Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Happenings

This title feels like one of those family newsletters that circulates around this time of year. Come to think of it, blogs are like year-round annoying family newsletters, but I must admit I enjoy dabbling in the nonfiction.

Host Terry and myself posing with required Christmas hats.

I've had a very active few days. December 24 was the annual Conway Xmas eve party, replete with tons of food, drink and PacMan playoffs. December 25 was a Very British Christmas dinner with the Marsh's.

We were instructed to pull paper firecrackers, wear hats, and we dined on tons of goodies including a veggie version of mince pie. My new favorite dessert might be simple vanilla ice cream capped with (drowned in) Tio Pepe sherry. The taste combo is pitch perfect and I guarantee that you'll never eat plain vanilla ice cream again. December 26 brought an ice skating
party that started at 10pm and that was hosted by an old friend from elementary school, Leslie. God love Leslie. She's an executive at a sex toy company and a very generous party hostess.

Meredith laces up for the ice.

She rented out Picwick Ice Skating rink in Burbank, provided pizza, churros, water, Red Bull, a coffee cart, cupcakes and a DJ who spun tunes as we spun around and around the rink.

Smiling because I didn't fall.

Miraculously I'm not in pain, and I think it's because I've been a bit of a gym addict on my vacation. My beloved Santa Monica College pool is under construction for the next month so I've had to find other outlets. Lovely friend Lizzie generously loaned out her gym membership as she is not on vacation and working harder than ever.

I am looking forward to spending a quiet (albeit rum soaked) New Year's Eve with good friends, and of course looking forward to 2010. 2010! Isn't that some far off sci-fi sounding date? Why no, it's just a few days away.

Here's a little exercise that I read in someone else's blog: In a journal or on a piece of paper write down all the ways you moved forward in your life. That's not the same thing as forward in your career. I mean forward in your LIFE. How have you expanded, connected, reached out? How are you not the same person you were last year? Create your list, read it and be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Something to Celebrate

If life is a novel, then last Saturday night was all about turning back the pages to reread the beginning. After months of planning, the Bellagio Road School 30 year reunion was a hit. How to describe the surreal feeling around seeing the little kids inside the grown-ups? The last time I saw most of the guests was at graduation in 1979. We were 11-years old and about to embark on life outside our little safety bubble that was Bellagio.

I'd attended that school since Kindergarten, with Mrs. McLean. I still remember spelling out my name in her class: "M-E-L-I-S-S-S-A" and Mrs. McLean telling me I'd added an extra 'S'. I was 5-years old and thought this was the funniest thing in the world. Ms. Lederfine was my 1st grade teacher and I remember being out of my mind excited when she actually came over to my parents house for a Brownie Troop event. I couldn't believe my favorite teacher was in my house. In Ms. Singer's 4th grade class I had a part in the school play "The Music Man." I played Raymond Pitesky's mother, I think because he was the only boy in the class who was shorter than me. I scolded him for not taking his violin lessons seriously. But the real show stealer was Scott Forst, who played Harold Hill with all the sass and savvy of a Broadway performer. We were merely nine years old. In 5th grade I was lucky enough to have Mr. Levin, the funniest teacher on the planet. He taught through humor and I learned through laughing for the entire year.

Ms. Lederfine.

And then there were the fabulous friends - too many to name individually. We participated in seven years of slumber parties, Brownie and Girl Scout events, school trips, dances, and on and on and on.

Class photos from throughout the years

When I told people I was planning this reunion the majority of reactions was, "I barely remember that time in my life, let alone the people." I have a bit of a crazy memory, as do Meredith and Scott, so I thought it was just us, but at the reunion it was clear that most people who attended remembered teachers, friends, and events as clearly as I did. What was it about Bellagio that triggered such warm feelings? Perhaps it was the times - the mid-70's embodied a peaceful, hippiness. But a lot of my friends who didn't remember their elementary experience went to school at this time. Perhaps it was the location, nestled in the foothills of BelAir, or the strength of the the public school system at the time, the same LAUSD that is crumbling before our very eyes. Whatever it was, it was real, and everyone talked about 'it' on Saturday night. Hands down, Bellagio Road School was a special place and we were so lucky to have been part of it.

Leslie Olshen, Mindy Kirshner

As the night wound down around 11:30, Meredith came up to me and said, "Melissa, we made a lot of people happy tonight." And you can see that in the pictures - everyone is beaming. Ms. Lederfine, who remembered so much about us 35 years later, Raymond Pitesky, who reenacted our Music Man scene, Scott, who provided the 70's tunes for the evening, Sonya who flew in from Florida, and Mr. Levin's son Matt, who flew in from DC.

Melanie Butts, me, Raymond Pitesky, now taller than me.

We hope we can do it again with those who weren't able to make it, and who were very much missed.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to move forward in my 'novel'. I have papers to grade, a kitchen to clean and a blog to post.

Group photo: l-r: Rob Pasnau, Debi Schneider, Brad Jacobson, Shellee Roche, Kevin Kimball, Kristen Redd, Christine Greene, Meredith Robinson, Martina Jones, Melanie Butts, Bill Billington. Bottom row: me, Scott Forst, Rory Paster, Patreece Turner, Sonya Bhalla.

The hosts - Meredith, Scott, me - end of the night silliness.

Friday, December 4, 2009

We Meet Again

Much to my surprise, I find that I have spearheaded an elementary school reunion. I don't know if it's rose colored glasses or what, but I have always looked back on my K-6th grade days with a fondness one feels for, say, puppies and kittens. My time at Bellagio Road School back in the 70's most definitely molded who I am today, and teachers like Ms. Lederfine (1st grade) and Mr. Levin (5th grade) are etched so deeply into my brain that I know I will never forget them for as long as I live.

With the help of Meredith Robinson and Scott Forst and countless others who have extended their nets, the 30 year reunion will take place tomorrow. Some people are flying in for it while others have declined the invitation. We are going to miss a lot of people - those who are out of town, those with prior commitments and those who have passed, like our beloved Mr. Levin. Still, we are so looking forward to seeing a big group and catching up. Our paths have taken us all in different directions but the one thing we do have in common is our elementary school education, the one that nourished us and sent us on our ways.

More pictures and stories to come...