I missed it. That’s what you get for being Transplantednorth.
I missed my 25th High School reunion. Tottenville High School, Staten Island. It was just too far to go. After spending 12 hours in the car round trip last weekend taking my kids to camp, taking another 12 hour round trip back to Staten Island for my reunion the next weekend was just too much.
And, after all the messages and photos posted on Facebook in the afterglow of Tottenville ’86’s 25th reunion, I missed it more than I thought I was going to.
There are lots of people who don’t go to reunions. “I don’t do reunions,” some say. Or they say, “I keep in touch with who I want to keep in touch with. Why do I have to see a bunch of people I would never talk to back then?”
Why? Because – it might be fun. People change. And people grow up. For the most part, the cliques are gone, dismantled by spouses, jobs and kids. And, going to a reunion, you may run into someone who you hadn’t thought of in years, doesn’t mean that you didn’t share one or two memories with them in algebra or in the cafeteria.
So, if you are lucky to live close enough to where you went to high school, GO to your reunion. These are the people who knew you back when, for better or worse.
One thing I know – Back then I was good. Maybe too good. The song “Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant?” He could have been singing it to me. And I can acknowledge the fact that yes, I was and am still a bit of a geek. I embrace that. I can laugh at that now. And look what being a geek has done for the likes of women like Tina Fey. You know she wasn’t one of the cool kids in high school.
Twenty five years later and I feel like having a late-in-life teen rebellion.
No, I am probably not the most memorable person in my high school class, or the most popular. But, when your high school class was 840 members strong, there is certainly enough wiggle room to find your own crowd. And at Tottenville, there was enough diversity to find your own stride, and for that I am forever grateful.
Now that I’m a parent, and as my daughter starts high school in the fall, I so appreciate the teachers that she has been blessed with so far in her career. And only now, as I look on the pages of our yearbook, can I start to appreciate the teachers – some great, some not so great – that we had at Tottenville.
So, here’s my list of Tottenville memories – what are some of yours?
- My ridiculous outfit my first day of school freshman year. No wonder I was bullied in Jr. High, did I not learn?
- xylem up and Floem down! Thanks to my 9th grade bio teacher, Mr. Briedenbach, the teacher who wore the bow tie. Thanks to him, I will never forget the correct terminology for a plant’s vascular system.
- How we wore big neon belts and black leggings with neon and black shirts. An attempt was made to revive the style a few years ago, but it never quite caught on.
- Mr. Levy’s physics class. In the middle of a big test, he would break up the tense mood by pulling a rubber chicken out of his desk.
- Our talented jazz musicians: Eric on drums. John, Nick, and Fred on trumpet. I wonder if they are still playing somewhere.
- The very wise beyond her years Nimmy, who was also at times very silly.
- My dad, Mr. Cooper. On Valentines Day of my senior year, I got a red rose - remember those? My heart soared thinking I had a secret admirer, and then sank when I found out it was from – Dad. THANKS DAD!!
- Mr. Ira Shatzman the ultimate Tolkien and calzone loving fan. Spending hours after school working on the yearbook and learning how to use a pica ruler in the days before desktop publishing.
- Performing in Hello, Dolly and Bye Bye Birdie. Getting fitted for hoop skirts. The all-weekend rehearsals. I’ll always think of Mr. Herbert and thank him for all the time and heart he put into those shows.
- Mr. Mass, our beatnik English teacher.
- Going to my first concert – Cyndi Lauper – with Andrew.
- Sitting in the back of Global studies class with Michelle B. I don’t remember anything I learned in the class, but I remember how Michelle made me laugh every day.
- Dissecting a sand shark with Jen in AP bio – but not before we named him first.
- Trying to be independent from my dad. Trying not to just be Mr. Cooper’s daughter. Waiting for a bus in the cold until my thighs froze Freshman year. I got smart by Senior year and took the ride in with dad every day.
- Sitting every morning before homeroom for almost four years in the cafeteria with Karen, Ilene and Stacey. We called ourselves KISS.
- Going to soccer games and wrestling matches. Watching my dad coach and treat those guys like they were his own sons.
- Sitting in Mrs. Pastrana’s spanish class the year I didn’t take lunch. Listening to her go on and on about the three-hour lunches that people take in Madrid.
