Friday, October 21, 2005

Cyd Fremmer married

Cyd married last week. Ain't that something?

Link to the Sunday, 10/16/05, New York Times announcement: Cyd Fremmer and Mark Oppenheimer.
Cyd Olivia Fremmer, a daughter of Linda and Alan Fremmer of New York, and Mark Oppenheimer, a son of Joanne and Thomas Oppenheimer of Springfield, Mass., were married last evening in Williamstown, Mass. . . . [read the rest]
Cyd is the valedictorian of my high school class, our icon and a giant among defined elites - and deservedly so. She was universally respected and admired at Stuy. Cyd also gave the best speech I've ever heard at our graduation (see below).

We weren't friends and we didn't hang out, and it's one of my enduring life regrets that I didn't know her better in high school. Not knowing her personally is part of the reason that she appears as an ideal, a virtual goddess, much more symbolic than real, in my conception. I've admired her platonically - at least the idea of her - from afar in a from-the-bottom-of-the-pyramid kind of way. I would dearly have loved as a teenager to gauge myself intellectually and perhaps spiritually by interacting with Cyd. In particular, I desire to have debated her in Dr. Irgang's AP History class, which of course, I didn't attend due to my enduring flaws. I probably would have had my metaphorical ass kicked by her in class debates, but I would have been hungry for the challenge. And I would have become a better intellect from them. Who knows? I may have even held my own with her. I believe engaging in her orbit would have changed my life: Cyd was an objective standard of excellence and if I could have proven to be anything like a fair match for her, it would have had significant impact on my life. (Yes, I know - that's a fantastic supposition with a heavy dose of denial and transference.)

My two personal memories of Cyd: a shy pale little girl who kept to herself at the CTY summer program at Dickinson College in 1989, and my brief discussion with her about Anne of Green Gables during early freshman year in a lull in Mr. McDonald's music appreciation class.

For Cyd, if she ever reads this . . . Congratulations, do good things, set the standard and continue to impress me.

Wow. Cyd got married. Ain't that something?

Cyd Fremmer's Stuyvesant High School Class of 1994 Valedictory speech:

The Things I Carried

Thank you, Mr. Baumel. Honored guests, teachers, parents, and graduates: Before I begin, I want to especially thank Dr. Shapiro, Ms. Kocela, and Tim O'Brien, all of whom have helped me immeasurably this year, and all of whom have to a degree, inspired this speech. It owes a lot in particular to Tim O'Brien, who, for those of you who don't know, wrote my favorite book in the world, The Things They Carried. In fact, if this speech had a title, it would be called "The Things I Carried." This is for all of you who have seen my bookbag, and asked me, "What do you have in there?"

Here goes:

A folder for each subject, and one for miscellaneous; a notebook for each subject, color-coded so as to match the folders, extra looseleaf paper, two history textbooks, both softcover, an English book, a camera, for photography, Papermate pens and number 2 pencils, an eraser and a mini-stapler, extra staples and a scissor, wallet, keys, assignment pad, a brush and bobby pins, a chemistry text or calculus text, no dead freshmen, contrary to popular belief, a couple of books from the school library, both overdue, a program card, student I.D. card, two rulers, all the transportation passes received since September of freshman year. These are the things that I have carried.

Other things too. I have carried hopes of teachers being absent or tests postponed; I have carried the anxiety of knowing a test would be returned, carried the fear of not being able to live up to my own expectations, carried the stisfaction of finishing a paper. I have carried secret inside jokes (like apple pie and rich old men and exopthalmic goiter), and snatches of songs from SING! that chase themselves around my head. I have carried, often, a know in that spot right between my ribs from having too much to do and not enough time to do it all in, and I have carreid notes from Sharing Day in Ms. Kocela's class that told me other people really did understand, even when it seemd that no one could. I have carried the sound of voices making me think about things I'd never thought about before ("No fronting!" as Mr. Donin would say). I have carried, from the start, the worry that I could never make it through four years of this, and I have carried, and am carrying, the disbelief that that worry is gone, that the four years are over. I have carried, and am carrying, a terrible need to cling to something or someone, to sit down on the stage and hold on to Mr. Baumel's leg and just refuse to let go. I have carried, and am carrying, a fear of moving on.

