Rita is Back

To the 1977 Class of Benjamin Cardozo HS – Hiding in Plain Site

Posted in Good Days by ritaisback on November 6, 2010

November 9, 1960 was a huge day politically.  As our friend and classmate Carl could tell you, 1960 was one of those unique years when Election Day fell on the 8th of November, given that the first Tuesday in November was the 1st day of the month – a time when Elections can’t occur.  If you look at any media from November 9, 1960, you will see the following headline:  ” John F. Kennedy Elected President.”  Of far less Political importance, November 9, 1960 was also the day that I was born.  That event wasn’t covered by the media.

This coming November 9, I will be turning 50 – the last of the class of Cardozo’s ’77 Graduating Class to hit that milestone.  I entered Cardozo at the tender age of 12.  No, there was no  brilliance involved:  it was a matter of  combining 2-year SP with a November birthday.  Everybody else had already turned at least 13 (I think that Joanie’s July birthday was the closest to mine, yet she was still 13 when she entered Cardozo’s Freshman Class).  When I’ve asked people about High School, I usually hear that it was either the best of times or the worst of times.  For me, it was one of the most unique of times.

I look back at our graduating class and see that we were not a typical New York City High School whose “cool” kids were the gangs, dopers, athletes or most popular.  My view of our class was that the “cool” kids were the smart kids, maybe a group of 100 or so (out of 1,400 graduates) who melded into subgroups of friendships.  It’s about time that I thank my friends for helping me to hide in plain site.

Thanks to all of you who forewent R-Rated movies and clubs because I couldn’t get in.  Thanks to all of my friends who gave me rides when everybody was starting to drive; I had to come back during my Sophomore year of College to get my license.  Thanks to all of the guys on the AV Squad who let me hang with them because I was the one girl who couldn’t dance.  I remember hours sitting in the AV Booth, hidden away and having a great time as “one of the guys” every time there was a dance recital or practice.  Thanks to Dave, who always gave me an album on my birthday of an artist I had never heard.  I didn’t have a “Sweet 16” because I was a Senior and it would have looked too odd.  Yet my friends threw me a Surprise Party in my own basement – and even drove to Dobbs Ferry to bring my boyfriend there for the occasion.  Dave’s gift to me that year was yet another perplexing album from a guy whom I had never heard.  The artist’s name was Billy Joel and the album was “Turnstiles.”

Thanks to JoAnn, who accepted me as a friend despite a 2 year gap.  She was – and is still – a woman whose perspective on the world was so advanced that I could hardly keep up.  Thanks to Paul, who gave me my first real kiss and dumped me at the age of 14.  I learned a lot from that experience, 2 years earlier than most of my classmates, giving me an edge on how to mend a broken heart.  Special thanks to Susan who truly WAS (and still is) 2 years older than me, for all of the great times, not to mention all of the rides to West End 2.  While most of my classmates were getting their working papers for summer jobs at camps, I was still young enough after Freshman Year to still be a camper.  Thanks to all of you for not mentioning that.

Major thanks to everybody who participated in Sing.  I could hide behind a lack of stage talent by script- and song- writing.  Though it didn’t change my life, I was elated when, in Sophomore Year, we won Sing ahead of the Juniors.  I had written much of the play and songs and could still hide in plain site.  The on-stage actors, costume designer, choreographers, band and lighting crew were all so damn great and they got the kudos that they deserved.  I saw Sing as the great equalizer:  everybody could participate in a way that demonstrated their own unique talent.

It was the last day of Senior Sing that my mom was mugged and beaten on the way home from Springfield Boulevard, yet she wore a scarf, sat in the back and cheered.  The following day, my life was to change dramatically again:  my parents were selling our house in Bayside and were co-op shopping in Great Neck.  We moved that summer, dashing my dreams of going to Queens College with all of my friends:  I no longer had any way to get there.  So, it was off to Smith at the age of 16 and a world that was foreign to me.

Many of my Cardozo classmates, upon learning that my mom had died at the age of 57, were there for me.  Even to this day, many of you remember my mom.  She was the “class mom” and a lady of grace.  She could be trusted with everybody’s secrets.  I still hear “your mother seemed over-protective.”  She was.  I was her younger child, hanging out with friends one or two years older than I.  When you were all 16, I was 14.  That’s a huge age gap then.  Not so now.  Those 2 years no longer make a difference.  We are all adults.  I am married to a man 8 years my Senior.  He clearly remembers the 60’s.  I remember the 70’s.  We might both be “Baby Boomers” but we lived in different generations.  While he and his classmates at MIT were watching draft numbers – and burying their friends – we were outside playing SPUD until the lampposts went dark.

Stolen Regents, the Summer of Son of Sam, leaving graduation early to see a movie opening by a new guy  (the guy:  George Lucas.  The movie:  Star Wars), the horrific death from cancer of a lovely classmate, avoiding the lunch room at all costs, lock-downs due to outside knife-fights, trying to figure out who was a “narc” from the Police Department…those were all unique events from our High School years.  Try, if you will, to turn your personal clocks back two years while all of this was going on, and try process these things.  Not as an adult, but as a High Schooler.

 I lost two years of my childhood yet wouldn’t change a thing because of my classmates.  You all helped to make it easier for me and I thank you.  You were incredibly accepting, warm and bright.  You still are.

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2 Responses

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  1. linda chin said, on November 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    this is an absolutely beautiful post. happy belated birthday. love, linda

  2. ritaisback said, on December 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks, Linda. Hitting that “50 milestone” took me back to the ’70’s as I’ve been watching so many Birthday wishes go out to other people – who are turning 51! In one month, 2 of my closest friends from HS will be turning 52. The years don’t matter now, but they absolutely did in High School. I’ve waited all this time to come out of hiding and explain my unique experience.
    I’m so glad that you liked the post!


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