An English teacher from my old school, SPA, invited me back to talk to seventh graders last Friday. In theory, I was providing a segue into their unit on The Giver, and we did indeed discuss dystopias and do a bit of writing, but also, the visit exposed me to one of those odd time-travel trips. What’s the difference, really, between me talking as an adult guest and me sitting in one of the chairs at age twelve, happy to have a visitor breaking up the routine? Only years. I could so easily be either version of myself.
The sense of time-travel was compounded because my trip to Minnesota also coincided with my thirtieth reunion. I am not a backward-looking person and was not aware of any need for a sense of healing about high school, but when I sat around a table with twenty other alumnas from SPA and saw one familiar face after another, a powerful connection of caring and generosity was tangible, and lovely. How strange to discover a small part of me still longed for acceptance and inclusion with the other girls who now admitted they had been insecure and self-protective, too. How sweet to forgive the younger versions of ourselves for residual slights and disappointments. What very cool people they’ve turned out to be. Dare I believe it? I have friends. Girl friends.
Finally, I cleared the last of my stuff out of my old attic bedroom in my mother’s house. There were drawers under the eaves that had been inaccessible for decades because my father had built his train set on plywood tables before them. Apparently, as a teenager and college student, I saved every scrap of my homework, every notebook, and every incomplete crewelwork project. I culled hundreds of letters down to three shoe-box-fulls and recycled the rest, skimming for familiar hand-writing when it became too slow to open each envelope. I came home with a suitcase of stuff to store in my own attic, and the embarrassment of still having stuff in my mom’s attic is mercifully over.
It is a relief to be back in the present again, on my couch, writing, but I have a gentler understanding of my old self, and I’d like to think if we ever met, we’d be friends.