Friday, June 21, 2013

OLD GEEZERS GALA - Crestwood 50th Reunion - May 24th & 25th 2013

On a chilly Saturday one month ago I attended a 50th anniversary reunion at my old High School - Crestwood - in Peterborough. This is not something I would have sought out to attend but with a prompting from some old acquaintances who found me via Facebook, I decided to face the music. I think the advertising for this event was only by word of mouth and social media - how do you reach 16,000 people??

The months leading up to this event were fraught with fruitless diets and tepid imaginings. Perhaps it would go like this:

Nanci, Deb and Carol haven't seen each other since High School.They rediscover each other via a reunion website and arrange to meet for lunch in a wine bar. Nanci arrives first, wearing a purple Versace. She orders a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Deb arrives shortly afterward, in gray Chanel. After the required ritualized kisses she joins Nanci in a glass of wine.Then Carol walks in, wearing a faded old tee-shirt, blue jeans and boots. She too shares the wine.

Nanci explains that after leaving high school and graduating from Princeton in Classics, she met and married Arthur, with whom she has a beautiful daughter. Arthur is a partner in one of New York 's leading law firms. They live in a 4000 sq ft co-op on Fifth Avenue, where Amber, the daughter, attends drama school. They have a second home in Phoenix .

Deb relates that she graduated from Harvard Med School and became a surgeon. Her husband, Art, is a leading Wall Street investment banker. They live in Southampton on Long Island and have a second home in Naples , Florida .

Carol explains that she left school at 17 and ran off with her boyfriend, Bill. They run a tropical bird park in Colorado and grow their own vegetables. Bill can stand five parrots, side by side, on his penis.

Halfway down the third bottle of wine and several hours later, Nanci blurts out that her husband is really a cashier at Wal-Mart. They live in a small apartment in Brooklyn and have a travel trailer parked at a nearby storage facility.

Deb, chastened and encouraged by her old friend's honesty, explains that she and Art are both nurses' aides in a retirement home. They live in Jersey City and take vacation camping trips to Alabama .

Carol admits that the fifth parrot has to stand on one leg.

It was weird driving out to the high school with memories of bus accidents and icy hills, old boyfriends and forgotten streets. We were given lanyards to wear around our necks with our Grade 13 picture and name on the card. Then you went around unobtrusively staring at people and glancing up and down at their current features and the photos to sort out who they were. Of course I hadn’t aged a bit.

My reflections are threefold:

First I was impressed with the quality of the building. Check this link to see photos of the school. After 50 years I was expecting the building to be old and somewhat dilapidated. In fact it was bright and cheery, almost exactly as I remembered it. We watched some old timers play volleyball in the gym and I took a walk through the dressing room - nothing had changed. I learned that the Dysarts, who were head of the boys and girls phys ed department when I attended, have now both passed away from cancer. The central lobby still has the outside area and an unopened time capsule was displayed there. This capsule was buried at the 25th reunion and would be opened later in the day. We also had some photos taken with a few old teachers.

I was surprised by the giant hug my old physics teacher gave me. We gave Mr Maughn a very hard time as he was a young and handsome new teacher. Physics and I had difficulties but I really wanted to do well. He commented that I was a very keen student and asked him lots of questions. My old history teacher was also there and his comment was that I wrote a lot. Yep. I got 100% in Grade 11 history. Told him that I wrote down everything I knew and in there somewhere was the answer.

Found my name up on the Laureate Scholar board and took this photo as proof for my kids. I also received a trophy for Head Girl in Grade 13 so that was noted as well. All this to make my Daddy proud. Oh to go back to those days. We had so much fun.

As a second reflection, the school was set up with five decade rooms so you were to check in there to hook up with peers. Each room had paraphernalia from the time period - old sweaters and gym outfits, newspaper clippings, year books and a slide show. One clipping showed my sister folk singing with Simonne Eccles. Another showed me at a Latin banquet. You will notice that the tartan in the background of the photo below is the 1967 centennial plaid.

I kept thinking that I was in the wrong room because everyone looked so old!!! We attended a BBQ outside for lunch and just walked around the school chatting with people. We had booked a room in the downtown holiday inn so had drinks with an old friend there before attending the Gala evening event which was held at the Evinrude Centre. Five different restaurants catered the event and people wandered from one to the other for a grazing and chatting meal. There was some music and a few awards given out. The first year class of 1963 was called to the front for photos as we were the inaugural year and the time capsule was opened.

