“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back To High School

Tonight I had the very flattering opportunity to take my beautiful niece, now in seventh grade, to an Open House at the high school I went to. Before I go on and make this all about me, let's take a look at my beautiful godchild. This is her, last Christmas with Noah. Doesn't she look JUST like me? Except with glasses and red hair.

Oops. I kind of made it about me there, didn't I?

Anyway. My sister (my niece's mom) asked my mom and me to go to the Open House at Mount Mercy Academy (in South Buffalo, if anyone wants to check out how amazing it is) with them. At first, I admit, I was kind of like, ehhhh. I loved my high school experience, as in, I'd go back and do it again--which I think might be unusual--but I don't have a daughter. I've always sort of mentally surrendered the idea of revisiting my all-girls high school as kind of a waste of time. Good memories, but all in the past. I will say that as a public school middle teacher, I do keep my eyes peeled year after year for any girl who looks like maybe she'd be interested, but even then, there's so many conditions. Would she even be interested? Would her parents bite my head off for suggesting private school? A lot of people, I know, are not remotely interested in sending their daughters to Mount Mercy. Although, I say, take one look at ME and think again.

No, really.

But then Jane (my sister) asked me to just check it out. She's been struggling with knowing that the other area girls' schools are excellent, and I think we both wanted to see if Mercy had the same impressive feel. I personally feel that Western New York has really excellent schools, public and private, and that if you're looking to go to any of the Catholic schools, they all fall into a generally positive category. It's just a matter, in any case, of choosing the school that feels right for one child and their family.

Okay, so now that I've said that, I want to say that pulling down Red Jacket Parkway in South Buffalo made my heart clench. That walking up the front steps, being greeted by Mercy girls, who weren't even wearing the same uniform I used to wear, made me giddy. I was greeted by a smiling face who said, "My goodness! It's so good to see you again!" It was like coming home after being away a long, long time. Since I grew up and only moved across the street from my mom, you can imagine that "coming home" isn't a feeling I've ever really experienced.

The library/media specialist is also a graduate, and we worked together as teachers for two years at my current school, so we had a great time chatting and making dinner plans for some night soon. My history teacher pointed out the exact desk I sat in. My old art teacher greeted me with a huge warm hug.

The walls had been painted. I think the lockers had been replaced, though I knew the exact spot where mine had been my senior year. I walked through the halls smiling so broadly that a lot of teachers probably had no idea who I was, but could tell my overly enthusiastic expression that I was one excited alumna. Either way, they all said, "Welcome back!" like I belonged.

Joe always goes on about how I'm psychosomatic. I develop almost physical attachments to places and things and people, and I physically ache for them when I miss them for too long. I hadn't realized I had such a connection to this building, to this place I haven't visited in years. Unlike so many things from when I was young, I did not find it too changed or much smaller. There were a lot of impressive improvements, of course, times having changed and all that.  Yet it just was, in so many ways, exactly as it had been. I think it was all the important things that stayed the same through the years.

I'm sure I sound crazy and/or sentimental to most people. I hope people can see past that, though. I wish more people could understand the special value of an all-girls high school, of everything empowering and strengthening that comes with it. I have always said I would never have become half the person I am today if my parents hadn't made me go. Are you kidding? Boy crazy me? Could you imagine how insane I would have been if I had gone to school with boys? And sure, plenty of people might think there is something majorly lacking a single-gendered school. There's a lot I could say to that (with an eye roll and a scoff, no less), but all I'll tell you is: I met my husband when I was just a Mercy girl, and that worked out pretty well for me.

A couple of memories that I'd forgotten:
1. Cleaning my paintbrushes in the art room.
2. Hanging out in the Learning Lab to do my math homework.
3. Escaping to the library during study hall to read magazines, talk about boys, and pay a nickel to use the computer (was that real, or did I make that up?).
4. Taco salad.
5. Setting a bag of popcorn on fire in the school cafeteria's new microwave.
6. RACING from the top of the freshman building, down the stairs to the cafeteria, up the stairs of the main building to the top floor for Global Studies as a freshman. (Mrs. Howard totally remembered me fondly, by the way--I could tell.)
7. Running away from my Latin teacher during her cafeteria study hall, where I'd camped out under a table to talk to my friend Alice. It wasn't actually my study hall, so the teacher threatened to give me my one and only detention ever. She didn't, and I never did get one.
8. Wearing a name tag.
9. Getting wall mail.
10. Being SURE I was going be poisoned during chemistry lab.
11. That ALL--really, all of them--my teachers really cared about me as a person.

Everybody experiences school differently. I'm a teacher, I get that. But I will say...I do think I had such a good time in high school because of where I was. If not entirely, then at least quite a bit more than I've realized.

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