My wife Sally has a friend whom she met in the fourth grade. She also still has friends with whom she went to high school and college. Suffice it to say that they met a long time ago, and lost touch in between, but we just spent the fourth of July with them.
I had a friend in the fourth grade named Cathy Lynch, and I don’t think I’ve seen her since the fifth grade. We were skinny and we scratched at violins together, and we didn’t look like the two in the photo above, who are far more competent, confident and fashionably dressed than we were. When we played in our school orchestra, we wore black skirts, white blouses and white anklets with our loafers, or in my case, five eyelet oxfords.
Cathy’s household consisted of a mother, a little brother, and an “uncle” who visited on the weekends; mine held a father and a mother and a beloved dog. Both families lived in apartments in White Plains, neither had much money.
Kids of our generation roamed around a lot on their own, and one afternoon Cathy and I had the brainwave to hide in a car parked in the lot between our two apartment buildings. I think that we knew who the owner was, but I can’t be sure. We got in and we waited. We giggled. It began to get dark and more cars arrived and parked as their owners returned home from work. We hid in the back seat. It got dark and we got bored, then we realized what a mess we’d created and we left the car and walked to Cathy’s apartment. Her mother called my parents.
It was no accident that we gave ourselves up to Cathy’s mother instead of my parents. By doing so, I bought a little time before facing the music.
I think now of how jarring the ring of the phone must have been for my parents, who were beyond worried and thinking the worst. What news would there be from the caller?
My father fetched me and did not say one word as we walked home. He opened the apartment door to reveal my mother, seated and facing the door, Sitting Bull style. My memory tells me that one swift hit on the backside sent me flying to land in front of her and on my feet, but that’s a memory. The harangue that began then lasted for days, weeks. Why did we do it? I don’t know, why on earth did we? It seemed like a funny prank at first, but then the longer we stayed, the more we dug in, even though we became sick of it and scared of the consequences. I have no idea what I said to my parents through my tears of regret, but now I can say this: we were in the fourth grade.
I don’t have more than a Facebook connection with anyone I went to high school or college with, let alone the fourth grade. They gave me up and I gave them up, just as I gave up the violin as a senior in high school. Sally tells me that people resurface over time and some of my friends may, but there has to be a ringleader to pull everyone back together, or a trigger for the reunion, such as a high school or college class reunion, but for the fourth grade? The chances seem slim. Cathy, are you out there?