I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone? — Stand By Me
At any given time, I am part of at least a few ongoing group text conversations. There’s the one with my siblings that’s useful for organizing meals and other special occasions. We text with our millennial children, of course. At times it seems texting is the preferred method of communication for their entire generation. I have other “special interest” groups that get active from time to time: our supper club, my poker group, the Friday lunch crowd. But the group that required me to upgrade my mobile plan to unlimited talk and text is a dozen 66-year-old “kids” from John Dewey Elementary School.
Growing up in Oak Park in the 60s was a truly special experience. The people who lived there know it. The people who didn’t are no doubt tired of hearing about it. But there is an instant spark when meeting a former landsman and never a shortage of common memories to enjoy.
Many would consider themselves fortunate to count even a couple of former high school classmates among their “active” friends into their AARP era. Others would be hard pressed to remember the names of 11 kids they were friends with at age 11. I hear from my friends from the old days most days. And it’s not like we all stayed in the area. Our posse includes residents of California, Texas, Louisiana, New York, Wisconsin, Maryland and Florida. Spread out around the country, we are constantly endeavoring to organize our next reunion. In the meantime, we text.
The Dewey Dozen is not a particularly homogenous group. Our career paths have been widely divergent. Some of us retired years ago; others never will. Neither do we share one political preference. Still, we’re smart enough to avoid politics for the most part since, to paraphrase Hyman Roth, It’s got nothing to do with friendship!
Notwithstanding our roots, we are not all Jewish. Even among the minyan, our observance ranges from agnostic to frum. In fact, the only thing that bonds us is the bond itself — a friendship 55 years and counting.
We didn’t need Facebook to find each other. Despite our post-Dewey diaspora, we never lost touch. I take (almost) as much pride in our long-lasting friendship as I do in being happily married for 43 years.
Some days, the digital chatter is so incessant that I have to silence my phone. Someone seems to always have something to share — a thought-provoking article or a mindless video guaranteed to make you chuckle. I don’t always respond, but I always appreciate being included. I’ve come to anticipate and truly value, in particular, our group texts on Fridays. Being wished Good Shabbos from my oldest friends reaffirms my identity and my place in this world.
I didn’t graduate from Oak Park High. We moved to Southfield after 8th grade. I have a 50th high school reunion coming up. I’ll probably go. If I do, I’m sure I’ll enjoy myself well enough. But what I’m really looking forward to is the next time I get together with the kids from when life was simpler and the future full of endless possibilities.