Monday, September 14, 2009

What I have learned during this reconnection with all things Coney Island Houses

I am a proud graduate of the Coney Island Houses school of life, circa 1950's, 1960's, and early 1970's. My major was "Big Park", which was the most popular major of our day, and one that has fallen on hard times in the decades that followed us.

Our alumni numbers in the thousands, and our school has produced professors and doctors, writers and entertainers, educators and businesspeople, civil servants and entrepreneurs, house persons and homeless persons, law enforcement professionals and ex-cons, attorneys and and the disenfranchised, athletes and activists, writers and check kiters.

Though our universe once spread from 29th street to 32nd street, our alumni is now spread over the four corners of the globe, and that shall not be defined as Staten Island, Bensonhurst, Flatbush, and LONGIsland.

Though I once believed we all sprung from the same strand of DNA, our alumni numbers Liberal Democrats, Card-Carrying Fox News watchers, Libertarians, Anarchists, Communists, and Justdontcareists.

Contrary to popular opinion, we celebrate our religious holidays at synagogues, churches, mosques, Off-Track-Betting parlors, and wherever we wish.

We are happily married and never-married, divorced and cohabitating, proudly gay and heterosexual, charitable and inhospitable, in Olympian-shape and Globulous Mass-shaped, passive and argumentative, intuitive and clueless, inquisitive and uncaring, sensual and senseless.

Though we were not a virtual melting pot, we are a multi-cultural group; we are of a rainbow of colors, and we celebrate that.

Though not all of us loved one another as children, we have grown and evolved through the years, and we love one another deeply and passionately and feel forever connected. We believe that our school prepared us for life in a way that few others share and understand, and in a way that those that followed us in the decades since cannot understand.

We feel special and blessed to have had the opportunity to spend our childhood in such a school, and know that while we may have once been categorized as lower-middle income, our experiences were rich, and our lives privileged.

The world we grew up in has changed forever, and though so much of that world has become better, we believe that much of what we experienced exceeds anything our children and grandchildren will ever know about.

While many of us have regrets in our lives of things done or as yet undone, virtually all of us would love to have one last opportunity to run full speed into the ocean and dive in head-first before the cold water chases away our nerve.

We sometimes think about our beloved classmates who are not here to help celebrate our reunions, and we honor their memory.

We were not, as I once believed, one homogenous mass, with one mind-set and one set of opinions. We all came from the same place, and we have all evolved in ways unexpected, and in ways unimaginable.

We look at pictures of ourselves as kids, and we smile, we shed a tear or two when the intense memories are stirred.

We hug, we laugh, we embrace.

We are the graduates of The Coney Island Houses, and we will always be connected, and will always care about and for one another, and this makes us unique, and special, and GOOD.

Though many of us have traveled a long and hard road, we are the lucky ones. We are still here.

Celebrate it.

Steve Lattman

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