Tag Archive | class reunions

No Friends Like Old Friends

I don’t think I blogged about a big event I helped sponsor in June. My grade school class celebrated our fifty year reunion. Yes, you read that right– it has been 50 years since we graduated eighth grade after being together since first grade. Most of us even went on to high school together.

the class0001

Surprisingly, most of the classmates who attended had come from great distances. We had two from California, one from Arizona, three from Florida, one from Connecticut, one from North Carolina, and a host of others who drove over an hour to get to our location. Four of us “locals” never moved away from home.


It was a wonderful time to grow up in a small town, and for those of us who stayed here, we now appreciate the innocence we all had at age thirteen. We were safe from most of the ugliness the larger world had to offer. And yet, we weren’t pampered. Good behavior was expected on all levels of our lives. If anyone got in trouble at school, they would receive a worse punishment at home.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I’m not exactly sure. I want to share this experience because I think this gathering was unique. I don’t know of any other grade school class who ever got together in such a big way. We all formed strong bonds as children limping through eight years of Catholic education, having to attend mass every day for the duration. And everyone who lived through the reign of Sister Eloise the principle was a strong kid!

By eighth grade we all had our favorite musical group and used to argue which band was better than the other. In 1965 we had a lot of choices — Beatles, Stones, David Clark Five, Beach Boys, Kinks, and the beat goes on. We played on a playground without equipment, except for the supplies we brought from home — chalk for hopscotch boards we drew on the asphalt and ropes we used as jump ropes and double dutch ropes. If somebody brought a ball and bat, we’d divvy up sides and play a hotly contested baseball game.

It was surprising to me that we all got along so well after so much time elapsing and so many changes happening to all of us. It didn’t surprise me that half the women were teachers and the other half nurses — and then there was me, a communication specialist turned author turned caregiver. Married classmates typically had two children. Most everyone attended college, most graduated. Three girls accomplished this feat as adult students — Debby, Debbie, and me.

In fifty years so much has changed. We never dreamed we’d carry a phone in our purses or pockets. Heck, that was science fiction! We never thought we’d have a zillion channels on the television; the three major networks were the only ones to chose from and they only came in when the weather was good. All of our families had little money, but we never thought we were poor.

Maybe we didn’t produce world class scholars, professional athletes, Nobel prize winners or scientists — we’re just a group of educated, well-adjusted, and happy adults–thanks to involved parents and dedicated teachers. Who could ask for more?



Chapter 23

Paris, France – September—Almost a month passed since Marta’s brutal rape: she healed physically as the bruises diminished, but the nightmares persisted. She returned to work appearing like the same girl, but her changes ran deep. She appeared skittish at any small noise. She constantly checked her surroundings, insuring her personal safety. When left alone in the apartment, she double-checked the locks. The only problem still existing proved to be the absence of her period.

Marta began to think perhaps she should have followed Emma’s caution to see a doctor the night of the attack. Could she be pregnant? And if she happened to be in such a state, would she be shunned by her friends? If others ever learned about Franz, would she be seen as a collaborator instead of a victim of rape? After all, any good woman said no to sex out of marriage. But Marta did say “no” again and again.  Her racing thoughts made her crazy. She gave up eating breakfast because of the nausea every morning. By mid-afternoon she would sleep in a broom closet. Marta didn’t want to face the truth and chalked up the symptoms to stress.

Every night after supper, Emma and Marta washed and dried the dishes. The chore always evoked lively conversation before they settled down to listen to the radio.

Marta began the conversation with hesitation. “Emma, I need to talk with you about something important.”

“Yes?” Emma scrubbed a stubborn spot on the soup pot.

“I need to talk about a problem.”


“I am ashamed to say.”

“Just tell me.”  Emma glanced up at Marta whose forehead wrinkled with worry. “What is wrong, Cherie? Did you encounter Franz on the streets again?”

“No.” Marta’s eyes fell to the floor. She didn’t want Emma to witness her moist eyes.

“Did you get in trouble at work?”

Nein... I mean, no.”

“Was the soup too thin?”