My final reflection is about the people who attended. It was quite a happy time and interesting to see the old stomping grounds and people you’d thought you’d forgotten!!!

Everyone had such animated expressions on their faces – obviously people there who had fond memories of those high school days. People would come up and tell you stories about yourself that you had long forgotten. One girl took me aside and told me that I had insisted on plucking her eye brows one day. It was so strange seeing young people in old faces. After a double take the images faded into one and you remembered that long lost smile, that long lost story, that long lost dream. People were very friendly and outgoing. You felt part of something bigger than yourself. You felt part of the ages, part of history, part of youth, part of life. You looked back with the sad wisdom of maturity and laughed at the years and the tears and the joys and the circle of life.

Click this link to see photos of old friends. I took several of these for my brother who lives in Boston and did not attend as he said he would not see anyone he knew.... so check these out Kevin.

Arthur attended with me and seemed to enjoy himself inspite of just being a spouse!!! Some of us have decided to get together later in the summer at at cottage and perhaps this will become a same time next year thing. I came home with a good feeling, knowing you can't go back, but reaffirming that the now can be celebrated wherever we are in life. I'm also looking around for that fifth parrot.


Friday, February 27, 2009

My Surprise 60th Birthday Party

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful surprise birthday party!!!

Double click to enlarge Photo. Nanci Through the Years Photo made by her brother Kevin.

Something was "rotten in the state of Denmark". I knew my husband and Amber were cooking something up but nothing prepared me for the extent of the surprise that lay in store.

As my 60th birthday approached, many thoughts were going through my mind. I sadly recalled how my father died about that time in his life and I remember thinking he was "old". I remembered throwing a 60th party with a special cake for my mom and all her "old cronie" friends at our house in Tweed. I also thought about friends I have lost recently who did not make it to their 60th birthday, and having survived breast cancer now for 3 years, I am just damned glad to be here!!!

I had arranged to take my daughter Amber, daughter in law Nagmeh and friend Cathie to see Sound of Music in Toronto Friday night, setting up headquarters at my son Aaron's house. Little did I know that when we got back there after the play, my niece Karina had arrived from Edmonton and was upstairs hiding in order to surprise me the next night!!!!

There were clues:

  • I noticed my friend Cathie cozying up with various family members for chats and there were several unusual phone calls.
  • I noticed that Cathie was being very fuzzy about her return to Ottawa plans, even telling me we could discuss that before bed Saturday night!!!
  • Now my husband is a great help around the house but when I came home from work last Thursday to find that he had mopped and cleaned the whole house and was busily polishing up my chandeliers "since Cathie was coming to visit" I was a bit suspicious!!!
  • Then he told me we were going out to supper with our neighbours Walter and Joyce but it had to be at 5:30 and I had to dress up and I had to bring my shoes and we weren't travelling in the same car with them...... huuuummmm.
  • Last summer at the final day of the CNE Arthur purchased a lovely opal and diamond ring for me, for my 60th but I was not allowed to wear it until then. That would have been on Monday but he told me I could wear it on Saturday.
  • Then the final plot was that Amber was working at the golf club down the street (she hasn't worked there for two months) and we were to drop down there on the way out to supper so I could show Cathie where Amber worked.

    This large opal and diamond ring was my husbands 60th birthday gift.

There was a grand entrance:

So I played along and when we got there I left my purse and shoes in the car and walked into the club with Cathie. I thought there might be a few people.... but nothing prepared me for such a crowd. If you check out the following link you will see my response when I walked in the door. I was quite overwhelmed. Seemed like they got hold of my address book and invited people from all walks of my life. I was shocked that my niece had flown from Edmonton and my brother had driven up from Boston. My university room mate was there as well as a fellow from my brothers high school class all grown up!!!

I can not express how deeply touched I am by the effort so many people made to attend my party, especially all the way to Elmira in the midst of our Canadian winter. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!!!

There were more surprises:

A Wonderful Supper. We had a lovely roast beef dinner prepared by the Elmira golf club and Dairy Queen Ice Cream cake and some of us imbibbed!!!

Professional Entertainment. Amber's Bahai choir leader, Nargis Mondjazib, who sings in 15 different languages sang some beautiful songs for us.

