The fun of being a contributor to the My View column comes from the kind responses of new and old friends. A former grammar school classmate, Gerry, recently contacted the editor of this column to ask if I was the Adele she knew from St. John Kanty School, Class of 1946. I was.
After checking appropriately, and with respect for privacy, telephone numbers were exchanged and recently, four members of my class got together for lunch.
It had been 70 years since our graduation, and 35 years since a formal reunion, but the loveliest part is that we fell in step as if we had always been in touch.
The beauty of sharing with your oldest friends is that nothing needs explaining. When we said “the war” we knew which one. Mentioning Jack Benny made us all laugh. We all spent Sunday nights around the family radio listening to the same programs.
We agreed that our upbringing in simpler and certainly more innocent times was a blessing. But we reflected that whatever “your time” is, it can be troubled. When we were in grammar school, our newspapers blared with headlines of the bombings of World War II, but we were children, and this was our normal.
We spoke of going downtown to the movies, on a streetcar, to one of the Shea’s palaces. We discussed how peculiar it was that, because there were no published time schedules, you would come in and watch the movie from whatever point was on – even the middle – through to that point again, and then leave. I’m still not sure why we weren’t confused.
Then we would go back to unlocked houses in neighborhoods where everyone knew everyone else. If you had misbehaved, this quickly got back to your parents, who, grateful for the information, straightened you out. A desire to not embarrass the family was a great deterrent back then.
We spoke of spending hours playing outside every day. We used our sleds near the train tracks, and played king of the mountain on shoveled snow mounds on busy Broadway. How did we survive, and in one piece?
We spoke of a childhood growing up with lead paint in our houses, mercury fillings in our teeth and lunches of whole milk and baloney sandwiches on white bread. Yet here we are, at 83, filled with the wonder of being here, grateful to be here, and equally wistful that it has gone by so quickly.
It has been a good and full life, and some of us have great-grandchildren. We Buffalo girls live in the suburbs now. Our first names are old-fashioned and no longer trendy: Geraldine, Rita, Sylvia and Adele.
Our longevity has been a surprise to us, a pleasant, albeit unexpected, one, which leads you to conclude that you are meant to be on this earth for X number of days to fulfill what was meant to be. For this honor, we are grateful. For the aches and pains, not so much.
There are no certainties in life and there never have been. Dangerous times have always been with us. But in the meantime, we are thankful for what we have been given. It has been a great ride. We started with a streetcar, and now the world has travel in space. We know that we are the lucky ones.
There is a wishful blessing in Polish that we heard often when growing up. “Sto Lat,” which means, may you live 100 years.
In good health, I think we would welcome that. And who knows? Maybe we will.