Commentary, Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Our surprise from my recent 50th-year high school reunion was the clear attachment of many classmates to their longest-standing identity badges: their elementary schools.

For the Yorktown High School alumni nearing age 70, reunion organizers gathered in advance some early-1960s class pictures from five feeder elementary schools — Tuckahoe, Nottingham, Jamestown, Madison (now a community center) and Taylor. And there was heavy demand at the June 2022 photo booth for group portraits based on those six-decade old ties. (One Tuckahoe clique assembled former members of Mrs. Sarris’s 6th grade class — only to be crashed by a fellow alum from the class across the hall.)

The human brain is an astonishing organ, I’m learning as I taste old age. Who’d have thought that as a social security collector I would be able to recall specific conversations with kindergarten mates, or the nostalgic recapture of a first hearing of a late-1950s radio pop song that — by consulting Billboard charts — I can pinpoint to the exact month.

My mother always counseled, when I came home with the sheet of class portraits or a Little League team photo, to write the names of the kids on the back. Naaah, said my 10-year-old self — I’ll never forget ‘em.
Turns out we need a little help. I’ve consulted with fellow Arlington history buffs George Dodge and Kathryn Holt Springston. We were all in Mrs. Robinson’s 1st-grade class at the now-defunct Cherrydale Elementary and as adults have shared long-lost photos of now-scattered pals.

My longtime Chain Bridge-area neighbor and classmate Erik Rasmussen was moved, after our recent reunion, to resurrect grade-school portraits, scan them and circulate them as a PowerPoint kind of “Bingo” game of crowd-sourced identification of classmates.

I could name only about half, though I was pleased to be reunited with the shots — especially of my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Hoyer. I’ve never forgotten that day on the playground when she wrongly called me out in a kickball game, she being unfamiliar with a baseball runner’s tag-up privileges.

On the way to this year’s reunion, my friend Winnie and I argued over whether certain brothers were kids at Madison or Tuckahoe (we both swore we knew them). When we asked the now-adult guy in question, he revealed we were both right — the family moved!

Teachers have always amazed me with their (apparent) ability to recall student names after many revolutions around the Sun.

ABC News recently aired an “America Strong” segment on a retired kindergarten teacher in a small town in Indiana. She was sitting on her front porch as the newly minted local high school graduates walked by in their caps and gowns. She called out congratulations, not realizing that the students weren’t just walking by — they were coming to see her.

Lo and behold, these were the members of her final kindergarten glass 12 years earlier. All grown up and lining up to give her hugs. Viewers were shown the class photo of the graduates as five-year-olds.
My seven-year-old granddaughter, a rising Tuckahoe 2nd grader, was watching the feature with us. She is creating memories that will endure.

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Kudos to the Shirlington AMC movie theater staff for good use of their lost and found.
I recently lost my pocket planner. Yes, I’m aware that most contemporaries have graduated from physical calendars to smartphone apps that ding you with reminders, etc.

But I continue my three-decade practice of ordering an annual Letts of London day-timer, remaining retro for several reasons: I need a holder for my Metro pass and business cards; I find convenience in quick access to daily appointments and written phone numbers; and I save the older books as a personal record.

Without that soothing bulge of the leather-bound planner in my pocket, I feel like Samson with his hair cut off.

So thanks, theater staff, for using the I.D. in my planner to call. I had already ordered a duplicate (difficult in July to find a 2022 planner at Staples). I’ll keep it in case I lose mine again.