Dr Judith Guedalia


       I would be lying if I said I was not excited/nervous/curious/anxious/happy/worried. I was all of these things from the moment I was told about our elementary school's 50th reunion.  These are pretty much universal emotions that come to play before annual family reunions or major get-togethers - like weddings and holidays - Pesach for example.  There is so much history, so many expectations and old habits or rituals and joyful or annoying memories.   And let's not forget, haunting family pathology! 

            I was very fortunate this summer to have been included in two reunions.  One was with "kids" I hadn't seen for FIFTY years and the other was in a community where my husband had been a student Rabbi FOURTY SIX years ago.  Even though the time frame since our last meeting (4+ decades) was similar, the meetings were enormously different.
            What was special about the first was that I had been with many of these "kids" from the age of three until we finished elementary school - ten or 11 years  (then The Jewish Community School and later Manhattan Day School) - in other words from toddler-hood to Bar/Bat Mitzva.  The other reunion was with two people who we had met as adults, as congregants and co-students, one who currently lived in US and the other in England.  Both were very friendly but there was NO comparison to how connected we felt with our elementary school classmates, even though, as I said, we hadn't been in contact since 1959!
            When Daniela, who I'd seen once since our elementary school graduation, called to tell me about the reunion, I was thrilled.  I was in contact with Simy, who is now a Rosh Yeshiva, who really wanted to come and see everyone again but couldn't figure out how a "mixed" luncheon, would pass muster in his circle today.  I told him that we're all looking forward to seeing each other and him as well.  In the end, he and his wife braved a rainstorm (it only rained when he was driving!) and came and stood near the doorway, but he CAME!
Once all 40 of us were under one roof, we related how much we were looking forward to the day and were determined to come, no matter what.   
            Linda had left our school after third grade, but she knew she wanted to be there and brought along a bunch of old photos.  Marilyn and her husband came from Beverly Hills - they were marrying off their son the following week but wouldn't miss this.  A tremendous thanks to Willy (whose wife composed a grammen) and Daniela who were the driving force in locating all the graduates.  We came from Israel, New Jersey, California and other states and met at a restaurant in the Five Towns. 
            And what a day it was!  Linda cut out pictures from old class photos so we could pin them to our "Hello, My Name Is" stickers.  It was amazing how we recognized each other from 3rd grade pictures! And it was sad to learn that five of our classmates - some of whom had been with us since pre-school - had passed away.
            We enjoyed talking about how much Hebrew we all knew and credited our Ivrit B'Ivrit curriculum.  We were also surprised by how much information, both secular and Torah related, we learned when most of us felt that they hadn't paid much attention to anything except punchball and flipping baseball cards - once you threw away the non-kosher bubble gum.  Someone recalled being caught by the principal and being shaken while held upside down (this would NEVER happen today!).  We couldn't stop laughing when he described the surprised look on the principal's face when yet another two cards fell out from under his kippa!
            It was a wonderfully warm reunion, where all the participants were truly glad to see each other and reconnect.  I can only quote Ilka in saying that as an only child our classmates were her siblings.  It was like a gathering of siblings or at the very least first cousins separated very early in life. 
            I overheard one person say, "Let's do the next one in five years" and another saying he couldn't wait that long!  Many spoke with warmth about our class and were honestly proud and happy with each other's success in life and professionally.
When I shared the experience later in the day with a friend, a seasoned clinician, she explained our unique bond that day was related to the fact that we knew each other's CORE.  I think this particular point resonated within me weeks later in London when I had the second reunion. 
            Ok, that's the gist of it - it was fabulous!
            Why did it work and how you can make holiday reunions as wonderful an experience?  
            According to Dr. Fred Bryant who has studied the impact of savoring experiences to make them positive, he describes utilizing the three time frames of savoring, past, present, and future:
Sharing: Discussing an event before, during and after, provides a savoring experience in all three time frames, past, present and future, compounding the enjoyment with social interaction (Journaling/Emailing). 
Comparing the FAVORABLE memories with these.
Awareness - don't numb yourself with a lot of alcohol.
Humor - without 'barbs'.
Spiritual-our being continuing links in the chain fulfilling Hashem's promise to Abraham.

Keep it lite - studies show that laughter and smiling change people's moods.


Chag Kasher V'sameach !


Director, Neuropsychology Unit; Chief Medical Psychologist; Shaare Zedek Medical Center; Licensed Psychologist; Supervisor and Specialist in Medical, Rehabilitation, and Developmental Psychology; EMDR Level II, Co-Chair Nefesh Israel. She can be through her website: www.drjudithguedalia.com