A Nanci Multimedia Slide Show. Amber and Karina had collaborated with my brother Kevin who produced a multimedia show entitled "60 years of Nanci". Kevin had fun putting this together as a lovely gift for me and also an opportunity for him to hone skills for his Digital Media Magik enterprise. This was shown on a large screen to the accompaniment of some beautiful music that is close to my heart. The photo at the top of this article was at the beginning and end of the presentation and at the end it was a blank screen and then the photos popped up into the image, one at a time..... very creative!!!!

I must say that it is a strange experience to see nothing but oneself up on the screen and watching my life in review from childhood to teen years, marriage, my own family, funerals, joys and sorrows made me feel like I was a special guest at my own funeral!!! It was great to see living proof that most of us were skinny at one time!!!! This gift of memories made my heart overflow with gratitude for such a wonderful life.

The Pammett Kids at Christmas, Gaye, Kevin, Nanci, Johnny

A Video From Our Daughter Miranda. One of the sadnesses in our family has been the absence of our daughter Miranda who has been in Australia for the past 5 years. But herein was another big surprise. Miranda also made a video which was played on the big screen sending me a very loving birthday message. It was just like having her there in the room with us!!!

A Lovely Signed, Framed Photo. Another gift was a large framed photo of me in my twenties holding some bullrushes with my bleached blonde hair. For an added touch people were asked to sign their names around the matte border. What a treasure. Speaking of memory photos, here is one that got missed in the slide show. I can assure you that I was up to no good.

Nanci with her beaded curtains, made from Tilco hair balls. Photo taken in our apartment in London, Third year at Western University. Notice my Romeo and Juliet skull cap

A Trip To London. As if there weren't enough surprises, for the coupe de gras, I was informed that a trip to London, England had been purchased by guests in lieu of "a plethora of nick knacks and purple candles!!!!" Arthur has never been to Europe and in fact we have not had very many trips away so this is such a thoughtful and fantastic gift. It comes at a time of transition in our lives and we are really looking forward to the experience. I can't wait to show him Wordsworth's grave in Westminster Abbey and the worlds best french fries!!! Perhaps we'll take in the crown jewels and I know I will have a much greater appreciation for the stained glass cathedrals than I did when I went there as a young girl on the hunt!!!

Finally I must thank my family for all the work that occurred behind the scenes to organize this event. It was a joy to NOT be the one in the organizing seat and I must say Amber has certainly picked up some of my better traits!!! I know this was a challenge for everyone and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for a surprise that made me feel surrounded by love and grateful for an amazing life, family and terrific friends. An unknow author once wrote:

A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

Thanks dear family and friends for writing your song in my heart.

I thank everyone for their contributions towards the trip, your lovely cards and other gifts, your phone calls and presence at the party and for being such a blessing in my life. This is a party I will never forget and a memorable milestone on my way to being more thoughtful, more tender, more human. I love you all.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Miranda and Ralph at Elora Quarry Note: Hover your mouse over the photos for descriptive text. Click on photos to enlarge the image.

Our daughter Miranda and her husband Ralph visited from Australia from June 25 to July 25, 2008. Although our agenda was overflowing, we managed to fit in some quiet times while constantly consulting to keep everyone in sync. It was so wonderful to have the family together again after a year and a half and savour each other in the good old summertime. The month passed far too quickly and though words can not express the joys and sorrows, I will attempt to summarize some of the happenings.

Miranda Becomes an Aunt For the First Time
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Ralph Experiences a Fresh Water Cottage For The First Time
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Ya Ya Sisters Make 200 km Bike Trip From Toronto to Sandbanks Provincial Park
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Cool Condo at the Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival - Ralph Takes to the Stage
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Wild Summer Party at Phelanland
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Other Happenings - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
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Miranda Becomes An Aunt For the First Time

Miranda holds Dayyán for the first time

Nervous new parents Aaron and Nagmeh end of week one

Meeting Dayyán for the first time, when he was just a week old was quite a thrill. Miranda and Ralph went straight from the plane to greet him and manged some cuddles during those first jet lag days. He was worth flying half way around the world to see!!!

