Even After All These Years
Updated: Oct 9, 2018
This past weekend I had the opportunity to head to my hometown of Geneva, New York to meet up with my classmates from the Class of 1983 for our 35th Class Reunion! Yes, I was a child of the 80's. We were the first generation of music videos on MTV, and the first of video games perfecting our scores on Pac- Man, Centipede, Astroids, and Atari's Pong. We " Rocked You" with Queen, Pat Benetar, REO Speedwagon, AC/DC, Foreigner, Blondie's 'Rapture' and so many more amazing bands that I can't possibly name them all here. We fried our hair with curly perms, wore outrageously huge parachute pants, warmed our calves with legwarmers, and squared off our shoulders with shoulder pads that put Carol Burnett's spoof of Scarlett's dress to shame, and then went a whole new direction with the whole Madonna grunge look. When we talked to someone on the phone, we dialed a number in which we actually had memorized, it actually was attached to a wall and we had to stay stationary...of course unless you had a 20 foot cord, then you were mobile. We screamed at the movie screen as Jaws was attacking the fishing boat, or when every scary movie character ran to hide in a closet (Really? You knew they would be next to perish!). We sat on the edge of seats to see who actually shot JR, wondered "where's the beef", and we were obsessed with about every John Hughes movie he ever directed (and still are today).
It was an amazing time to grow up, and Geneva was the perfect setting for it. A college town located at the north end of Seneca Lake, the largest of all the Finger Lakes. Although we didn't know it then, we were so lucky to have our community. A community both in location and in family. We were then as students not only sharing the same grade, but the same generational culture and experiences that would bind us together like no others. Today we continue as a family tie in spite of all the years that have gone by. A classmate once said that time has become an equalizer, and I agree wholeheartedly. Like most classes in high school, we all had our groups of friends we hung with that shared similar interests and hobbies. Whether it was drama and music, or sports, or studies, or just being similar, we gravitated towards friends of similar kind. Our class was different though, different because despite our differences, we respected and cared for each other and had each others backs. I don't remember us being bullies or ostracizing each other in any way. It's amazing to me today to think those three years I spent together with this group of kids would mold my perceptions of life to come, and goals I would set to later strive to achieve. Think about it, it was only three years of my life. However so much happened in those three years. I shared so many things with this group during that time; and it built a camaraderie amongst us, a bond that is still there even after all these years.
There were a few couples that married their high school sweethearts and still are happily married today. One such couple is our Liz and Chuck. Liz and Chuck own the Hotel Exchange, a great little pub that offers dinners and drinks and a place to come together to spend some time. Of course this was our first stop on Friday night. Coming together before our actual reunion night, it was so amazing to step into a full pub just filled with friends I hadn't seen for years. Studying my year book that day (as you all know I'm terrible with names and knew there was a test later) I found I really didn't need to have done so as I remembered fondly each and every one I hugged as I made my way down the bar. I can't express how happy I was too, to not only see my classmates but also a few of our friends from the Class of 82' and also our friends from DeSales, the local Catholic High School. These gals were my crew too. When moving to New York from Tennessee for some reason my parents put me in a Catholic School while my siblings went to the public school. Perhaps they were trying to groom me to be a nun and save all our souls...sorry that didn't happen as I was too boy crazy!!! So I grew up with these ladies. We played basketball and volleyball together, had dances together, and basically shared many life changing events together. But again...the rivalry that used to exist between the public school and catholic school didn't hold true to our class as we all hung together even back then. I think we went against the grain in so many of the norms and expectations of our age group. So Friday night having everyone together from both GHS and DeSales warmed my heart while we caught up from the last 35 years.
Walking back to the hotel with my bestie Shari and my sister Jen, I couldn't help but notice the amazing job Geneva has done in it's revitalization of the main streets area. Kudos to you. Geneva never looked that great when I was growing up. As we made our way to the Ramada, we reminisced on how that area used to be just a place we called "Vista Point" or "Links" I think. Yeah, it was a place we would just park and party. Now it's so amazing...which I'll get into here in a minute..but the town is now so welcoming to visitors and a draw for new residents.
Shari has been my best bud since 10th grade. She welcomed me into a new school when I switched to the public schools, and took me under her wing and into her friend circle and we've been besties ever since. Jen, my little sister by 6 years has always been my best friend too. Even as a child, she hung out with my friends, so it's just an known fact that she's part of my class reunion each and every time we go!!! When she suggested we get a hotel room and just stay close by I was all in. Slumber Party!!!! And funny, but it was just like old times as we stayed up till 3 in the morning talking both nights of our reunion weekend.
The next morning we got up and hit the road. Little did Shari know what she was in store for with me. I had forewarned her though to bring some hiking shoes/outfits!!! My wanderlust must have been contagious though as we hit the road with our first stop being the new Welcome Center at the Seneca Lake State Park, which was absolutely fabulous. There for the ribbon cutting with her job, Shari has been too busy that day and never really got to take it all in like we did that morning, but she shared with me the different attractions and new areas added and I must say, I love this push for tourism at each and every region the in state. I highly recommend stopping in to see it and to walk along the park trail. And please purchase some local fare they sell in the little cafe area inside the visitor center. New York wines and cheeses are like no other!!! If I lived there...I would definitely be running that trail every day, as it was gorgeous!!! What a view!!! I remember as a kid going to the park but there really was nothing down there to offer unless you had a boat or took a picnic.
