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Jenifer’s Shelter Island Journal: Brave old world

Well, I made it to and from my 60th high school reunion this weekend and, because I was so arrogant about “one way or another” getting this column in by today, I told my dear editor not to worry about having extra content ready to cover for me.

She probably should have worried because now that this monumental event is in the rear view mirror, I’m not at all sure if I’ll have anything about it worth saying or, more importantly, you’ll find anything worth reading.  Seems like a promising place to start …

I have to confess, I was kind of excited about going, which is odd considering that, as my last column describes, high school for me was not my happy place. However, there was an element of something between gravitas and nose-thumbing surrounding this particular event that somehow was compelling me to go. Not only had I survived long enough to attend, but I was, thank goodness, able to attend.

As much as I’m generally in denial about the fascinating physical novelties attached to my own aging, I must admit to having frequent sciatic nerve pain, a capricious rotator cuff, visual “floaters,” etc., etc., so “being able” to go anywhere is saying something. 

Our reunion organizers had arranged for a block of rooms to be available at the venue for those of us now living out of town. Though I’m now two hours away, it never occurred to me I was one of those — I still was technically on Long Island, right?  But a week out, my daughter insisted that I book a room. She was not interested in her aging mama driving those two hours home at night.

The reunion venue was booked-up by that time, so she found a room at the Holiday Inn Express. O.K. I admit it, I was relieved. Until, of course, the day before my reunion adventure, when we were watching a program about the alleged Gilgo Beach murderer who apparently, years before, had a preliminary assignation with one of his victims, yes, at the Holiday Inn Express. Happily, my horror was (somewhat) assuaged when we learned that “Express” was at the Massapequa location. 

It may be occurring to you as I insist on marching you through the minutiae of this “incredible journey,” that maybe I don’t get out much. Correct. Everyone else I know, particularly my family members, are jetting hither and yon, while I stood for at least 30 seconds in front of my hotel room door this Saturday, trying to slide the plastic key card through a non-existent slot until I realized I was supposed to just tap it on the lock. Sad. 

Another challenge was getting from my hotel to the reunion. One of the faculties I haven’t lost with age is my sense of direction, never having had one to begin with so, in spite of having lived in the area for the first 20 years of my life, I had no idea where this Hilton Garden Inn was. Please. I’m aware of GPS, but my car is GPS-free for a reason. Maps on the screens of moving vehicles or snotty, disembodied females barking “Recalculating, recalculating” are not included in my concept of “safe driving.”

Desperation, however, forced me to try Google Maps on my phone. I actually saw the reunion site with the little bubble above it, but the roadways seem to expand and contract on their own, which made me queasier than I already was, so it fell to the nice front desk clerk, Al, to guide me.

Luckily, his English was much better than my Urdu, so I was able to write down several versions of his directions, all of which I took back to my room and studied as if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls until it was time to change into my “goin’-to-a-60th-high-school-reunion” outfit.

I looked good — even in my room’s funhouse mirror: ladylike pink sheath with excruciating but coordinated open-toed wedges. Nice.

It turns out, an amalgam of Al’s directions was perfect. I was there in five minutes! I took the first empty parking space I came to, which made for another five-minute journey on foot to the hotel entrance. As I limped in the direction of the Roslyn Class of 1964 private dining room, I saw a gaggle of gray-haired gentlemen — some bent over a small table, obviously signing in, and some just bent over — and I wondered to myself what event they were attending — until one of them looked my way and said, “Jenifer?  Jenifer Eklund?”

I’m still processing my experience. I’m glad I went, but I’m not sure why. Believe it or not, they’re already planning for our 70th. Hey, if I’m around, I may go. I’ll just wear different shoes.