Ossining, New York
Talking about the Hudson River school of artists yesterday made me think about my days growing up along the Hudson river. I grew up in Ossining, New York, best known as the home of Sing Sing prison, named after the Sing Sing Tribe. I was born in the neighboring town and when I visited my Aunt’s apartment, I could see out over the Tappan Zee Bridge, which looked like a diamond necklace strung out across the river. It has a new name, but will always be the Tappan Zee to me. Our high school was located in the heart of the old downtown Ossining up on a bluff overlooking the Hudson. It looks so much more endearing to me now than it did then. Nostalgia casts a golden hue over what was once ordinary.
I forgot how really beautiful and charming my hometown was until I went to visit this year for my high school reunion. We climbed to the bell tower of the school, a place I never knew existed. From there we could get out onto a part of the roof overlooking the town and the river. The setting for my past in a single snapshot My high school looks just about the same. Maroon and White, we had the same colors as the Admirals at Swanson! OHS. Now Scott calls me Big O
The weekend began with a tour of the school and coffee with the principal. In the evening we went to the football game, compete with the band, cheerleaders, the whole nine yards. This was followed by a pizza party at the American Legion. There were a few classmates I recognized, even after all these years. Most of us needed a copy of our yearbook pictures pinned to us to help classmates identify us. I had a slight advantage with my red hair. There weren’t many of us in the class. It is interesting to hear others describe the you they remember from what seems like a lifetime ago. “Do you still cry when you see pictures of France?” In high school, I was utterly fascinated with all things French. When our French teacher showed us pictures and slides from Paris, and other parts of France, my eyes often filled with tears of anticipation and wonder. I was thrilled at the idea that maybe someday I would go there and experience first-hand the beauty and the history of this newfound culture. Most of the pictures were from Paris, they were pictures from her vacation. We looked at the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, all the standard Paris shots, and I was mesmerized.
Maybe I was in love with France because it was someplace else. We never went on vacation and I didn’t really miss it. I didn’t even think about it. I was very happy with my family’s life. My dad had a hardware store and my mom worked in the store We couldn’t afford to close to go away. So France for me was like my own private Disney World, or utopian dream. It wasn’t even a real place. When I eventually got there, at the age of 19, I immediately kissed the ground.
What did I love about French? Initially it was the fact that it was like a secret language. You could use a whole other vocabulary and somebody else would understand you, while others would not. It was almost like a code and I was learning the key to crack it. As I did, I was pulled into the culture as well and the fact that it was beautiful helped along my obsession. That is what my peers remembered from high school It is odd to discover how your peers remember you. Then you start to remember yourself…. I can see why they would remember me that way.
On the topic of not going anywhere, this extended even to local outings. The planners of our reunion planned a picnic at Croton Dam. This is the major dam that supplies water to all of NYC. It is momentous, and truly beautiful. When we arrived at the park, I was astounded by how dramatic the dam and its waterfall effect were. “Wow, this place is amazing. So glad you planned the picnic here..” “What? You’ve never been here before, are you kidding? My family came here for picnics and walks all the time.” It turns out everyone’s families did, as this wonderful park was 10 minutes away from Ossining. But we only had one car. My mom didn’t know how to drive and my dad was always at the store. I didn’t even know this place existed. It just struck me funny how many unknown places and experiences were right at my fingertips but were new to me now, only as an adult. Still I wouldn’t trade my childhood. It was a happy time.
. Gloria, the same sweet happy person as in high school. Some things do not change that much….
Finally discovering a local treasure…. Croton Dam