By Lela Torgesen Wade

The invitation came in the mail. He hadn’t seen any of his classmates since their high school graduation and decided he couldn’t miss it. He asked Mama to accompany him, but her response was, “I don’t want to see New Jersey and New York as they are now.”

So he invited me. It was a tempting offer, but I’d never been on an airplane. I thought it over all day and, scared as I was, decided I couldn’t let him down. I did want to see New Jersey and New York. A friendly neighbor was an Eastern Airlines pilot, and offered tips on getting around the airport.

The big day soon arrived. My churning stomach urged me to back out, but I reminded myself it was Daddy’s first flight as well. Atlanta Airport is a zoo! Daddy managed to get us to our plane in plenty of time that Friday morning. I detested takeoff – and decided in Newark that landing was easier.

But my large suitcase was missing. It held my dressy outfit for the reunion. Daddy phoned and discovered it was still in Atlanta. They promised it would arrive on the next plane and we could pick it up at the Newark Airport. But he said, “Keep it in Atlanta because we can’t get it in time.” I would have to wear slacks and a blouse to the reunion.

We rented a car and drove to Gladys’ house in West Englewood, New Jersey. She and Mama had been classmates all through school, and she’d invited us to lunch. Decades earlier she, her husband Bob and their son Bobby had visited us in Georgia.

We had such fun reminiscing. Then Bobby had to get back to his office. Bob was no longer able to walk outdoors. Gladys suggested we go with her to the pond a few blocks away. It was lovely and peaceful, with weeping willows trailing their leafy limbs in the still water.

Then Daddy and I drove north into the Catskill Mountains. It had been a favorite getaway of his and Mama’s families, and much of the area was still wild and beautiful.

Back near West Englewood we found a motel about a mile from the bus station. Daddy wanted me to experience a Manhattan harbor tour on the Circle Line, and driving in New York City was not an option. Next morning we woke at 5:30, ate a quick breakfast, and drove to the station, parking our rental car there. The bus carried us through the Holland Tunnel beneath the Hudson River. Claustrophobia!

The boat tour was wonderful despite the chilly air. I especially loved seeing the Statue of Liberty up close, and Ellis Island where Daddy’s parents had arrived by ship from Norway in 1907.

Then we made our way along crowded sidewalks in Times Square to where my maternal grandfather’s newspaper office was. And Broadway! It was too early to see a play, so we visited the Smithsonian Institution. And we had a cab ride through Central Park before taking the bus back to New Jersey.

Daddy’s classmates were still spry. After dinner most of them danced the evening away to the band music from their era. One unforgettable couple was the foreign exchange student and his wife. From Bogota, Colombia, he and a student from Bogota, New Jersey High School had switched places their senior year.

Sunday morning we attended services at the Lutheran church where Daddy’s family had been members. Then we hurried back to Newark for our second plane trip. Back in Atlanta we retrieved the lovely semiformal I couldn’t wear to the high school reunion.