“Well what then? Do not keep me guessing.”

Marta took a deep breath and blurted, “I think I am pregnant.”

Emma dropped the large spoon she held. The loud clunk on the wooden floor made Marta jump.  “Oh no, Marta.”

Marta looked at her feet and picked up the spoon. When she stood, she gazed at Emma.

“How late are you?”

“Two weeks. First I blamed the healing process my body endured; then the stress of it all, but I am never late, Emma. Never-

Emma took Marta in her arms. “That bastard! I wish I owned a pistol.”

Marta dropped into a kitchen chair.

Emma stared at the girl she loved more than her own life as her brain worked to solve this problem. “What do you want to do if your suspicions are right?

Marta appeared like a whipped puppy. “My mother brought me up to be a mother, but how can I be a mother to a monster’s child?”

“You cannot. His seed is satanic.” Emma said. “We will need a doctor to confirm if you are indeed pregnant. If you are, then we will worry. A few ‘working’ girls with whom I am acquainted understand such things. They are very discreet.”

“We might go to the doctor down the street.”

“I do not think he does abortions.” Emma said.

Marta stared at her. Hearing the word abortion brought her situation into focus. She never seriously considered abortion, but hearing the word made her situation real. “I do not think I can go through with an abortion. The baby is blameless; the father is the devil.”

Emma couldn’t believe Marta would consider anything other solution. “I do think you need to consider what might happen if you carry this child to term. What will people think of you? Worse yet, what if Franz finds out you are carrying his child? He might take the child. Plus, we receive so little rations, how will we feed another mouth? Who will care for the baby during the day when we are at work?”

Marta cried. “I do not know! I do not know!” She screamed. “Maybe I should go home to my mother.”

Emma’s softened her voice. “No. No. You cannot return to Germany! Your mother will think this is your fault. Your father will kill you. We will solve this problem together.” Emma hated pressuring her. She engulfed the girl in her arms again. “I am sorry Marta. Whatever you decide, I will stand beside you. I promise.”

A silence hung in the air like wet laundry the entire evening. Marta retreated to her favorite chair, curled into a fetal position and closed her eyes. Why was Franz Reinhart assigned to Paris? Did he request to be here to ruin her happy life?

Somehow she needed to toughen up and take action.

Chapter 24

Minneapolis, Minnesota – October—One day about two weeks in to October, Josie picked up her mail and recognized Donna Jean’s familiar “loopy” scrawl on a business envelope. She smiled and wondered what her wild friend wrote. She ripped open the envelope and looked forward to a juicy tale from back home.


October, 1940

Dear Jos,

How do you like this? A typewritten letter from me! I’m using my lunch time to slip a piece of company stationary in my new Smith Corona to tell you I sure miss you. Summer provided long, hot days and I kept thinking about the fun we enjoyed at the old swimming hole. I’m being quite selfish, of course. I understand you want to get through your studies as quickly as possible to join the “real” world as a fully qualified registered nurse.  But I do think, we all need some fun, too.

Things for me are good. Work is going great!  I got promoted to Senior Secretary, and I got an office with a window and a decent boss. Best of all I got an extra twenty-five cents per day! Not exactly a fortune, but I can buy an extra beer per week. (ha,ha)

The pay raise allowed me to afford a bigger apartment in a nicer part of the city. The place is perfect for me–a bedroom, a kitchen (your mom taught me what’s done in there) a living room, and my own bathroom. No more going down the hall and having to share the toilet with grubby men who don’t clean up after themselves!

The place is freshly painted stark white. Thank god for Rosalie. She’s a genius for taking old stuff and making something new. She made some pretty pink bedroom curtains out of some old sheets which matched a “rosebud” quilt we found at the thrift store. Her Mom gave me a gray carpet that used to be in Rosalie’s old bedroom. Now my tootsies no longer need to step on the cold bare wood floor in the mornings.

