When I was asked if I would be interested in partnering with Classmates.com, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. This assignment would combine two of my favorite things, nostalgia, and investigation. If I hadn’t become a writer, I think I may have become an investigator. I love the art of discovery. My family calls it being nosey. So, with my newly upgraded premium account (compliments of Classmates.com) I began my journey down memory lane.

year book photo sandi mckenna

I grew up on Long Island in New York, and we moved several times during my years in grades K-12. I attended two elementary schools, one Junior High School, one High School and I was home-schooled (yes, this was a thing even before it became fashionable.) In my senior year, my family traveled throughout the United States in an R.V. visiting landmarks, historical sites and purely experiencing North America first hand. With this said, I lost touch with many schoolmates over the years, and this assignment from Classmates.com would give me an opportunity to see where they landed, the roads their lives had taken and if we could somehow reconnect.

I contemplated where to begin. At first, I was all over the place. Excitement (or ADD) got the best of me, and I was rifling through one digital yearbook after another, out of the over 300,000 yearbooks Classmates.com has available online. Recollections of my formidable decades, the 60’s and 70’s, came flooding back. Great memories of friends and flashbacks from moments of my adolescence left me to ask myself, where has the time gone? Songs played in my head, from the Beatles in the sixties to the Allman Brothers in the seventies and this was the soundtrack of my youth.

I recalled walking to Birch Lane Elementary School, carrying a French horn that felt like it weighed as much as I did. I remembered Candid Camera (a favorite television show) coming to our school and interviewing us all, and friend and neighbor, Don DiFiore’s quick wit securing him a slot in the TV segment. He was and remains hilarious to this day. I remember putting together an annual carnival with my friend Mary next door, to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy, block parties with neighbors, 4th of July Parades, Campfire Girls and directing plays in the Rydberg’s back yard. I remembered the air raid drills when we had to duck and cover on the floor beneath our school desks. I recalled that day in November 1963, when we were sent home from school early, our teachers and parents numb and in tears, because John F. Kennedy, our President had been assassinated.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-5-48-45-pmIt was a memorable time. I loved that elementary school, my neighborhood friends, and schoolmates. But, where were they now? I moved from Massapequa just before starting the 6th grade. So I decided to search the high school yearbook for what would have been my graduating class. As always, I got sidetracked. Had we not moved, the infamous Joey Buttafuoco and his eventual wife, MaryJo would have been in my graduating class of 1974. In case you haven’t heard the story, here’s the condensed version: Joey (AKA the Long Island Lothario ) grew up, owned an auto body shop, and married his Massapequa High School Sweetheart, MaryJo. Fast forward to 1992, and Joey is carrying on in an illicit affair with a then 17-year-old Amy Fischer, AKA, the Long Island Lolita. Amy, in a jealous stupor, knocks on the Buttafuoco’s front door, and when wife and mother of two, MaryJo answers the door, Amy shoots her in the face. Amy is eventually arrested, charged, sentenced and serves seven years in prison. MaryJo eventually divorced the scoundrel who’s scandalous antics seemed to be his constant companion. But I digress. I found it fascinating though and searched for other notable alumni of which comedian Jerry Seinfeld (Class of 1972) was by far the biggest success story.

delythe rydberg yearbookSo back on task, I found my best friend Delythe from elementary school and since Classmates.com is searchable by maiden name, she was easy to find. After graduation, she went on to college, became a Nurse Practitioner, married, had children and moved to Connecticut. Now that’s what I call a success story. My neighbor Don and I reconnected (the beauty of the internet), and he keeps me laughing to this day. He too now resides in Connecticut, is a successful entrepreneur, husband, father, and all-around good guy. Former neighbor Mary lives upstate N.Y. with her husband.

Before starting the 6th grade, we moved to Dix Hills, Long Island. We were now heading into the 70’s, my decade. Floppy discs, pocket calculators and VCR’s were introduced. The Beatles broke up. The World Trade Center was completed, Disney World opened in Orlando, and Apple computer was launched. The average annual income was just under $10,000.00. We drove Vegas, Pintos, and Gremlins. Gas was 36 cents a gallon. We wore jeans, t-shirts, and platform shoes. We saw Taxi Driver, Rocky and Star Wars in the theater. M.A.S.H. and All in the Family were on everyone’s television, and we listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Stevie Wonder, Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin on 8-track cassettes. The times were changing. From Ain’t No Mountain High Enough to Love Will Keep Us Together, song lyrics mesmerized and motivated us.

sandi m and sandi fMy best friend in high school was Sandi Friedland, and like me, she moved before graduation. We lost touch, but I always thought about her. We had so many great times together, mostly spent driving around in Sandi’s mustard colored Mustang, discussing our boy crushes and typical teen angst. But where did she go? Where had the journey of life taken her? My beautiful friend landed in the Golden State, California, where she had been settled for decades. I can’t remember which one of us reached out to the other on Classmates.com first but our connection was immediate, and it was like time had stood still. We were still giddy teenagers, catching up and talking on the phone for hours on end. We were finally able to meet again, this time in Los Angeles when I was there on business. She hadn’t changed a bit. Years had passed, but she still looked exactly like my teenage friend. We laughed, we lunched, and never missed a beat. I’ve seen her again since our initial meeting as I passed through LAX on business. Again, it was if time stood still.

Life has a way of kicking you in the butt when you least expect it, illness, heartbreak, even death. You can get sucked up in grief and despair, but it is moments of connection, and memories of happier times that become your lifeline and the light in your darker hours. Reconnecting with friends keeps you young at heart.

Today, as a travel and lifestyle writer, I often focus on where I’ve been and how I got there. As a co-host of the Midlife Road Trip (the perfect therapy for a midlife crisis) along with Rick Griffin, I celebrate the Bucket List. Dream it, Build it, Do it!

One of my favorite things on Classmates.com is the Bucket List generator. It goes through a series of questions like “Ever been to Crater Lake National Park, Sandra?” or “Ever mud-wrestled, Sandra?” What amazed and delighted me, was how many places I had been to or things I had done that were on this list. There are still plenty of questions they asked that I haven’t done, and I’ve added to my Bucket List like Visit Iceland, Africa, and New Zealand. If you want to know what I’ve already checked off my list, you’ll just have to go to Classmates.com. It’s actually free to sign up!

Have you reconnected with any of your schoolmates?

Disclosure: I have received compensation from Classmates.com for writing this post. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions, memories, and stories are my own.

jerry seinfeld








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