A Letter from Hugh Gage

AUTUMN IN NEWYORK and the Bronxville we remember

I've always found the thought of reunions a little suspect. Maybe it's from watching too many "Peggie Sue" or "A League of Their Own" finale memories. You know-the guy with the biggest car dealership who was voted least likely, or the cute cheerleader (she won "perkiest" three years in a row), who comes back as Barbara Stanwyck's twin sister on a broom. But those are stories of fiction. This one is in glorious, heart-stopping Twenty-First Century Fox nostalgic as good-as-it-gets living Bronxville-in-the-fall color. When Bruce called me in early June to tell me there was going to be a PS#8 reunion in October, I thought, as many of my friends subsequently said to me, "Eighth Grade? No-one has an eighth grade reunion." They are missing something extraordinarily fine, I can tell you. I had occasion to speak to my 90 year-old mother that week - as it turns out lt was the last conversation I had with her - and she was as excited as I, for she always considered my Number Eight classmates pretty nice people.My folks had loved Bronxville and our house on Highland Circle. In fact, after a sojourn to Richmond (I mean if you lived in Richmond, wouldn't you come back to Bronxville?) for two years, they moved back, first to Garrett Place (same apartment building as Miss Danns) and then to Boulder Trail while I was in college. Mary Heep recently reminded me of the pillars at the foot of Boulder Trail, a great place for hide-and-seek. Then came a phone call from Refik, out of the blue, actually out of Plantation. We talked as if it were yesterday. He seems to know where everyone is, and he said he was coming up from Florida. Molly called too; I would recognize that lilt in a minute. The ball was rolling. No-one had changed, in my occasionally dimming eyes. There was no one upsmanship, there was lots of laughter, gallons of nostalgia, a few tears and for me time stood still. All of a sudden - was it all of a sudden - fifty years came back, wonderfully back. If heaven on earth is all that a heart can hold, then surely that weekend was for me a treasured memory. Was the school smaller? The desks certainly were, ahem. Nancy Stewart saved her copy of "Meet Arizona," for pete's sake. We almost had a rehearsal. I stood in the auditorium, and the sounds of "O Holy Night" mingled with "Aunt Lavinia is My Name." No sneaky people here.The stoves are gone from the Home Ec room, but Mrs. Thompson's library is still there. But now there are computer things in the library too. Ah, progress. Was there an odor of dogs and 'kraut in the gym, after all it was Friday? Have to get ready for the Friday night dance. The paved playground for field day has some temp buildings on it. No matter, I can see the teams lining up for dodge ball. We all looked, but the fire escape chute is gone. Someone should put up a Tuffy/Curtis plaque in its honor. I found one of Jack Fahling's spitballs outside the auditorium-813-817 homeroom. Perfectly preserved, I think. The names of the children are different, but the sounds are the same. On this perfect October day, there are bulletin boards handsomely displaying American flags. Treasures and reminders for us all. We give to each other strength, courage and honor in our lives and for our families.

The train station is the same, the town unchanged. Lovely and sleepy on this Friday, it moves at its own pace. A facade here and there is gone; no more Beltson's, no more Steinmetz, Woolworth's Five and Dime and the Hotel Gramatan have disappeared. Other than that, it's the same wonderful place. I miss Flash Gordon at the movie house, though. And the popcorn was good, too It is no accident, I think, that so many of us have taught at one time or another. You will rightfully call it a career. Others will say it is, knowingly or otherwise, a chance to give something back. Even the Somerset dunces can add a column faster than today's calculator whiz kids. When you are really stuck (and please don't take this note as an example) I can see the pencil going to a sentence diagram. In that town, and in that school and with each other we learned, and we have passed it on to others, with thanks to our families and to each other as we gave and received gifts of friendship and trust. There were times during the weekend when I sat back and listened to the quiet pride in your voices as you spoke of your children, and the loving adoration as you related the antics of grandchildren. Did you sense the happiness you gave us to be included in these thoughts? Everyone seemed to pick up as if it were yesterday, nothing awkward. I wonder if that's because we were with each other for such a long time. A smile here, a hug, glad personal words and recollections privately given. A touch on the arm, reminders of secret, savored moments, all returned in an effulgent cascade. I shall keep you and yours in my heart and prayers. You have made this joyous weekend, for me, timeless.

next page, photos