The real drag is that you’re not here so I can show off my place! So, plan on staying with me at least a couple of nights when you come home at Christmastime. We’ll indulge ourselves with an old-fashioned PJ party and gossip about the latest romances around town, curl each other’s hair, and maybe even get out the Ouija board so we can see what the future holds. Since Mary and Johnny are now engaged, she and I are getting closer. We are both are office working girls, so most days we meet for lunch.

Your whole family is so great to me. Your Mom gave me dishes, pots and pans, along with some cooking lessons. Your dad gave me a kitchen table, a bed and small dresser he refinished.  Your brother Peter helped Danny move all the stuff into the new place, and for a change, things worked out for me. Your folks are so special, Jos. I hope you realize how lucky you are. My own parents still aren’t talking to me.

The only sad news is, Danny’s been drafted. Just my luck. Leave it to him to be chosen in the first peace-time draft in American history. I never got serious about Danny, but I will miss him. He’s grown on me over the months we’ve been dating. But since he got the news he’s leaving soon, he’s gotten so serious. I just hope he doesn’t propose before he leaves. I don’t want to send him off with a broken heart.

Write when you can spare a minute.  Say “Hi” to Anna. All the best for a productive semester.

 Love Always, Donna

Josie smiled as she thought of her vivacious friend. Danny getting drafted. Yow! What a drag! Then she thought of her baby brother, Peter and prayed the government wouldn’t take him too.



Reunited and It Feels So Good

I can’t believe a month has passed since my class reunion. This reunion was not a high school get together; it was an eighth grade graduation from our Catholic parochial school. Yes. You read it right. If I was vain, I wouldn’t tell you it was our 50th.

The idea to put on such a party started about four years ago when some of my classmates from high school partied together. Two guys thought it would be wonderful to get as many of the 34 students who graduated from Saint Sebastian’s together again.

So they went to work. David W. had a website created so once a week classmates could chat together. Then after he found a few of the students, he went on a merry search to find other people who scattered around the country.the class0001

Dyann, Debby, and I worked here at the base station of Sturtevant, Wisconsin putting the details of the party together . . . you know, the work. We figured out how to provide a tent, tables, chairs, and porta-potty. Then we turned our attention to the food. All three of us are good cooks, so consequently, we could have fed the whole village with the leftovers.

The day before the party, we decorated Dy’s backyard with a poster of the class from 1965; I volunteered an artifact — the hated beanie we girls had to wear to church everyday. Debby made a mobile with pictures of all the crazy dances we used to do, and she also put signs like “Nitty Gritty,” “Sock it to Me,” and other colloquial teenage words on colorful tag board and hung them around the tent.

I got together old pictures and created a “movie” which represented everybody in the class using background music from 1965. After dinner, we had a premiere showing on Dy’s big screen TV and gave each guest a DVD as a parting gift for everybody to take home.

How did it turn out? Pretty cool.

Even though we’re all 64 or close to it, nobody looked old. . . at least not to me. Nobody stood apart from the group; everyone mixed well–even the spouses who were brave enough to come along. Half the girls were teachers, the other half nurses. Most everybody had two kids, and were married going on 20 to 45 years. I joked I had been married 42 years–but I accomplished such a feat with two men. I also didn’t fall into the teacher/nurse occupation. I guess I’m still an odd ball. I had 20 years in corporate communications and website development, and then six years as a financial adviser. I also joked it took me until I was over fifty to finally grow up and admit I’m a died-in-the wool writer.

Only five classmates remain in the area; everyone else came from long distances. Two made the trip from California, one from Arizona, one from Connecticut, one from North Carolina, three from Florida, and one from Virginia. Three others live in Wisconsin, but had to drive four or more hours to get here. And finally, four classmates looked down from heaven.  We all were glad we made the trip. There’s nothing like spending time with the kids who played “Red Rover Come Over,” jump rope, double dutch, and hopscotch on the playground.

Where did fifty years go?



Chapter 10

Warsaw, Poland – July, 1939—Heidi enjoyed her young cousins during her first weeks in Warsaw. She took them swimming, picnicking, and biking during the warm summer days while her uncle worked. Uncle Hans proved to be gentle and kind. After his wife died from pneumonia the year before, he went on raising his children alone. Right away, Heidi trusted her uncle and realized she could confide in him.

