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A different kind of homecoming

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

You think of reunions and homecomings as large gatherings of people from far-flung places returning to the nest decades after leaving. But what made this weekend’s reunion for St. Joseph of the Palisades’ Class of 1978 special is that, to this day, many of us still live in New Jersey’s melting pot, atop the Palisades or down along the Hudson, an area unlike any other.

Most of the 100 or so alumni who flocked to the Elks Club in Paramus on Saturday grew up together, from kindergarten through high school. We’re mostly first-generation Americans of Irish, Italian, German, French, and Cuban descent. We have different job, attitudes and lifestyles.

Deborah Jack

One of our classmates, Jaye, had more on his mind than what to wear.

In 1978, Jaye was Juliette.

“I’m still in shock, really,” he said, “especially when all the guys started saying ‘he’ and treated me like an old buddy. And the ladies were so awesome and teetered on protective.

“I can’t even imagine any other bunch of people who are more open, loving, and supportive as our class. I’m so blessed, especially knowing the horror stories I’ve heard and seen from others transitioning.” ( EDITOR’S NOTE : See below for a special message from Jaye .)

By no means were we “angels,”  but we didn’t discriminate against anyone. There might have been petty jealousies and such, but there was no bullying or hating — only love, loyalty and respect. We really are family.

Why else would I spend the better part of the week worrying what to wear — black dress, stockings and boots, or slacks? Hair up, down, straight or curly? I don’t think I put that much thought into how to dress for my high school prom. But in 1978 I was a size 2 and dizzy about my prom date. Saturday, he brought his wife.

It was wonderful to catch up and hear all about my classmates’ loved ones, parents, siblings, spouses and others.

In a sweetly ironic twist, several of them had to call home to tell their kids they’d be late.

Not wanting the evening to end, I paraded around the room with my 8th grade autograph book, looking for comments. I also confessed to some boys about crushes I had on them way back when.

“Why didn’t you tell me? You should have told me. I didn’t know!”

Yeah, right. When was the last time an insecure 14-year-old approached a tall, dark, handsome boy and professed her love? Maybe if texting was around then.

The evening, which was supposed to end at 11, continued until 4 in the morning.

By the time I climbed into my bed, it was after 5.

I unzipped my autograph book and turned to a page that opened my bleary eyes.

“I remember the football bus driving past you on the way to practice,” it said. “You were gorgeous.”

Ah, to be 15.

In a note to CLIFFVIEWPILOT, Jaye wrote :

This reunion was one of the most amazing events in my life! I truly found myself in High School. I found my voice, I found love, I found tears, and I found friends that will love me til the end, no matter what! They so unexpectedly proved that at this reunion!!

You see, I was rather apprehensive about attending. The reason being is that I am a female to male transgendered person, and being that this was a Catholic School, I was afraid of the rejection and the pain that goes with it. But like Debbie Jack mentioned in her article, everyone accepted diversity long before it was “cool”. Everyone of those people embraced me as if nothing had happened! I know many LGBTQ people have not been so lucky.

I am the most blessed person to have everyone of my Classmates in my life! I will never, ever forget their acceptance, love and support! I think my heart grew ten fold that night and I just had to sit back by myself for a few moments and reflect on how much they have given me….then and now. They are my Family and no matter what, I will be there for them as they have been for me!

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