After Friendly's for breakfast, we then hit the road to see our old haunts, homesteads, and parts of town we just never appreciated before. Driving around we found our houses different but eerily familiar. The trees and more homes had grown up around my house while Shari's house was minus some trees and looked so much smaller than we recalled. Driving past both our elementary schools (St. Stephens and West Street) and to our old high school(s) we became a bit nostalgic recalling good times we had had there.
Taking in the new football field we wondered if we would be done out to Zugibe to catch the end of the homecoming game that night. Wouldn't that be cool to have all of us show up to cheer once again for our team?!! Being there brought up so many memories of how we were the first 10th grade class to use that building. It called to mind the brightly colored lockers and walkway above the cafeteria that framed the old entrance to the gym area where I first noticed my high school sweetheart, Tim standing there. The new gym is amazing from the outside, being able to see a peek into the new exercise room from above we could see the row of exercise bikes overlooking the field. Did we even have a exercise room back then? If we did, I never went there obviously. We both agreed though we dislike the new buildings. In my personal opinion, they seem detached and not consistent with the architecture of the old building. I'm hoping one day that the facade can be fixed to make the new buildings more cohesive, instead of appearing as though a few buildings were plopped down and connected. But again, that's just my opinion.
Next we went downtown to the Main Street area to see the Row Houses. I can't believe how I never really appreciated their beauty and history. Walking and snapping pics of the Row Houses, Shari's childhood church, and the Old Geneva Hotel, we also walked the circle...the oldest road in town, as we took a selfie. Think it's a great likeness.
Heading out of town and past where our 10th grade float was constructed at the Bleakley's old barn, we happened across another hangout spot we called Slate Rock. I don't recall how beautiful it really was there...perhaps because we only were there at night time. Coming back in towards town we couldn't help but make a stop to Glenwood Cemetery too where we often hung out. Sadly many of our classmates from school are no longer with us and herein we remembered them fondly wishing they could still be celebrating with us.
Making our way out on Route 14 heading south we passed so many new wineries and breweries as we made our way into Watkins Glen where we parked and quickly hiked into the gorge with a few hundred others. Not having enough time to stay and hike the whole thing, we felt satiated in our mini exploration as we made our way back to GTown up the east side of the lake. Passing Hector Falls, and several other wineries and breweries, we appreciated the beauty of our area and made plans to once again return to actually just have some fun and do a wine tour together. It amazed me how fast the day went, and we had to head back to the hotel to get ready (make ourselves presentable) for another night with our classmates.
The actual reunion was held Saturday night at Zugibe Winery and put together by our classmate Kim Ess who deserves a huge shout out for organizing this crazy bunch (as I know how tough it is to try to wrangle so many from all over the nation). The shindig was catered by our classmate Lenard Scott who is the owner of Redman's Chicken and Ribs on Preemption Road (who also deserves a shout out), and I cannot tell you how delicious everything was. Best fried chicken in the north!! It is definitely a "must visit" place to eat while in the Fingerlakes. And Zugibe's wines were delicious...highly recommend their Cabernet Franc, as well as the venue, for any event or wedding!!! Just beautiful. Normally we would have it at Club 86, however this was a really busy weekend and it was already booked so we had to come up with a Plan B. I must admit, I preferred Plan B. Although it's fun to get dressed up and do a sit down type of event...this was so much more comfortable and the views were spectacular.
Saturday night was about as much fun as Friday night as we visited, reminisced, and laughed together once again both at the winery and then again downtown as we took the party down to Parker's Grille on Seneca Street, just two doors down from the Smith Opera House where we all threw our caps in the air just 35 years before. Making our way back to the hotel once again, we grabbed a traditional slice to take back for a late night snack, from Cam's Pizza.
As Sunday morning came, we truly hadn't had enough of each other so we all met at the Ramada where we had a big breakfast and a few more classmates joined us that we hadn't seen yet. Even after all these years, we still are a family. We still love hanging out with each other, and we still laugh and have so much fun!!
Amazing is the word that keeps popping into my head about the whole weekend. What an absolute amazing time with my friends. It seems like it was just yesterday we were all together and despite all the years in between, we still were the same loving friends we had always been with a few new spouses to add to the mix. We missed so many of our friends though. Friends that wished they could be there but had other family and work obligations and couldn't make it. Friends that had passed on but we still love and remember as part of our family. Thankfully through Facebook we did our best to keep all those that couldn't attend in the loop and include them there, despite the miles apart. We had you all there in spirit friends...and we hope you can make it next time as you were all very much missed. We can't wait another 10 years like we did...we all agreed it should be five years and for those that live local, we just need to make more of an effort to see each other every year at least once!!
Thank you Class of 1983 for an amazing time together. Love each and every one of you and can't wait to see you all again soon!!!
Till then, we must virtually stay in touch!!!
Slainte' my friends.