- Selling Twix and Nestle Crunch Bars for prom. Eating lots of Nestle and Twix bars and wondering how I would fit in a dress for prom.
- The weird sculptures that hung over the entrance to the gym. The weird sculpture that sat in the courtyard, but it was not as weird as the sculpture in front of New Dorp High school.
- Trying to get to a class on the fourth floor D wing after gym, which was in the basement B wing.
- Going into the city for the first time by myself freshman year, Jen came with. Jen was only allowed to go to the city on the condition that we would ONLY go to Bloomingdale’s, but we really went to the Village. Jen, your mom isn’t online, is she?
As I write this, I am watching the academy awards. No, my biggest fashion blunder thankfully wasn’t televised, nor was it as bad as Bjork’s Swan dress from 2001. But, in a time when one should try to act as cool as possible – the first day of high school – I truly missed the mark.
My 25th high school reunion is coming up. Now, I don’t remember what I wore my very last day as a high school student, but I sure remember what I wore the first day.
No, the picture below is not actually my legs. Thankfully, I dont think there is a photograph to document my first day of Freshman year of high school.
My mom had just started a subscription of Seventeen Magazine for me. The preppy look was totally “in” for the fall, according to Seventeen’s big, thick back-to-school August issue. Maybe if you went to a prep school in New Hampshire, but back in Staten Island, not so much.
So there I was, high school freshman, which is cause enough to get egged or suffer a head full of shaving cream the first day of high school. But no, I had to draw further attention to myself with khaki knickers, argyle socks and penny loafers.
I just got it all wrong.
Ahh, the high school dating scene….
Did you go to high school in the 1980’s? I did. There, now I’m dating myself, pun intended.
Back then, I didn’t date anyone because no one was asking! Maybe it was because I went to the same high school where my dad taught physical education and coached two teams, and maybe dating a coaches’ daughter was off-limits in some unwritten high school code of law.
But, those in my high school who were seriously “going out” – and by that I mean they didn’t just “hook up” — were so very much in love and so happy the whole world needed to know. As sickening as it was for the rest of us.
In high school, you knew who was going out with who because of all the of PDA (and that’s not Personal Digital Assistant. Remember, this was the 1980’s. These were Public Displays of Affection) in the hallways, the stairwells, the cafeteria, in the schoolyard and on the bleachers.
Girls with boyfriends would go to the Mall and have these sweatshirts made up. (Another memory of the 1980’s, the melting, rubbery smell of the T-shirt shop.)
On the front of the sweatshirt, and it was usually a pink sweatshirt, would be the girl’s and boy’s name in a big air-brushed heart.
On the sleeve of the sweatshirt would be the date of what I guess was their first date, something like this:
Then on the other sleeve, something like this would be written:
And, if the happy couple were dating a really long time – say, six months – the boy would bestow upon on the girl as a gift an ankle bracelet. Only the ankle bracelet was not worn on the ankle but on a chain around the neck.
No other time did the have-nots of high school romance feel more left out than around Valentine’s Day.
Every year in my high school, the Key Club would hold its annual rose sale for Valentine’s Day. Roses were sold in different colors:
Red – I love you
Pink – I want to get to know you better
Yellow – Secret Admirer
White – Friendship
Roses were distributed the morning of Valentine’s Day in homeroom.
In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day of one’s senior year, seniors had another big day to think about and that was prom. That’s because at the Staten Island Mall, the prom dress displays would go up pretty much as soon as all the Christmas decorations would come down.
What made it worse was I believe that was the same year Pretty in Pink was in the movies. So many questions arose months before the prom among my circle of friends:
Who are you going with?
What will you wear?
What other friends are going in the limo with you?
In the timeline of high school, receiving a rose on Valentine’s Day could be a determining factor for answering the above questions about prom night.
So, there I was in homeroom on Valentine’s Day, when to my shock, I received a rose.
A red one.
Now, at the time, I was not interested in anyone, at least anyone who went to my school.
At that moment I thought of my mom’s wise words: it will happen when you aren’t looking. Someone sent me a red rose! Whoever this person was had circumvented the rose selections of friendship, get-to-know-you-better or secrect admirer. The sender of this rose went straight to
This could be big! This could be my first Love!
