is served.
Despite the small disagreements about what was where, and so-and-so’s mortality, the evening is congenial, and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Even me, although I’m not an integral part of the original group.
And I’m sure it would be not one iota different if it were my old neighborhood and my high school friends. If only I could find them.
People of Brooklyn, you have got to get out more!