. . . we take our leave after cake and coffee with tight throats, warm hugs, and moist eyes, to say our long good-byes.
. . . sit at a long table facing multiple pieces of silverware, cloth napkins, sweet tea, and wine and lit by the wall sconces in the restaurant of a historic hotel in Cape May, New Jersey, delighting in the aromas of clam bisque, arugula salad, beef tenderloin and scallops.
. . . scan aging faces with familiar voices, exchanging pieces of our lives since our last reunion five years ago, attentive to each other’s tragedies and blessings.
. . . listen to the reunion organizer tell us stories sent by those not present, sad for their absence but joyful that the seven of us in advancing years made the trip, some in the company of daughters or friends.
. . . share the inner need to reconnect to the women with whom we have spent three years in our youth as we followed the call to care for others in sickness, childbirth, injury and at the end of life’s journey, transforming immature girls to strong, skilled nurses.
. . . come back to where we started, in the company of our peers, with whom we lived in the nurses’ residence of Saint Peter’s Hospital School of Nursing and graduated 60 years ago, joining hands in a circle in the school gym singing the Kingston Trio song, Scotch and Soda, before we marched into the cathedral for the bishop to bless us as new nurses.
. . . grip the bonds that may have faded but did not weaken in camaraderie as we take our leave after cake and coffee with tight throats, warm hugs, and moist eyes, to say our long good-byes.
Ten of us from a class of 44 traveled to Cape May, New Jersey to attend our 55th nursing reunion. We first met as young Catholic teens in the late ’50s enrolled in the diploma program at Saint Peter’s School of Nursing in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Hard to believe we are now in our mid-70s.
At our luncheon at the Inn of Cape May on a glorious sunny day this past September, we laughed and reminisced about the three years we lived together, when Connie mentioned that she had to man the switchboard at night during the psych rotation at a private psychiatric facility in a Maryland suburb.
Never heard of this we said. But one of us (can’t remember exactly who that was) chimed in to say she remembered at the time how glad she was that she never had to do this. So there was validation that Connie’s memory was intact. Imagine having to work at a telephone switchboard! What does this have to do with learning about psychiatric patients?
I found a picture of a telephone switchboard for you too young to remember this contraption that connected folks to each other via telephone lines. Or you could just watch the old movie: Bells Are Ringing with Judy Holiday and Dean Martin.
After hearing about the switchboard, we began outdoing each other with anecdotes about our early nursing days.
I wanted to take notes to capture these unique tales but decided I would rather just enjoy the fellowship. Later, I asked my classmates if I could call them, one by one, and document what they would want to share with current nurses about life in the “olden days.” They all consented.
So now I have a new project. I had been thinking about surveying my classmates about their nursing lives for quite a while. Since our 55th celebration is over, I realize it is now or never. We are dying off. Sad to say but true. Who will remember us? Or what nursing was like years ago? Who would believe that as part of the educational program to learn to be a psych nurse you had to know how to work a telephone switchboard?