Jewish World Review July 12, 2004 / 23 Tamuz, 5764

Felice Cohen

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Presents of the past | Radio stations play our favorite songs from "The 70s, 80s, 90s and today," but where do we tune in for our favorite memories? This week, VH1 will be rolling out its newest TV show installment, "I love the 90s," loaded with memories for us to enjoy — catchphrases from "Wayne's World," the Taco Bell Chihuahua and even those adorable Hanson brothers.

Along with the good memories are some we'd be better off forgetting — grunge music, the ex-football star we watched on TV driving down the California freeway in a white Bronco and, especially, Monicagate. For some reason our culture looks back when it wants to tune out the present. And when we do, the past seems so much better than it really was. Except sometimes it really was better.

During the holiday weekend I attended a college reunion with people I'd shared a summer job with as orientation counselors. Every summer 24 upper-class students were hired to spend two months with minimum pay, minimum sleep and high expectations to be friendly and clean since we were the first impression for new students and their parents.

Counselors from 1980 to the present gathered to rekindle friendships and recount the good ol' days. Retelling funny incidents brought us back to the time we didn't have hot water in the dorms or when we woke new students with Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise." And even the time a new student didn't quite make it to the bathroom during the math placement exam.

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Whether it's a family reunion, a high school reunion or a veterans' reunion, one common bond brings everyone together. No matter where you are in the world, it is nice to be part of something from your past, something that shaped who you are today. There is even, which helps people get in touch with old friends. With more than 12 million users, you're sure to find someone from your past.

The one common bond we shared this weekend was our ability to talk to strangers. Seeing unfamiliar faces didn't stop us from striking up conversations. Nametags helped those who "remembered the face, but not the name." Playing "Do you know what happened to X?" sadly informed us that one friend died in a plane crash, while another is in the new AOL TV commercial.

Familiar faces returned a little rounder, some thinner and several grayer. It was strange to see one friend, who I'd last seen carrying a boom box out of the dorm to his yellow Thunderbird, drive up in a silver SUV with two little kids in his wake. Same with a woman known affectionately as Rainbow, since she changed her hair color every few days - now blond and changing diapers.

As the sun set and we cleared away the remains of the day's festivities, I took a moment to look at my old friends. People I hadn't seen in 10 years now with lives — real lives - of their own, reunited. It was a special moment, a new memory to replace the old ones. But this time it won't take a lost new student or a broken down parent bus tour to remind me of the good ol' days/ Just the familiar smile on an otherwise recognizable face.

Comment on JWR contributor Felice Cohen's column by clicking here.


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06/01/04: Sticks and stones
05/19/04: Psychic seekings: The gift
04/21/04: The latest job fad: China dolls for hire may be
04/16/04: Stories to be told
03/31/04: Shades of gray
03/23/04: Rejoice, ‘preppy’ is back
03/16/04: Taking a bad shot

© 2004, Felice Cohen