I can lay down now the L.L. Bean bookbag that has carried so much weight over these four years, and I have returned the calculus textbook and the history textbooks, and I can go through my notebooks and my folders and decide what to save and what to throw away, label them with masking tape and a black marking pen by subject, term, and teacher, and stack them somewhere for safekeeping. But the other things are not so easy to lay down. I have carried them; I am carrying them still; they are things I will carry throughout my life.

I carry memories of Stuy both bad and good. I remember myself as an extremely terrified and very lost eighth-grader, being led up and down stairways by an overzealous Won So during the incoming brunch. He warned us about the horrors of Advanced Topics bio, and I spent all of first term waiting in vain for a fun class to turn awful. I remember that no one told me until the second week of school that there were separate Up and Down staircases, and if you're wondering why the valedictorian couldn't figure out that out by herself, well, don't ask me. I still don't know how I managed to avoid getting trampled. I guess I was such a scrawny freshman no one bothered to step on me. I remember drafting. Boy, do I remember drafting. (And if you're wondering if that's a good or bad memory, you must be a Band Person.) I remember the Junior Sing! overture for the first time at the Wednesday matinee, when we were all in our places backstage, and that is one of my most favorite memories of Stuy: the way the excitement backstage reached a fevered pitch, and we all stayed silent as we'd been told to, but held hands, and grinned at each other, and forgot all about homework and papers and exams the next day, and were, just for a moment, gloriously happy. I remember square dancing sophomore year (the Salty Dog Rag was my absolute favorite), and tangoing this year, despite the decree of the Program Office that no, I absolutely could not take ballroom dance. I remember the Program Office - who could forget the Program Office - although, you know, once you actually got inside, the program office men were pretty nice. It was only making your way through the mad mobs and the sentinels guarding the door that was hard. I remember hanging out on the second floor getting hit by hackeysacks and Killer discs. I remember weekends spent entirely indoors writing Irgang papers, and I remember reciting the multiplication tables and the "to be or not to be" speech with a friend before A.P.s, trying to calm our jangled nerves and upset stomachs. I remember leaving the room in tears after my first calculus test, and I remember all the people who came up to me in the hall to see what was wrong, tell me I was being silly, and hug me. These are memories I will carry throughout my life.

I carry some satisfaction at having survived Stuy, and I carry some disappointment at leaving certain things unfinished. And I carry this fear of moving on that is, perhaps, the hardest to lay down. I sat in on Ms. Kocela's class one day in early June, and she mentioned something about how we'd be graduating soon, and someone moaned, please, don't talk about it, and she said, surprised, "Well, you don't want to stay here, do you?" And someone else - and I think it was Ana - said, "Well, no, we don't want to stay here, but can we bring some people with us?"

And I think Ana spoke for all of us that day. We're ready to graduate, ready to get away from home, and meet new people, and discover new things about ourselves and about life. But there are things, and people, that we don't want to leave behind. And it's not that we're scared of being on our own; or rather, we are scared, but that isn't what frightens us the most. We are most scared of losing people. We are most scared of people moving on.

Signing yearbooks we all wrote, Keep in Touch, keep in touch. And if I keep in touch with everyone who wrote that, I will spend my life on E-mail, and I will have no time for college, which doesn't seem like such a bad thing sometimes. I have some friends that I have known since freshman year, and I know that we will all keep in touch, we're not just saying that, and we'll be friends forever. But there are people I just met this term, second term senior year, and they are people I want to know better, and now I will never have the chance. Or people I have known since freshman year, just to say hi to in the halls, and now I will never have the chance to say more. And I want to line up the senior class, and say, you, you, and you, you are coming with me, we're not finished yet. Except I can't. And I don't want to let these people go. I carry this fear of letting go. This fear, not so much of moving on, but of leaving behind. And this fear is something I have to carry with me. I carry, too, the hope that the fear will prove unfounded; that moving on will prove not to mean necessarily leaving behind. But I carry this fear anyway, and I cannot lay it down.

We leave Stuyvesant carrying more than when we entered those green halls for the first time. We leave weighted down by knowledge, memories, hopes, and fears and it is a heavy burden. But Milan Kundera wrote, "The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become." So maybe we should be grateful for the things we carry. Maybe the fact that we have things to carry is proof in itself that moving on does not have to mean leaving behind.

Good luck everyone.

Cyd Fremmer (Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City, June 23, 1994)

- Eric



Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is only one word with which to follow up Cyd's speech...Wow!

1/03/2010 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting! I met Cyd once years ago was also wowed and wish I could have known her better.

Go Peglegs!

9/13/2010 5:39 PM  

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