Sunday, March 6, 2011

High School Confidential

By Hilary Davidson

This week's question made me smile, albeit a little wickedly. Imagine myself describing my murderous ways at my high school reunion? Been there, done that.

Four months before The Damage Done was published, I went to a reunion — the first I've ever attended. I'd always questioned the point of reunions — hey, if you like these people so much why don't you stay in touch with them all the time? — but that changed early in 2010 when a friend from high school, Sam, died suddenly. His funeral was a reunion of sorts: for the first time in years, I saw many of the people I'd gone to high school with, and I realized that I missed them. I loved hearing about what they were up to and seeing photos of their kids and finding out how their siblings had turned out. That, in turn, lured me into a reunion of my graduating class timed to coincide with my high school's centennial anniversary.

My high school, the University of Toronto Schools (known by its initials, UTS), was always a strange place. It sat in a rambling, crumbling building on the northwestern edge of the University of Toronto campus. It took in a class of 72 students in Grade 7 and turned them loose on the world six years later, after warping them with Latin and philosophy and all sorts of "extra" subjects in addition to the standard curriculum. As the sister of one high school friend succinctly put it, "UTS is for nerds." It was heaven for me, because I was (and am) a nerd. There were no jocks or cheerleaders, but there were a lot of WarGamers. In my final year there, we had to do individual projects in addition to our coursework; I wrote mine on the Marquis de Sade. I'm sure I was hoping to shock someone, but no one batted an eye (though the project led to some debates about materialist determinism versus... never mind. I told you I'm a nerd!). UTS was the kind of place where you could do your own thing, but whatever you did, you'd be doing it amongst friends.

I always knew I was incredibly lucky to get into UTS, and the reunion drove that home. Nobody was surprised I'd written a novel, and no one was shocked that the book was a murder mystery. As my old friend Ijay, whom I've known since Grade 4, said at the reunion, "You've been scaring the hell out of people with your stories since you were eight years old." People wanted to know when and where The Damage Done would be available, and where I'd be touring. They promised to come see me and spread the word. And they did.
To say that the UTS crowd was supportive of the book launch would be a massive understatement. My friend Ghen came to see me at the Mystery Bookstore in LA; Ilana floored me by flying from Boise to San Francisco to see me in action at M Is for Mystery. The book party in Toronto at Sleuth of Baker Street was unforgettable in large part to my UTS friends: Stephanie, Kim, Alison, Hank, Cathy, Matt, Tuhin, Ron, John... Some friends brought their parents, others sent them in their place since they couldn't be there themselves. Not everyone could make it to an event in person, but they showed support in other ways (thank you Kate, Eugene, and many others). There's something both heartening and humbling about being on the receiving end of so much love. How can you ever pay that back? I have no idea, but I'm already looking forward to the next reunion.


L.J. Sellers said...

I've never been to my high school reunion, but I've been thinking about it more and more. Your post was heart warming!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I, for one, am not at all surprised that you have such wonderful and supportive friend, Hilary! You've paid it back and paid it forward, so don't worry about your karmic balance sheet.

Enjoy the support. You've earned it!

(and thanks for another great post!)

Michael Wiley said...

You do know, Hillary, that high school is supposed to be full of anxiety and trauma -- and that high school reunions are supposed to be an opportunity to relive all of that?

I'm glad this wasn't the case for you.

Great post.

Michael Wiley said...

And I do know that you spell your name with one "l," even though I just accidentally used two.

Hilary Davidson said...

L.J., Becky & Michael, thanks for stopping by and for your sweet comments!

L.J., I hope you'll go to your next reunion — I have a feeling you'll enjoy it!

Becky, that it such a kind thing for you to say! Many, many thanks.

Michael, I agree that anxiety and stress are the norm. So many people feel they can be themselves only after leaving the pressure-cooker of high school. I was lucky to be at a school where nerdom was normal!

Gabi said...

A senior project on the Marquis was probably the best training ground. And you never know when you can distract a would be thug with a little well-placed latin. I admire you for going to the reunion. I'd rather have root canal.

Frank Bill said...

Much enjoyed post. I felt the dame as you about my last reunion and did not attend. However, I may rethink my twenty year reunion. Glad to hear you're doing well. See you at BCon!!

Hilary Davidson said...

Gabi, I think you're right about my project on the Marquis de Sade. That's like a gift that keeps on giving!

Thanks for stopping by, Frank. I'm psyched that we'll finally get to meet in St. Louis!

Ilana said...

Hilary - I cannot believe I am fortunate enough to know such a warm, talented, brilliant person. Just tell me where to fly for the next book opening!