After the children went to bed, Heidi relaxed with Uncle Hans in the parlor.

She cleared her throat before she spoke. “Uncle?”

He put down his newspaper and gave Heidi his undivided attention. “Yes, Heidi?”

“Is now a good time to talk?”

“I will always make time for you, Heidi. What’s on your mind?”

She fidgeted trying to work up the courage to tell him about her desire to become a nanny in Warsaw. She decided to talk about the children before broaching the subject. “Gertruda loves her daily ballet lessons. She is so fun to teach.”

Uncle Hans chuckled. “Yes. When I tucked her in tonight, she said you and she are performing tomorrow evening in the parlor.”

“Yes. That is the plan.”

Hans smiled. “Shall we invite the neighbors?”

Heidi paused. “Not just yet. She still is a bit—uh, how do I say this delicately?” Heidi searched for the right word. “She still is a bit niezdarny—clumsy.”

Hans chuckled. Heidi went silent and sipped her cup of nighttime tea.

“Is something troubling you, Heidi?”

“When Papa and Mama wrote to you about my visit, did they tell you I might want to find a nanny position here in Warsaw?”

“I wondered when you would mention your intentions.”

“So they did say something.”


“Good.” She relaxed and took out the ad her mother received in a letter from her cousin.

“I would like to apply for this position with the Gessler family.”

Hans studied the ad. “Heidi, this ad is weeks old. Perhaps the position is filled already.” Heidi’s face fell. She remained silent. Hans read the ad aloud. “Wanted: A nanny for three young children – ages six, four, and thirteen months.” Hans paused. “This position comes with a lot of responsibility, Heidi. Do you think you are up to such a challenge on your first job?”

“I am qualified, Uncle. I brought my certificate from school, and I always cared for my brothers and sisters. I want to apply.”

“You do not need my permission, dear Heidi. If you can handle three little children, you must apply. The address is a very good part of Warsaw, and you are wonderful with your cousins. I will give you a good reference if you want one.”

“Thank you Uncle Hans. That is a generous offer I’ll accept.” She rose. “I’ll call the phone number right now!” She ran into the hallway and picked up the phone.

“If you get an interview, I will drive you there.” He shouted after her.

A few minutes later, Heidi returned with a broad smile. “Uncle Hans, I’m so excited!” Hans once again put the nightly newspaper down. “I can see that.”

“My interview is tomorrow at nine o’clock! I must get ready.”  She bounced up the stairs to pick out an appropriate outfit for the occasion.

Chapter 11

Berlin, Germany – July 1939—Leisel fell into a mild depression with both of her close friends so far away for the summer. She filled her time by helping her mother with the household chores and exploring new hairdo’s she found in fashion magazines. With the majority of her free time, she studied for the entrance exams to the university.

Since Marta encouraged her to pursue her dreams, Leisel began to believe she possessed what it took to be successful in college. She found housework and cooking tedious and wished for something more exciting to do. Her strict father forbade her to go out at night without a chaperon. When she asked to go out with one of the neighborhood boys, he said “no” and sent her to her room for the evening. He had bigger plans for her, He expected her to marry well and not fall in love with any neighborhood boy.

One balmy evening Leisel mustered enough courage to tell her father of her intentions to sit for the entrance exam, but in one sentence he quashed her dreams. “I forbid it!”

Leisel’s eyes filled with water, and she stomped her foot. “You are not being fair, Vater. I will be a good student and make you proud.”

He stood up and puffed out his chest. “I will hear no more of this nonsense. You are going to Schwanenwerder.  No where else. I enrolled you. When you graduate from there, you will make me proud.” He strutted out of the room mumbling girls had no business at the university.

Leisel dropped to the floor and sobbed. Her father just told her he enrolled her into a premiere bride school. Instead of studying academics, this school stressed the social graces. Upon graduation Aryan-looking girls like Leisel became perfect mates for SS officers in order to perpetuate the Aryan race of blue-eyed blond children.