Friday, January 15, 2016

Once you're're Always Cool!

It began sometime in 1960.  I was merely 10 years old and in the 5th grade at the private Catholic school, Our Lady of Grace, in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights.  Detroit was a major city with all the hustle and bustle you'd expect from a big city as a leader in the auto business.

OLG School

But in my suburban Catholic parish where I
attended school for 8 years, the kids mostly enjoyed a carefree life without too many worries.  Oh sure, we worried about keeping our grades up, and worried that the Catholic sisters at school wouldn't single us out for laughing and talking in church (one of my childhood sins disclosed during my weekly trip to the confessional).   Not only would I receive a penance from confession, but sometimes the laughing and talking in church would result in 10 whacks with a ruler to the back of the hands when I returned to the classroom.
Each classroom held 50 kids, and each class had 3 rooms.  That was 150 kids in each grade.  That shows how big the school was in our little neighborhood.

Ahhh, life was fine for us 10 years-olds in the 60s.  We played outside every chance we'd get.  Bikes were strewn across lawns and driveways. That was how you knew where everyone was hanging out.  The streets were full of life.  Most kids came from pretty big families (at least by today's standards).  My best friend and neighbor had 6 siblings, and I came from a family with 9 siblings. 
There was never a time when we were without our friends.  Didn't use the phone too much at 10 years old.  All we had to do was go outside, slip to almost any neighbor (north, south, east or west), go to the back door (always the back door), and sing out, Joooooyce!  Or Suuuuuzie!  Or Cinnnnndy!  Knocking or ringing the bell never entered our minds. That was too grown up for us.  Matter of fact, I remember the first time my older brother's friend came knocking...yes, actually KNOCKING on the door!  Wow, I thought, he's getting older and must be soooo cool.

At 10, we were just noticing our classmates.  We could sort out the studious from the not-so-studious, the cool kids from the not-so-cool kids (me), the comedians from the serious, and the popular kids from the not-so-popular kids.

The years went by and then, in 1964, my cIassmates and I were now 14 and the coolest class in school for the simple fact that we were now the OLDEST kids in school (cool by default?). 

By now we all figured out who was the most popular, most cool, and the least by 14-year-old-standards.  Although I didn't fall into any of those categories (I would be 16 before I actually blossomed), I was well aware of what or who was cool...and it wasn't me......not by any stretch of the imagination.

We all knew who was cool.  You know...the girl 
Janice in Yellow in 1964
who had it all.  It was Janice Cwiek.  She was the epitome of cool.  She and her band of friends defined cool.  We "normal" girls envied her.  While we looked (and acted) 12? Maybe?  Janice looked and acted 16?  18?

She had the boyfriends, she had the clothes.  And I'll never forget the shoes.  And the shoe-boots!  While I was still donning a pair of rubber goulashes over my shoes to wear to school, Janice and some others were wearing the stylish new shoe-boots that were in fashion to be worn in
 PLACE of your shoes.  How cool was that!  I so longed for a pair of those shoe-boots that when I had my 13th birthday party, a friend bought me a pair.  There were a "little" snug (but oh so cool), but I wore them to school despite my aching feet and scrunched toes.  That was my first lesson on how sometimes...just is more important than aches or comfort!  As most woman can attest to at least once in their life.

I remember Janice who always had every hair in place, had the boys wrapped around her finger, and was actually dating boys from a nearby HIGH school?  Something that was actually very foreign to me.  But my friend and I envied her.  Sometimes we'd even imitate her, not in a mean or jealous way, but in a longing way.  We wanted to be like her.

Late in the year of 1964, we graduated from our sheltered, Catholic education and upbringing, and each of the 150 classmates spread their wings and moved separate ways on to high school.  We lost touch, but the bonds of the old parish and neighborhood are strong.

So strong, in fact, that in 2010 Janice Cwiek and I became Facebook friends.  And just to show you how old impressions run deep, I was thrilled that Janice and I were now officially "Friends!"  I was friends with the cool kid?!? Woo Hoo!

Yummy cupcakes Made by Janice for the reunion
It was in 2010 that we and another OLG friend, Karen Madden, began plotting..I mean...planning a reunion of our grade school class of 1964.   47 years after our graduation from Our Lady of Grace, the reunion took place at Janice's and her husband Mike's, home.  Their beautiful property was the site of a very successful party celebrating our early years.

I remember telling Janice about how awe-stricken we were as young girls around her, and that she was an icon to us in the 1960s.   And now years later, here were the three of us making plans for a reunion in Janice's kitchen!   NOW I am finally "cool," right?

Janice in 2011 at the Reunion
Janice revealed to me once that she would have traded places with any of the girls in a heartbeat as she spoke of her dad's passing when she was just a little girl.  That shows how much we DON'T know about a person on the inside, but only what they LET us see on the outside. 

The reunion at Janice's house probably wouldn't have been as successful if her name hadn't been attached to it.  I think we ALL wanted to see our "cool" graduate, and if Janice was going to be there, we all wanted to be there.

I knew Janice had been ill for a short while and felt so saddened by it.  And now, Janice has graduated to eternal life.   She will remain forever in our hearts and a part of OUR generation..the cool generation.  Bless you Janice and your beautiful family.