Ralph with Amber's cat Joey

Oh bliss...... sleep well sweet prince

Musical Interlude by Connie Talbot singing It's A Wonderful World

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Ralph Experiences a Fresh Water Cottage For The First Time

Island view from the front deckThe five of us set out into the unknown with a canoe, two vans and lots of games, to spend the first week of July at a cottage on Berford Lake, just north of Wiarton, 10 minutes from the Bruce Peninsula Trails, 20 minutes from Sauble Beach and an hour and a half from Tobermoray. The Lake was shallow but rocky, pretty and weed free.

Enjoying supper by the lake

Miranda, Ralph, Amber, Arthur, Nanci in cottage

Dubbed "rustic dream" the cottage turned out pretty much as advertised. There were lots of windows, mould and bugs. The decor featured a coffee table made from an old Bob sled with a steering wheel from a Model T Ford. Our friend Gail Kelly joined us for a few days and spoiled us with her delicious treats. The weather was cold and rainy most of the week but a pleasant time was had by all.

Some highlights from the week were:

  • getting lost in the mosquitoe and poison ivy infested woods
  • pulverizing an ancient croquet set from the cottage
  • Miranda, Amber and Ralph in a canoe taking on water
  • Amber and Miranda paddling all around the lake and having a picnic lunch

Canoe is ready to go

Miranda and Amber are ready to go

  • watching swooping birds, dragon flies and hearing the magical sound of loons on the lake
  • learning two new games: sequence and pass the bomb
  • getting Ralph to play games inspite of himself and getting blitzed by Amber in Dutch Blitz
  • a trip to Tobermoray where we took a boat cruise in the Marine park and saw two shipwrecks under the glass bottomed boat and beautiful Flower Pot Island

  • Lighthouse in Tobermoray Harbour

    Arthur and Gail after cruise tour of marine park to see the shipwrecks

  • a vigorous swim in big waves at Sauble Beach; Ralph found it quite different from the ocean
  • finally seeing Wiarton Willy in his special house in the middle of town
    • Sauble Beach after a good swim and french fries

      Wiarton Willy is no longer an albino groundhog

    • celebrating Canada Day at a fireworks display - NOT
    • watching old videos on a bug infested TV screen; killing them three at a time
    • seeing Indian and Inglis Falls and the Tom Thompson Art Gallery in Owen Sound
    • Our own Canada Day sparkler

      Nanci and Ralph at Inglis Falls in Owen Sound

    • wonderful look outs over Georgian Bay, caves and lots of poison Ivy in the Bruce Trails
    • visiting Shirley and John Reaburn in their lovely new home on Georgian Bay

    • Cave Woman

      Shirley and John Reaburn in their lovely home on Georgian Bay just north of Owen Sound

    • eating lovely meals outside, junk food, ketchup, Timmy's "Iced Cappuccino" and too many delicious home cut French Fries
    • Arthur waxing poetic on the "Niagara Escarpment
    • Dad always tells the kids about the Niagara Escarpment. It has become a family trip joke.

      The Owen Sound Fry Wagon .... delicious

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      Ya Ya Sisters Make 200 km Bike Trip From Toronto to Sandbanks Provincial Park

      Our girls are buff!!! For months they had been planning to "get away" together and hone their bicycling skills. It was quite a challenge to pack their bikes up without adding too much weight. Miranda rented a bike and they left from Amber's apartment in Toronto on Monday and cycled eastwards along the Trans Canada and the Waterfront Trail.

      Happy Cyclers

      They had several adventures and misadventures along the way, including a broken spoke and two flat tires; one conveniently in front of a Dairy Queen and the other in the middle of nowhere. People were very friendly and helpful. They camped out at Darlington Provincial Park the first night and Presqu'ile Provincial Park the second night. They then stayed at a campgrounds at Sandbanks for the next two nights.

      Getting the bikes readyBikes are loaded up and ready to head out
      Camping at its bestThey're everywhere!!

      At the ages of 26 and 29 they found the pup tent tiny and the ground rather hard!!! I'm told that Amber was the chief cook and organizer and Miranda the dishwasher. The laughter and bonding was a supernovae!!!! They were pretty happy to see us and have real seats, when we picked them up Friday on our way back from Montreal. Ralph got to experience a second lovely freshwater lake, as we stayed long enough for a swim. When we lived in Tweed where we raised the kids, we had many lovely outings to Sandbanks, so for Miranda and Amber, this was a real trip down memory lane.

      We made it to Sandbanks!!!

