Monday, July 7, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: The Last Girls' Class Reunion

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

Thirty six of us stood on the steps of our school that June day. The sun beat down on our white gowns and mortarboards, that virginal color so many girls wear to graduation. The last girl's class to graduate before our school merged with the boy's school. The new school took the boy's school's name, as Northrop Collegiate School was too much of a mouthful to swallow. 

I've spent all my life in girl's schools. After attending a convent school in England, my parents needed to find me a new school when we returned to the States.
Me in uniform, Oaklawn, Silverdale Avenue, Walton-on-Thames
The English educational system had moved me a couple grades ahead, and my parents didn't want to send a nerdy, socially clueless, tortoiseshell-glasses-wearing prepubescent girl into an American public high school where I would have been eaten alive.
My younger sister and me in uniform, Walton-on-Thames, England
So they chose this private girl's school. This is where I came of age. I could continue to study Latin and enjoy my favorite subject - math - without worrying about being distracted by boys in the class. As an all girls' school we didn't seem to care as much how we looked, never learning how to use makeup and rarely wearing a bra. Friends took Tampax to class, the paper wrapped tubes tucked into the breast pocket of their navy blue uniform jumpers. 

In some ways, it was an idyllic situation. We came to know boys, eventually — but not too early — not before we came to know ourselves. We were too busy enjoying the company of other girls, building up - and occasionally tearing down - each other's self-esteem, in the way only girls know. But because our class was small, it was important to be a friend.

And here I learned how to be a friend.


Last weekend we gathered again. I enjoyed catching up with these beautiful and strong women and learning about their lives. The adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same would be true, as is the old song we used to sing at Girl Scouts:

Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.

19 comments:

  1. "Make new friends but keep the old. . . ." I was thinking about that rhyme this very morning, while I was watering the garden. It sounds like you had a wonderful time, then and now, and I'm glad you did! A wonderful group of strong women — exactly what our world needs a lot more of.

    Blessings and Bear hugs, Amanda!

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  2. I never get to do that, but I imagine it was wonderful. Minus the mean boys would be great. I'm sure time fell away that day.

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    1. Even minus the nice boys it was good - no one to primp for! :))

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  3. Beautiful tribute..so wonderful to see all of these touching pictures..beautiful! Lovely to know more about you..thanks for sharing Shine on!

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    1. Thanks Victoria - sometimes it seems a little weird sharing these moments from my past but then it's lovely to know that it connects with others!

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  4. Brings back memories. I went to an all girls school until I was 16. I made some wonderful friends - the kind that last throughout your life. But I blame convent school and wearing a uniform for so long for making it so hard for me to find my style. I still seem to be finding it after all those years.

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    1. Amazing that those early girl friends have that capacity to last throughout life - what a blessing, right? And I struggle with the same issue as you regarding the convent/girls' school uniform dilemma. My only 'style' I've ever developed since then is a uniform of jeans and a t shirt. As an archaeologist and writer, however, it works for me.

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  5. Magnificent post, Amanda. Favorite line:

    'We came to know boys, eventually — but not too early — not before we came to know ourselves.'

    How exceedingly wonderful that you had the opportunity to reunite recently. And I have a very hard time picturing you as socially clueless! You move through the world now with grace to spare.

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    1. Thanks dear Suze. But, yes, I was the caricature of a classic glasses wearing, pencil case toting nerd with limited social skills. I enjoyed conjugating Latin verbs and studying the logarithm tables, but I had a rebellious streak. A boy took notice of me my junior year in high school and although I was terrified of him I was equal parts intrigued. I'm happy I had all those years to develop as myself before exposure to the opposite sex.

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  6. It looks like a pretty good life for a young girl and it's too bad that our public schools aren't segregated by gender. I think I would have been a completely different person if I had not had to contend with the boy thing so early on, but even more important it seems is the opportunity to get to know and come close to girls. The reunion must have been so much fun.

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    1. It's an intriguing notion to consider gender segregation in our public schools. Sadly there aren't enough resources to run many of them at all let alone experiment with how girls and boys would learn differently if separated. Like you, I often wonder what I would have been like if things had been different and had attended that huge public high school. Who would our friends be? Would we have been interested in the same subjects?

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  7. wow, I met only once classmates from secondary school, always no time...
    Amanda, if you have any questions just write at aleksandra.dalecka@gmail.com

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    1. I'd be interested to know how the education system is in Poland.
      Thanks Ola, I will be in touch about Skopelos!

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  8. I went to a girls school for the last two years of high school, pretended I hated it, but really didn't. So much less pressure, so many friendships. Love your pictures

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    1. Thanks Mim. Girls' schools are an underrated treasure, I think.

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  9. As one of your classmates, at the reunion, I loved reading your comments here. What you say is true (although I do NOT remember you as a nerd!) We had a blessed childhood and adolescence in so many ways, and we are lucky to still want to share the memories and see each other - so many years later!

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    1. Kate - Ha! I was a closet nerd, I guess (perhaps earlier on more than later :))

      We are so very lucky to be able to share these memories - and I feel blessed to be able to connect all these years later with this wonderful group of women, of which you are the class's heart and soul as its core archivist! xoxo

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