Tasteful – Never Tacky
An in-depth feature on the life and times of Ms. Ann Comarato.
May 12, 2014
GLEN ROCK, N.J. – Optimism, stated Lionel Tiger, an American anthropologist, is an important evolutionary part of survival. Tiger argues that it is one of our most defining and adaptive characteristics. Yet any member of the human species can vouch that s/he has been unable to maintain a perspective of hope and optimism without interruption.
It is human nature to become stressed, sad, desperate, doubtful, longing, and skeptical. It is rare to find someone who is able to diverge from the usual stresses of everyday life.
But the ever-lovely Ms. Ann Comarato lives by the mantra “life is too short.” Although this may be a cliché, she truly follows and believes in it.
“Have you ever seen me angry in a classroom? Miserable? No. Life is too short,” Comarato says.
Ms. Comarato is a Glen Rock High School English teacher for grades nine and eleven. On the side, she loves to direct and be a part of any musical or play that she can participate in.
When she was a junior in high school at Ramapo Indian Hills High School, Comarato was forced to try out for the school play by her drama teacher, Ed Sherman. She received the lead in the play and, from then on, her passion and interest in theater began to thrive. Sherman influenced Comarato in not only the aspect of drama, but also in teaching.
“The way you say something when you are a teacher is very important. It can affect kids and you never know what they’re going to take away from the class,” Comarato says. She recognizes how fragile the mind of an adolescent is and uses that understanding to work with her students.
Comarato demonstrates genuine care for her students. Benedetta Fontana, a sophomore student at Glen Rock High School, refers to Comarato as her “school mom.” She says, “Ms. Com is always there for me when I want to talk. She’s like my school mom. She especially helps me when it comes to acting. Even though she doesn’t teach drama, she helped me work on and memorize an entire monologue.”
Ms. Ann Comarato was born in eastern Pennsylvania. Her family moved many times: to Long Island, Dallas, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, and, finally, New Jersey. Perhaps due to her frequent relocation, she developed an outgoing persona.
Yet she still remembers the frustrations of those days. When her family decided to move to Michigan, Comarato did not want to go. She stayed in her bedroom for a week, trying to prevent the inevitable. She absolutely refused to come out of her house and meet new people. Yet once she was convinced to get out of the house and breathe in the new Michigan air, she immediately found herself fitting in. Friends came so easily to her because of her extremely compatible and outgoing personality. She was even asked on a date that same day.
Comarato was also born into a family of three girls as the middle child. This experience pushed her to become a more independent woman. “Being the middle child never bothered me. It just meant I was fabulous, younger looking, and more independent,” she says.
Ever since she was a young girl, Comarato always felt blessed. She considered her family life to be wonderful. She was best friends with her sisters (and still is), and her parents were always very supportive of her. Comarato and her mother also had a best friend relationship.
“My mom was always extremely supportive of me. She helped me get into theater and she was my sisters’ and my best friend, “she said. “Friends and family, to me, are everything.”
How she lives life
“Any day spent with a good friend or a family member and just laughing. That’s a good day.”
When asked about hardships in her life, Comarato was quick to respond: “Compared to a lot of other people, I’m lucky. I am so grateful for what I have.”
She takes nothing for granted, even when life knocks her down.
Losing her parents was a hard time in her life, as well as when her husband was found to have a brain tumor. Comarato and her husband remained optimistic and, finally, doctors were able to successfully take out the tumor. He was fine.
“Anything can happen at any time,” she says. “That is why every day has to be a good day.”
There is not much that gets to Comarato or troubles her enough for her to stress about it. “The only thing that really bothers me is the neglect and abuse of children or animals. When I hear about things like that, it makes me feel sick. Other than that… nothing. It’s just not worth it.”
Comarato has mastered the concept and life motto of how to let go. “Pretty much nothing is worth your worries and tears,” she says.
Perhaps one can attribute the peaceful personality she has today to her “hippie days,” also known as her college years.
“When I was in college, I was a flower child,” she recalls. “I had hair down to my butt and bell bottom jeans.”
Comarato was very anti-war. She would participate in any anti-war protest that she could be a part of, and she also took part in many civil rights marches and she was able to shut down student unions.
Her father, who was formerly in the military, would get into disputes with her about war. They would constantly argue and never quite saw eye to eye, but they had a mutual respect for each other and each other’s opinions that kept them from growing apart.
Nevertheless, partway through Comarato’s college years, her father refused to continue paying for her education. This made everything much harder on her. She was forced to pay for college by herself and it took her eight years to receive her degree.
