Then I was…Now I am: Reunion Project at Loomis Village in South Hadley

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SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – Think back to when you were a teenager. What worried you then? What did you believe to be true? Fast forward 20, 30, 40, 50 years. What worries you now? What do you know now? 

A group of women at Loomis Village in South Hadley took this trip down memory lane as a part of The Reunion Project, a multimedia project by photographer Lora Brody. 

“It’s an opportunity for women to have a very personal reunion with their teenage selves, and examine their lives.”

Brody takes portraits of senior women and places them next to portraits of the women as teens. The women also respond anonymously to a series of prompts that allow them to self-reflect: Then I was….  Now I am,” and “I used to think…  Now I know.” 

Brody told 22News the first group of women she showcased as part of the Reunion Project was her former classmates at her 50-year class reunion in Hartford, Connecticut. Since then, she has featured women from all over the country. 

“It’s a way of us being visible,” Brody said. “I think that women my age, we often feel invisible and younger people aren’t so interested in what we have to say. This is a very passive way of us going, ‘look at us,’ ‘hear us,’ hear our surprises, things you wouldn’t expect.” 

What they learned 

22News spoke with five of the women who were featured in The Reunion Project at Loomis Communities.  

Carolyn Hoyt told 22News the project helped her realize how much she’s changed.  

“Over time I gained self-confidence,” Hoyt said. “When I was at this stage [teenager], I had hardly any self-confidence and I think if there are ways we can combat the message we get from society about, women not being important, they are subsidiary, then women can be and are strong.” 

On the other hand, Sheila Klem said she didn’t find many differences between her and her teenage self. 

“I guess I realized as a young woman that I didn’t really think too much about getting old,” Klem explained. “Everything was immediate and in the present, and I still don’t feel like an old woman. I appreciate that I’m still the same person.” 

Advice to young women and girls today 

After looking back at their lives, the women at Loomis have some advice to pass along to young women and girls. 

“Look forward to growing and getting richer as life goes on with experiences and so forth and don’t be afraid of growing old,” — Sheila Klem 

“Open your heart and figure out who you really are and what’d you’d like to do, don’t be bound by what other people tell you,” — Linda Gordon 

“I would encourage young women to try their wings and to be who they feel like they are and not worry about living up to somebody else’s expectations,” –Karen Hyvonen 

“Think of it as you’re playing chess. Think five or six or ten moves ahead,” — Janet Vietch 

The Reunion Project 

The public is invited to view The Reunion Project exhibit at Loomis Village in South Hadley. To get there, just put 20 Bayon Drive in your GPS. Once you enter the campus, drive down the hill and follow the signs for the main building. 

Anyone who wishes to leave comments or questions for the photographer, Lora Brody, can email her at Lora@lorabrody.com 

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