By Joel H. Cohen ’50
There's seldom more fun than having a classmate declare, “You haven't changed a bit,” while staring at your nametag trying to figure out who the heck you are. Or, in the spirit of good fellowship, a fellow graduate asking, “Remember all the fun we had in chem lab?” And you responding, “Sure,” though you never took chemistry.
Inevitably, regrets are expressed at the passing of years without contact. None are more sincere than those expressed by the fellow who, if he said anything to me during our four years in school together, it was, “Get outta my way, kid.” For this one evening, though, he's my best buddy, and he pleads, almost tearfully, “We've got to get together again soon.”
Class reunions always stir mixed emotions, and the announcement of my 60th at Wagner was no exception. But bottom line: I love ’em.
Reunions always offer the promise of schadenfreude — that forbidden (but, admit it, delicious) sensation of pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. Secretly, I hope the idols of yesteryear have passed their prime: that the quarterback is flabby, the cheerleader matronly, the leading man fit only for character roles.
I wonder whether some of my memorable classmates will attend — the marathon pinochle players; the varsity jocks who sat stony-faced in speech class as I urged more resources for intramural sports; the girl in bio lab who implored me to grab a frog for her from the barrel of embalmed animals ready for dissection, and I was not able to admit I was as squeamish about it as she was.
Too many years have passed to expect to see memorable professors — the drama coach who called me Senator Claghorn in reference to my overdone Southern accent in a Varsity Players production; the shy, courtly historian who always ended a scholarly commentary with, “Well, a lot more could be said about that”; the psychologist who charged a quarter to transport students up the hill in his station wagon.
Questions circle in my mind: Will the one-time heartthrob cause a murmur? Will age concerns cause absences? Will classmates have changed drastically, like the prankster who led us to hide on the roof during French class, and who is now a serious political force? Will all of us look old?
Will I remember my classmates' names? I recently introduced myself to the same stranger twice within a five-minute span. On the other hand, I immediately identified an unnamed classmate pictured in this magazine, even though we'd had only passing contact during school and none since. So there's hope. And nametags.
So, send this boy to campus, and let the fun begin!
Joel H. Cohen '50 is a Staten Island native, husband, father of four, and freelancer who writes for anyone who'll have him.
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