“College was a time of questioning and forming your own beliefs,” she says, reflecting on the time.
Another event that played a tremendous role in Comarato’s college years began as a dare from her mother. Yet it that ended up becoming one of the best memories of her life.
Woodstock. The Woodstock.
“Watching Jimi Hendrix up there was the best moment,” says Comarato, reminiscing on the music and good vibes.
Comarato and her friends walked three miles to get to the infamous event. She saw young Crosby Stills Nash perform the song Suite: Judy Blue Eyes for the first time ever in public, and she recalls that they and were off-key.
“It was such a wild event. While we were walking there, people would let us into their homes to use their bathrooms, and they would come out with lemonade for us. It was really something,” she says.
This notorious concert, still talked about today by all ages, is an experience many people wish they could have been able to attend.
The best blessings
“My son Grant? Best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Comarato and her husband did not have any children of their own. Comarato and her husband adopted their only son, Grant, from Green Bay, Wisconsin when he was a newborn.
“He is the biggest blessing in my life,” she says.
As a parent, Comarato did not believe in grounding. It was never effective for her, and it just kept kids from being productive. Instead, she would give him chores to do so that he was not “sitting doing nothing all day.”
But Grant was rarely ever grounded as a child. She recalls that he was “too busy to get in trouble.” Grant spent all of his time playing sports. He played football, soccer, baseball, and lacrosse and was the captain of the football team.
When asked how she would describe her years of parenting, Comarato responded with “I spent all of his growing-up on the field. In the coldest of days and the hottest of days, and I loved every minute of it.”
Flannel Day. For those of you who have been able to have the privilege of having Comarato as a teacher, you know of the infamous Flannel Day. Once a year, usually in the dead of winter, Comarato would give her son Grant a day-off from school. She would not tell him when it was happening, but, instead, she would just not wake him up for school the next day. She would let him sleep in until whatever time and when he would finally awaken, she would have a large blanket laid out with all of Grant’s favorite things.
The two would stay in their pajamas all day and play games and watch movies together. Grant and Com loved (and still do love) to quote movies together. Flannel Day was a very special time for Comarato and her son to share, and it helped mold their relationship so that they stayed very close over the course of time.
As a parent, Comarato knew exactly what she was doing – even if she felt as if she was making it up as she went along. She and her husband Paul were and are both teachers.
They were honest and fair as parents, but they were also firm and well-respected by their son, Grant. They also hardly ever argued.
“Arguments are a waste of precious time and energy,” she says. “Sure we have disagreements, but that is all it ever is. Life’s too short to be angry.”
“We disagree sometimes. I usually just say, ‘Ya know, I really don’t like you right now.’ And then we will laugh about it and move on from it,” she says.
Since family is a key part of Comarato’s life, family traditions are very important. Holidays, of course, are celebrated together. Christmas is at one sister’s house and then Thanksgiving at another one’s. It is generally alternated each year.
Birthdays are a big deal, too, especially to Comarato.
“When my birthday is coming up, I would leave notes all around the house reminding everyone that April 9th was coming! My birthday is very important to remember,” she says.
As far as holidays go, Christmas Eve is not only a celebration for the entire family, but it is also the date of Comarato and her husband’s marriage. Yet it was not a traditional wedding. They were married at home in front of the fire, just them and the mayor.
“I actually went dress shopping the day before. I walked in and the woman asked me ‘When do you need your dress by?’ and I looked at her and I said ‘Tomorrow’ and I started to laugh. I guess most people don’t really do that,” she says. “We love each other so we got married. No big deal.”
As for Ms. Ann Comarato’s present life, she is still loving every bit of it and continuing to just live life. She is full of wisdom. She has fears, strengths, and weaknesses. She is afraid of heights and of losing someone. She never wants someone she loves to be in pain.
There is a lot to learn from Ms. Comarato.
“I think the best qualities someone can have are sincerity and honesty. When I get eye contact from someone, I can just tell that what they are saying to me is completely genuine,” she says.
As for her own weaknesses, she says they’re never balancing her check book, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, always falling for the ‘I work better under pressure’ lie when she feels like procrastinating, and always being shocked when she does not win the lottery.
Ms. Comarato says that people “spend an entire lifetime learning [their] weaknesses.”
As Ms. Comarato began to ‘Comarato shuffle’ to her next class, The Glen Echo asked what phrase accurately reflected who she is.
And we received a clever, comical, and completely honest response:
“I am simple yet elegant. Casual yet cool. And I am tasteful – never tacky.”