Friday, March 4, 2011

Reliving High School

It's so strange to write this post, just two months before I actually do have a high school reunion to go to. My school will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in May and has invited all the classes back to celebrate. I am, believe it or not, looking forward to it.

Before you label me as some kind of masochist, I'd better explain Tandem School, my high school in Charlottesville, VA, to you. It's now a Quaker school, but when I went to Tandem it was a hippy college prep school mainly housed in a former plantation house. Total school size: just over 100 for 8th to 12th grade. My class graduated with 28 kids, and we were considered unusually large. I attended Tandem 8th through 12 grade, and look at high school (mostly) as a happy time. Middle school was a different story altogether.

7th grade was my year from hell. I was tall and skinny, and owned nothing fashionable or trendy. My best friend had just moved to Germany. School was boring and I sat at the back of the classroom and read when I finished my work. My school in Northern Virginia was 1350 kids for two grades. High point: a very good Creative Writing teacher. Low point: a really mean gym teacher who was a former Drill Sargent.

My school believed that kids should have a voice in the school community. We had a meeting every morning to discuss issues. I remember passionate discussions about clothing (the head of the school objected to pants that were ripped, um, too much -- and we defended our right to free expression), language, and getting along. We complained when our classmates were slobs. We were encouraged to speak up, participate, and become engaged. We helped to keep the school clean. We called our teachers by their first names. Our soccer team usually lost. But we all knew how lucky we were to be there, and to find a place that encouraged us to be our own true selves.

The school is different now. It officially became a Quaker school years ago. It's a good fit for the school, although I really preferred it to stay non-denominational. It's a lot bigger. They've increased the number of students. They have a gym, and a basketball team that does pretty well. And the area around the school is no longer woods. There's a new public high school across the road, new condos nearby and even a supermarket up the street.

I'm in touch with most of my classmates through Facebook, and I see quite a few around town now that I've moved home. They're parents, artists, musicians, professors, business people, entrepreneurs sales people, designers, and scientists. I really hope most of them come in May, but I know most won't. They're not people desperate to relive some golden age. They're too busy living their interesting lives in Italy, China, California, New York, the Virgin Islands and beyond. I feel lucky to have known them all and had an usually interesting and fun high school experience. And, in May, I'll go out on the back porch and toast them all (present and absent).

Bonus picture: my high school class picture on the front steps of the school. I'm not hard to find (I'm told I look pretty much the same!).


"Betsy" said...

Yes, 7th grade was a really tough year. I had to move away from my best friend. Sounds like you ended up at a cool school and yes you havent chaged a bit. Love ya.

Betsy said...

(and much like 6th grade, I still can't spell)

Meredith Cole said...

Awww... Thanks for stopping by! It was a very sad day for me when you moved away. And you'll always be Betsy to me, Liz.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Somebody on the blog had to have had a good high school experience AND be well adjusted. Kudos to you, Meredith!

I had a terrible junior high and half of high school, but LOVED spending junior and senior year in Germany, so I guess I'm half and half.

Meredith Cole said...

Luckily it was okay to be a nerd at my high school, Becky. In middle school--ah, not so much.

I'm glad part of your high school experience was a good one!

Michael Wiley said...

I've heard that some people enjoy seventh grade, but I generally think the term could become a find synonym for hell. (If you don't behave, you'll go to seventh grade. . . .)

Great post -- and great picture: yes, you look very much the same.

Gabi said...

You got the golden ticket to high school. People who didn't get stuck in their high school moment and went on to interesting lives (you are a great example). No wonder you are still in touch. I'm mostly removed from my high school and am greatful for the difference. Quaker or not, your school did what high school is supposed to -- set up kids to go into the world and do amazing things. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Meredith Cole, poster child.

Thank goodness we'll never go back to seventh grade.

Betsy/liz said...

Meredith you can call me Betsy anytime! Imagine how different the separation would have been with facebook/skype/email.

I'm curious if i was in germany the same time as Rebecca? I was there 1985-1988 (ramstein)