A VOICE FROM THE PAST
23 October 2005
The e-mail really came as a surprise...
My heavens. I hadn't heard from, or thought of her since our high school graduation in 1960. We were not close friends in school, but I've discovered that the longer you are from your high school graduation, the more amorphous those walls between people become, the more special it is that you share a common bond, having spent at least four years together in the same school.
Our school, St. Vincent's High School, was a small Catholic girls' school. Only 250 in the entire school and 60 in my graduating class. (When I got to U.C. Berkeley, I had at least one class with more than 250 people in it.)
I remember graduation day, when one of my classmates came to me, gave me a hug and said "Well, we'll probably never see each other again."
Until that moment it hadn't occurred to me that not only was I leaving behind a building I loved, and teachers I felt close to, but all of the people with whom I had spent most of my waking moments for four years.
She was right. I didn't see her or most of my other classmates after graduation until our 25th year reunion, in 1985. I suffered the tortures of the damned before that reunion, realizing that I was no longer the sylph-like creature I had been in my youth, and ashamed to let the poundage show.
I remember sitting out in front of the hotel where we were meeting for lunch, in the middle of Fisherman's Wharf, sweating profusely, my stomach in knots, not knowing what I would find inside.
As it turned out (not unexpectedly), I was not the only one to have added a bit of poundage.
"Look at the big beautiful women we have become," said one woman as she entered the room, proudly, with a huge smile on her face. No embarrassment for this woman. She was just happy to see all of us again and the pounds didn't matter.
The awkwardness of the passage of 25 years dissolved quickly and we played a lot of "what are you doing now?" and "do you have picture of your kids?" and "do you remember when...?"
The woman who hugged me on graduation day was among the small group who showed up. She was perhaps one of the more successful of us all, had gone on to get her PhD, travel around the world, and now held a prestigious position. I was thrilled to see her. But when I walked her out to the car after lunch, she said something along the order of the fact that her curiousity had been satisfied and she would not be interested in seeing any of us again.
I actually tried to find her again, when I came onto the Internet and discovered all those ways to track down people from your past, but she has a fairly common name and I don't really know where she lives, other than the general area of Southern California. She has apparently signed up with Classmates.com, but I'm not about to spend money to join the web site to see if maybe her e-mail address is there.
In time, the school set up an active alumni association. The school has, in the interim since our graduation, joined with the nearby boys' school, Sacred Heart, and the new, much larger co-ed school is called Sacred Heart-Cathedral Prep (ironically Ashley is a graduate of that school!)
When the alumni association was being revitalized, they called for volunteers to be "class reporters," to contact all the people in their class and get news about their current lives to be published in the Alumni newsletter. I was always the person who did that sort of thing when we were in school, so I volunteered to be the reporter for our class.
I always said that we had the "least spirited" class in the school, and apparently that label still holds. I sent out some 50 messages and received exactly three responses, all from the women with whom I exchange Christmas cards each year.
So this e-mail yesterday was really a surprise. But I have no desire to attend the reunion. In the first place, I suspect that, given the lack of response I've received, very few will attend.
In the second place, there is still that weight embarrassment, now greater than it was in 1985.
But the biggest reason is that this is a week-end long reunion which centers around religious activities. A special Mass and other ceremonials, along with an expensive dinner and some other things.
I haven't been to Mass in a very long time. My feelings about the Catholic church have been expressed here in this journal for a long time--my feeling about the pedophilia scandal, especially the coverup by the hierarchy; the view of the church with respect to homosexuals; and other things which have just made it impossible for me, in good conscience, to continue as a member of the Catholic church.
When I read the schedule for the reunion weekend, there wasn't even a
split second when I thought about attending. Perhaps if I thought there was going to
be a large attendance, I might arrange to skip all the religious stuff, but I guess that I
am feeling like my former classmate -- my curiosity was satisfied back in 1985 and I don't
feel the need to get together again, though I did respond with delight to the e-mail and
said I hoped she would write again.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
It seems like only yesterday...