My 17-year-old mind whirred. Who could it be? Someone in my AP English class? Certainly not anyone in AP biology, I hoped. Or, someone who was in none of my classes who would see me in the hallway and confess his love and we would go to prom and everything would be wonderful!
With each class I went to, I walked in expecting – I don’t know what.
But nothing happened.
Then, it was time to go to gym.
As I headed across the gym floor to the girl’s locker, my dad was heading out of the boy’s locker.
He greeted me with a big smile.
“Hi honey! Did you get my rose?”
I gulped. “Rose?”
“Yes, I sent you a rose!”
At that moment, I wanted to die. Just someone, please drown me in the locker room shower.
But I know my dad really meant well. Looking back, my dad just wanted to send his little girl a rose. But then, the 17-year-old me just died on that shiny gym floor.
“Thanks, dad,” I said, and I think I even smiled. Because I knew he meant well. But when you’re in high school, with the sweatshirts and ankle bracelets, a rose given to you by dad is well, not all that – womantic.
You would think I know about soccer. My dad coached high school soccer for almost three decades. When I was the coach’s daughter, I went to nearly every practice, every game. The guys on the team were like my brothers. A crush on one of the players, I knew, would go nowhere when you are the coach’s daughter, for fear of dating the coach’s daughter.
I watched my dad’s frustration when, the first year or so in the early 1980’s, the Tottenville Pirates, struggled to find players to come out for the team. The first year, they didn’t win a single game. Then, as I sat on the bleachers on a grey fall afternoon, I watched a triumphant team lift my dad into the air on their shoulders after the team’s very first win. Years later, the Totenville Pirates clinched the city title several times over.
Fast forward to the present: Today, there are approximately 17.5 million kids who play soccer, according to U.S. Soccer. I was never one of those kids. My brother was. When he was very little, he would go straight from a game in his St. Charles uniform straight to Hebrew school. Later, he played, though I think begrudgingly, for my dad’s team in high school.
I’m an adult and I am still happy to be on the sidelines, sometimes with a book, sometimes screaming and jumping when my daughter’s team nears the goal post. I am very grateful for the parents who get out there and coach.
In my town, Brighton, soccer seems to be the new religion. I remember one summer, when my youngest was around six, the family took and after dinner stroll around the neighborhood, looking for people to chat with. No one could be found. Why? Everyone was on a field, in a folding chair, watching their kid play soccer. We never made that mistake again and signed our kids up for soccer every succeeding summer.
At a quick glance, the fields in Buckland Town Park in Brighton on Tuesday and Thursday evenings appear as if they have been invaded by a colony of little green Martians. But if you adjust your eyes, you will see that this is no alien colony but the future of soccer. For the first time, hundreds of the town’s six and seven year olds are all on the same neon-green team and are learning to dribble, pass and score in Brighton Soccer League’s new program called the Small-Sided Games Initiative.
Cities across the country – and now Brighton – are implementing small-sided soccer as a new trend that affords the youngest soccer players “more opportunities to have contact with the ball and gain confidence in the sport,” according to Mike Tullio, a member of the Brighton Soccer League board who facilitates the E, F and Pee Wee divisions. Dedicated volunteer coaches switch off with random groups of ten children each night with 30 minutes of drilling and dribbling and learning how to control the ball, and then 30 minutes of scrimmage play with half the “team” wearing blue aprons.
Is this new method working? Mike said that like anything new, it is too early to tell, and it is a bit of an adjustment. There are a few drawbacks from a coach’s perspective, he said, such as the inability to work with one set group of kids for the entire season.
Brighton resident and volunteer coach Barbara Egenhofer agrees. “At this age, they are really starting to understand the game, and I need to get to know where a kid’s strengths are – be it offense or defense. For younger children, the new setup may be good for straight skill development, but the older kids really want to wear those separate team colors and have a greater desire to play a real game,” she said.
Either way, the smiles on the kids’ faces as they run the width of the field – and score a goal into tiny nets — are proof that they are having a good time. The only drawback for kids – no organized team means no organized snack at the end of practice.