HomeChinese AmericanGetting through the pandemic with the help of longtime friends

Getting through the pandemic with the help of longtime friends

By Barbara Yau, AsAmNews Staff Writer

It’s Thursday evening at 8:25 pm, and I am rushing to finish cleaning the kitchen. I have five minutes to grab a drink and my iPad to ready myself for a weekly Zoom call with my friends. But, to call them just friends would be undervaluing what they mean to me. These amazing individuals have been in my life for over 45 years since we were pint-sized kindergarteners!

Most of us started our schooling at Transfiguration School (Trans) in New York City’s Chinatown in the mid 70’s when we were five years old. We were grouped in a class of approximately 30 kids who would spend the next eight years of our childhood learning, playing and getting into mischief together in our blue plaid uniforms. We not only had committed to memory all our classmates’ biographical information, including the faces and names of everyone’s parents and siblings, but we often knew one another’s secrets and innermost thoughts due to years of shared experiences during these formative years. Together, we enjoyed happy times, such as when we put on our animated but cringeworthy plays every year and went on fun-filled class trips to venues like the infamous United Skates in Queens to roller skate to tunes by Madonna and Duran Duran. Together, we laughed and turned beet red, as we called one another unflattering nicknames that some of us would rather forget, such as “Voltron” and “Cabbage Patch Kid.” And together, we cried and mourned together during trying times like when our beloved fifth grade teacher unexpectedly passed away.

Transfiguration School (Class of 1985),1976

After we graduated from Trans and started high school, we did our best to stay in touch with one another. We held our first unofficial class reunion post college at a classmate’s apartment while her parents were away. For many years after that, we continued to make valiant attempts to get together with varying success. It became more challenging as one would expect, as we became more immersed in our careers and our personal lives as young adults. Some of us moved away, and others married and started families. But, when we were successful at setting up reunion events every now and again, we always had a blast. Typically, we would meet up for a lively dinner and eventually close down a bar or two in the wee hours of the night. Reminiscing about our years at Trans (with accompanying drinks) became an unavoidable theme of every single reunion. When we celebrated our 30th anniversary of our graduation five years ago, we reserved a private space where we pored over old pictures and shared inside jokes over a more formal dinner and drinks. One of the most memorable highlights of that evening was that our first and eighth grade teachers accepted our invitation to the reunion and attended as our honorary guests.

Transfiguration School 30th Reunion (Class of 1985), 2015

When the COVID pandemic kept us quarantined at home, one classmate who informally holds the title of being our “Class President” and “Godfather” suggested we check in with one another over Zoom. Our meeting ended up being as natural and free flowing as they have always been when we are together in person. Although we were saddened that a few of our classmates had fallen ill from the coronavirus, we felt comforted by being with people that we have known for almost our entire lives, albeit remotely. Fourteen of us stayed on chatting for over three hours that evening. 

Since that initial Zoom meeting over two months ago, we have scheduled recurring meetings there every single Thursday, conversing and sometimes just listening in for several hours until people start leaving one by one to head to bed. Most of us, including me, have not missed a single call. And sometimes, our first, seventh, and eighth grade teachers would treat us with an appearance. Just like at all our previous reunions in the past decades, we would spend the time together to catch up, discuss current events, reminisce, and yes, to tease and call one another by those embarrassing nicknames! To add some festive notes to our calls, we have played Kahoot! games to test our trivia knowledge about one another and celebrated birthdays virtually. We have screen shared old pictures from our eighth grade prom, as well as incriminating holiday cards that we had preserved from long ago. Some weeks, we also assign “homework” to be completed by the following week’s Zoom call, with assignments ranging from watching a Netflix movie to completing a personality test. As expected and to the disappointment of our teachers on the call, most of us are still bad at completing homework assignments by the due date!

The pandemic has thrown so much chaos and havoc into all of our daily lives. Everything seems to have changed. But, I have realized that one of the few things that has not altered at all has been my warm and enduring friendship with my Trans classmates. They were there for me when things were new and terrifying in kindergarten, they were there during those crazy post college years, and they are here for me now in the midst of these uncertain and unprecedented times. With them by my side, my heart feels a bit safer and more secure, as I try to maneuver through the ups and downs of this novel and frightening landscape. And being with them makes me feel like I have less to fear…that is unless you are talking about those mortifying nicknames…which unfortunately still haunts me to this day!

What have you done to get through the pandemic. Share your stories below?

This piece is dedicated to my Trans family with love and friendship.

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