Retro Forever Fair Haven Eighth Grade Friendship Snapshot

Knollwood Class of ’74 graduation fashionistas Stephanie DeSesa, Elaine Van Develde and Wanda Becker.
Photo/Sally Van Develde

Eighth graders in the Rumson-Fair Haven area are going through graduation rites of passage of a different kind right now — the COVID-19 pandemic era kind.

And what’s different about it is that there are no photos of friends clustered together, arms wrapped around one another or stiff shoulder-to-shoulder stances, signaling the end of a grade school era and beginnings. It’s definitely a missed moment or several this year.

Those ends and beginnings always involve childhood friends, some who stay with us throughout each milestone in our lives. They’re always there, if not in physical presence, in our hearts and on our minds. Those friends were markers in the milestones that are rooted in all that’s home. Our history.

So, while those friendship poses won’t be struck in the isolated pandemic Class of 2020 photos, the kinships inherent in them remain a hallmark of homegrown, hometown life.

Even if you were one of those kids that just didn’t like school all that much, the awkward, trying and exhilarating moments marked with those childhood friends are the ones that stay forever etched in minds and hearts. It’s the stuff that makes you who you are. The stuff that keeps you grounded, or up in the air — always home.

Those questionable fashion pics and fumbling adolescent moments also comprise great friendship blackmail material. Who else would have such epic fashion failure photos to go along with a string of clumsy, trouble-making memories up for grabs?

Your oldest friends. That’s who. And when the time comes to say your final goodbye, a standard eulogy by the most stable adult in the bunch just can’t compete with the memories of childhood, adolescence, teen years and adulthood and all of its ugliness, awkwardness and beauty with best friends.

Crews of grade school cronies, regardless of fashion or common sense, have something special — dating back to the beginning of graduating times.

So, marking the moment of bad fashion and friendships that last forever, we take you back to a living room pose with three Knollwood School Class of ’74 grads and friends. Maybe the fashion was our moms’ faults. They had more of a say in the outfit pickings, especially on a special occasion.

I know that I seemed to think my yellow gown with little gold bodice beads and sheer sleeves was a gown fit for an Oscar ceremony — Oscar who? I don’t know. It definitely wasn’t de la Renta!

My best friend Steph (left), who is gone now but forever remembered with too many awkward, ugly, silly, crazy hijinks and beautiful moments to count from second grade to age 50, was very begrudgingly dressed by her self-professed personal assistant to the stars — her relentlessly mothery mother Nina, a/k/a The Grinch. Yes, Steph called her that.

And, yeah, Steph would kill me for posting this pic and reminding her how much she hated school and that damn dress, but that’s what friends are for — to carry on a tried and true tradition of humiliation and laughs. Unforgettable. Every rite of passage moment with such a motley crew.

Nina swore Steph would look like the beauteous blooming adolescent flower she was in this supposed designer dress. No. It made her look like a potted peasant plant with a bad hair day instead. Wanda (right), well, she just held her head down the entire time. Though, I think her Bo-Peepesque dress was the most passable. Her hair was very hip, though not quite Farrah Fawcett-ish enough for the times.

Yes, we were a slightly moldy motley crew trying to spread graduation joy in bad gowns.

You should have seen the high school scene. Let’s just say it evolved.

Who were the cronies you posed with for eighth grade graduation pics?Still friends? Your gown? Did you think it was cool or did you hate it, but have to wear it ’cause Mom said so?

Congrats from the bad gown girls and best buds of the Knollwood Class of ’74 to the fashionistas of the Class of 2020! 

— Elaine Van Develde