      Our wee tentA sandcastle like Aaron used to build
      Beach Beauties!!Ralph and Caitlin arrive

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      Cool Condo at the Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival - Ralph Takes to the Stage

      On the way to Montreal we stayed overnight with our good friends Elske and Deryk Harris in Brockville. They were wonderful hosts in their lovely heritage home and we even got to play a game of bridge. While in Montreal, we met up with some friends of Ralphs, Craig and Genevieve, who had moved back to the area from Australia several years ago. He was thrilled to see their three lovely children for the first time.

        A BBQ with Elske and Deryk in Brockville

        Bahai' friends Craig and Genievieve and their 3 children

        Oooh la la it's Montreal!!!!

        Since Miranda was off on a cycling trip with her sister, Ralph planned a trip to Montreal to see the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. Arthur and I decided to go along and we took our 16 year old neice, Caitlin, who had never been to Montreal.

        The festival was a unique experience, a one of a kind adventure for a comedy novice such as myself. Aside from the hassles of french logistical disorganization, the events were fun and belly jingling. There is an excellent review of the festival online but off line, there was a highlight of our own. At the Aussie comedy show Ralph's presence soon became known and he was invited up on stage. Being the shy fellow that he is(n't) he was persuaded to display his bare crack for which he was given a beer as all good stagies must have a beer!!!

        Since we attended four different shows: The Ethnic Heroes of Comedy, Late Night Down Under, South Park Live with creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and New Faces of Comedy, we enjoyed a good variety of humour. Some of the shows were in night clubs and some in theatres and all were lined up and sold out. It gave me a good appreciation of how difficult stand up comedy is to perform and yeah, I had a refresher course on swear words and off colour jokes!!! Sometimes we felt like we should be covering Caitlin's ears.

        We have ARRIVED!!!Miranda eat your heart out.... we got to see South Park and you didn't!!!
        City of sin and seductionSometimes we felt like covering Caitlin's ears

        Montreal however was not all comedy. Between shows we were able to take in several other sights and soak up the ambiance of this exciting city. We dragged Caitlin off to see St Joseph's Oratory. She's not used to touring churches. For those of you who have never been to Montreal, this amazing sanctuary is a must see. Everything is gigantic at this church built way up on the mountain on the site where the sainted Brother Andre lived a humble life of devotion and healing. His wee original chapel is full of crutches left behind by those he had healed. The view is spectactualar and the double domes, incredible stained glass and amazing carvings, iron work and scultped way of the cross touch what is deepest in our core of being.

        Of course Montreal has many other lovely churches. We also visited the famous Notre Dame Basicia and it is a breathtaking cathedral with all the pomp and splendour it its day. Caitlin laid low for this event but enjoyed shopping in the old city. This link will show you the layout of the down town area and has 150 photos to enjoy.

          charming horse tours of the old city

          A new version of he's got wheels

          For Arthur, the highlight of this trip was an afternoon at the Montreal Royal Botanical Gardens, with special emphasis on the Bonsai exhibits. We saw all three Bonsai exhibits, the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden and the newly formed Tree House Garden of naturally collected native Bonsai. This map will show you the extent of these remarkable gardens where one could easily spend the entire day.

          The Chinese PavillionToo many lovely trees to choose from
          Native bonsai from the Tree PavillionThe water falls in this gorgeous Japanese gardens was built from green serpentine rock and coy fish swam in the waters.... very serene and lovely

          Caitlin and Ralph adventured on their own at the gardens and their favourite part was the butterfly insect exhibit.

          And now for the COOL CONDO!!!

            An open concept modern kitchen to die for

            Caitlin made this mask at school in drama class

            I managed to book the most amazing condo pad to stay in while we were in Montreal - just stumbled into it online and it was even better than we expected. Photos can not do justice to the funkiness of this apartment. The condo was 2500 square feet and located in an old skate factory, not far from the old city, in sight of La Rond. The condo had a grand piano, a swing, a hammock, glass blocks and table, huge plants and everywhere you looked was colour and interesting artifacts. Too many photos to insert here, so check the collection at Flickr.

            Art in the master bedroomArt and jet tub in funky bathroom
            Lady on a swingLacy in a hammock

            We created many wonderful memories on our outing to Montreal. The Comedy festival is well worth the trip and Montreal is a place you can visit time and time again.

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