I had a short stay at camp with my high school friends this past week, all of us class of 1958, Benjamin Franklin High School, Rochester, New York. The camaraderie and closeness with the guys and the warmth of us all being around the fire pit, the shifting smoke notwithstanding, made for a strong sense of wellbeing. We were together from early morning coffee to late night story sessions of times past and memories relived. But the good feeling, which I hoped would last, was overshadowed by a disappointing discovery on my return to New York. My house is situated on a cove that is home to a longstanding flock of swans that have co-existed with us since the 1970s. Before I left to go to Maine, I noticed a bevy of young cygnets trailing a mother and father in the water. Now I found that the entire family had dwindled down to one lone cygnet survivor. Sadly, the female swan was found floating in the water and there was no trace of the others, aside from the last offspring swimming alone in Jones Cove, fluttering about among the phragmites, looking for its family. Coming off a trip with my oldest and dearest friends from upstate, the missing swans seemed a metaphor somehow, to those longstanding relationships we have, to illness and aging and the inevitable loss we face. The surviving cygnet represents our own children and the future.
At camp, we focused on the past and its impact on our respective lives. After a meal of comfort food and several glasses of Sancerre, the stories flowed like the wonderful wines my friends brought to camp. A predominant theme was the importance of our mothers on our lives growing up. Our fathers were the vegetable broker, the electrician, the garment worker and in my case the parking lot manager. We all survived like my lone cove swan to create our legacies for the future. As the swan matures, the brown cygnet colors dissolve into white and it will, like some of us humans, find a mate for life and reproduce. Unlike the cove swans, whose domain is our pond, my friends and I have “cygnets” of our own, who are well into maturity with established families and careers. They include entrepreneurs, a travel consultant, a teacher of autistic children, an attorney, and a museum director. My daughter Kara is a jewelry designer and my daughter Brooke an interior decorator. Our children have “spread their wings and flown” and we are proud of them. The sole cygnet will, hopefully, fly out of the cove to thrive with a new flock on the pond.
To my buddies, Harv, Arnie, Jer and Bobbie and their beautiful gals, thank you for coming together at camp this past week. Enjoy the upcoming season as if it were that last break after graduation, before we started our new lives in the fall of 1958.