As some of you may know, the past few weeks (maybe even months) have been a journey... traveling down the long and winding road of life-altering changes, paying attention to the passage of time, sometimes glancing back from whence I came, while considering what lays ahead, all the while attempting to be in the moment. Sighing, more than breathing, has been the norm as of late, but like a good ice cream cone, sighing comes in all flavors and I’ve sampled several over the last week.
Facebook being what it is (and my active presence in that virtual landscape is legendary), the online encouragement for me to attend my 40th high school reunion amped up after last week’s declaration that I was vacillating, and I quietly (if one can picture that!) acquiesced. School chum extraordinaire Lynne Chantler led the parade and the social networking about the imminent reunion grew exponentially as we confirmed our attendance and made our way to Vestal, NY to party with friends, who have all had as many birthdays as me.
My pals here at home (and on Facebook) waited (with baited breath) for the pictures and stories that they expected to be, if nothing else, colorful. Sigh. The reunion itself was not unlike the ‘60s experience, taking a (psychedelic) trip down memory lane. Afraid that my classmates would look ancient and unrecognizable, I was more determined than ever to look fabulous (and young!), while ruing the fact that my luxurious head of hair had just been completely shaved off for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser (www.stbaldricks.org  ) in Eldred 10 days earlier. Deciding to go with my “rock star” look, which included the black leather jacket I acquired 40 years ago, I sauntered in feelin’ pretty good. Hugs and handshakes ensued, with much peeking at name tags to place faces with names, and laughter filled the air.
The active online community of classmates was all pervasive and the familiarity many of us felt (because of the leap in technology) provided a completely different sensory experience than that of our 30th gathering. I had even dragged my iPad along and quickly began posting and tweeting from the event, while frenetically taking pictures, trying to capture the moment through the eye of my trusty lens. As the subject of my hairless visage waned, the topic on everyone’s mind (again, because of FB) was my trusty sidekick Dharma, and her many charms which (as usual) eclipsed my popularity. Thankfully, the wonder dog was with me, and she was (as usual) the belle of the ball.
The comparison to the ‘60s continued, as the “high” gave way to the inevitable “crash” and I looked around the room, taking it all in (the good, the bad and the ugly) as the years gone by washed over the Elks Club Lodge before Lynne and I made our way back to the Catskills, dissecting every aspect of the evening, laughing, crying and sighing. Acknowledging those who are no longer with us was a natural part of the gabfest and the passage of time hung in the air as we hit Sullivan County and home. Glad to know that my guest would stay on for a day, I enthused about our upcoming excursion to the Harvest Festival (www.bethelwoodscenter.org ) and the chance to give Lynne a taste of my life here in the Upper Delaware Valley.
While regaling her with enthusiastic commentary, I ran into friends and neighbors from all corners of the region, breathing the fresh country air, and we had a ball exploring the craft tents, workshops and farmers’ market, while live entertainment propelled us toward the amazing aromas emanating from the food booths. In a valiant attempt to give Lynne the full-on harvest experience, I waxed rhapsodic about life in the Catskills and the incredible sense of community that encompasses every outing. A deep sigh of satisfaction slipped out as we stopped and chatted with the lively social network of residents and visitors, before hitting the Woodstock Festival monument and running into Bethel Woods site interpreter Duke Devlin, who (as always) welcomed my guest with open arms and amazing tidbits of information about the world famous music festival held in Bethel, NY when Lynne and I were attending high school.
Gal-pal Ellany Gable stopped by this morning to bid Lynne adieu, and asked me if I had been active on Facebook since my return. Being told “no,” she regretfully informed me that one of our own, PR guru Lori Rubinstein, had passed away while I was out of town and my sigh became one of sorrow. Rubinstein was a driving force in the community and her smiling face seemed to greet me wherever I went, since we were often photographing and covering events together throughout the years. Lori’s unstoppable commitment to celebrating life in the Catskills was admirable and uplifting, and when I checked her social networking page, I saw that we had 64 (real, honest-to-god) friends in common.
As I peruse the Facebook comments of those who knew and loved her, I rejoice in having had Lori in my life, and grieve over the loss, alongside so many who were touched by Rubinstein’s incredible aura and joi de vivre. While the Internet keeps us connected in many wonderful ways, being able to reach out and touch our loved ones will never be replaced. My memories of proms and homeroom firmly rooted in the past, I bravely trudge on, suddenly reminded of how tenuous life in the present can be, and why being a part of the social network is fraught with the unpredictable as well. Sometimes I miss the old days, most often I cherish the present, and today I join many, and say goodbye to an amazing woman, who was here just a moment ago.