May 27, 2024
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May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The year was 1984. It was a rainy day in May. The ASHAR eighth grade was on its class trip to Washington, DC. Many classes had gone before and many have taken this trip since, but none experienced what happened on this particular journey. The wide-eyed youngsters were at the Air and Space Museum. The story begins here when a curly-haired 14-year-old boy with no teeth decided that the movie they were showing was not as important as the nap he needed. Deep in slumber, unbeknownst to what was going on around him, the curly-haired boy was dreaming of Rangers hockey and Stella D’oro Swiss fudge cookies. Ironically, 31 years later, this is still what this boy dreams of, but let us continue the tale.

The curly-haired boy woke up with a start, looked around, and realized that he and four other boys were the only ones left in the auditorium. The rest of his class had left. They were in quite the quandary as cell phones had yet to make their appearance, but the curly-haired boy decided to take charge of the situation. “Gentleman, I will be your fearless leader. According to our very organized itinerary, we are supposed to be meeting with our congressman towards the end of the day. Let us head on over there and wait for our friends and teachers. Don’t worry, everything will work out just fine.” Since the other boys were equally clueless, they blindly followed the curly-haired boy. Off to Congressman (Benjamin A.) Gilman’s office they went with hopes of a reunion.

Unfortunately, the rest of the grade did not have it so easy. Learning that five boys were missing, the chaperones went into panic mode. Again, there were no cell phones, so there was no way of knowing what happened to the missing students. “Boys and girls, we will have to cancel our top-secret meeting with President Reagan because we have to find your friends. Don’t worry, we have contacted the CIA and the FBI, good thing we are in Washington, and there are search parties out looking for them.”

Back to curly-haired boy; things were not going well there either. One member of the fearless five couldn’t stop crying because he thought he would never see his mommy again, another boy was threatening to defect from the group and go off on his own and frankly, curly-haired boy hadn’t had his snack of Hershey Bars and orange soda and his blood sugar was a little low. But he was determined to not let his friends down. “Gentleman, I have an idea. When we get to Congressman Gilman’s office, if our classmates have not found us by the end of the day, we will just take the train home with him back to Monsey.” Apparently, curly-haired boy did not realize that Rep. Gilman did not commute back and forth from Monsey every day, but, again, since they were all equally clueless, the tears stopped, the defector decided to stay and all was right with the world, for a few moments.

Back to the rest of the eighth grade; grid searches were being conducted throughout Washington looking for the fearless five. It was not going well and everyone wanted to go home.

In Rep. Gilman’s office, five boys were being treated like royalty. They spent hours being wined and dined (well not wined, because they were underage) by the secretary and time just flew by, even after they found out that they would not be taking a train home with the Congressman. Eventually, the rest of the class ended up at the office, the fearless five were reunited and the story ended happily. It has been retold many, many times, especially by the curly-haired boy. It gets funnier each time he tells it. Though it is still not as funny as the story of when he fell asleep on the NJ Transit bus going to work one day and he woke up back in NJ. Upon asking the driver why he didn’t wake him up, the driver responded, “Hey dude, I am not your mother.” But I digress.

The impetus for this compelling column? Son #3, my last child in elementary school, went on his eighth-grade trip. Though they did not go to Washington, DC, I am not as worried that he will get lost because he and all of his friends have cell phones and their itinerary is scheduled down to the last possible second. I do hope that they had a wonderful time and that the stories they will have to tell will last them a lifetime…

Banji Ganchrow is currently married to the curly-haired boy, aka husband #1. Her trip to Washington. DC with her Yavneh eighth-grade class was not as memorable, so she lives vicariously through her spouse.

By Banji Latkin Ganchrow

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