“We girls of Notre Dame Academy…”
Last Saturday, I attended the 45th reunion luncheon for my high school class. This is only the second time I’ve re-uned with the girls of Notre Dame Academy (Worcester edition) – the other time was 25 years ago – and I have to say that, for a bunch of old gals, we looked pretty darned good. Amazing how little one changes between the age of 17 or 18 and the age of 62 or 63. (Let us now praise decent hair colorists.)
As I looked around the room, I recalled the evening on which we were welcomed into our school’s alumnae association, an event attended by many NDA grads. On that June evening, I noted just how old the old girls seemed to me. Since NDA was founded in 1950, the oldest of those old girls would, in 1967, have been in their mid-30’s. Imagine what we would look like to this year’s crop of graduates! Of course, thanks to those just-praised hair colorists, we look pretty damned good.
Anyway, 20 or so members (out of 80-some grads) of the Class of 1967 made it to the event, and it was wonderful to see and catch up so many of my classmates. It was especially good to reconnect with Ro, an old friend from grammar school and high school, after so many years.
What was most interesting was when we went around the room and talked about what we’d been up to for the last, oh, 45 years.
No, no one became a U.S. Senator or Meryl Streep or a Nobel Prize winner – the most renowned member of our class, Maureen Paul (who was not in attendance), was only with us for one year before her family moved. Maureen is a physician and Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood of NY. Nonetheless, our group was rich in both personal and professional accomplishment.
Many had forged long and successful careers in teaching, nursing, or social work, but we also have a high-powered attorney, a yoga instructor, an Army major (nurse) who had served in Desert Storm and Walter Reed, and a couple of real estate professionals among our ranks. Everyone there had married, most had children, and most of those who’d had children now have grandchildren. Or are grandmothers in waiting. Those of us who didn’t have kids of our own are all ultra-aunts to our nieces and nephews, and/or virtual aunts to the children of classmates.
And so we got to hear a lot (but never enough) about children - the brainiac son with the PhD in Philosophy from Penn, the daughter who works for Survivor, the son who works for the Red Sox* – and spend too little time cooing over pictures of adorable grandchildren. (Are we surprised that the now-blonde class red-head has a cutie pie granddaughter with the most extraordinary red hair?) There were so many wonderful, and some very sad, personal stories. Some classmates were widowed, others divorced. Two had lost children. (Unimaginable.) One – quite wonderfully – had decided to adopt a child at the age of 51, only to have – quite sadly - her husband die suddenly, shortly after they had brought home their little Cambodian daughter.
On the other side of the spectrum, everyone, it seems, had been/was still closely involved in the care of elderly parents.
And then there was the stark fact that four of our classmates have died. Actuarially, this may be expected, but it sure sounds like a lot. We’re still so young…
As a class, we weren’t a particular diverse lot – middle-class, mostly Irish-American. How diverse weren’t we? Of the 20 who attended the luncheon, there were 4 Kathleens and 2 Maureens. That’s how diverse we weren’t.
Still, the stories told were of journeys that were interesting and diverse.
I wish that there’d been more time to hear more.
The big news of the event, most likely, was the announcement from two classmates that they’d been a couple since high school.
Now, a number of the girls in our class ended up marrying their high school boyfriends. But in an all-girls school of our time and place, our class couple was unusual.
This was not a surprise to me, as I was at their wedding. But I was very proud that they came (out) to the reunion.
In any case, just as I have praised good colorists, let us now praise all-girls high school education.
Maybe we would all have ended up in the same place, anyway, but I’m going to keep on believing that we became ourselves more fully than we could have – certainly at that time, in that place – than we could have in a co-ed school. We were the ones who got to edit the newspaper, be smart, run student council, unhesitantly raise our hands with the right – or wrong - answers, be funny, act out in class, come up with the ideas, make wisecracks, and just be ourselves. (Other than, as ourselves, no one would have chosen that dreadful uniform. Oh, well, at least we didn’t have to worry about what to put on in the morning, or about how we looked. And those saggy green jumpers were a great leveler. In those uniforms, it was hard to tell who was from a well-to-do family and who was there on a scholarship.)
I loved Notre Dame Academy, and remain a big believer in all-girls schools. (I’m less thrilled about all-boy schools, but that’s another story.)
Now fast forward 45 years.
My niece Molly is a freshman at Nazareth Academy in Wakefield, an all girls school that is an independent re-start of a Catholic school that closed a few years ago. (I think they ran out of nuns…) Molly loves “Naz” and is thriving there – as I knew that she would – but her school is small and struggling to make a go of it.
Naz is trying to raise money for a science lab, and they’re doing some fund-raising online.
Come on! If you’re still reading this, how about making a contribution to this wonderful school? No donation is too small. (And don’t let the perhaps overly ambitious goal discourage a contribution. They have raised more money than is reflected on the web site. Every dollar counts…)
With that, I’m much looking forward to the 50th NDA reunion.
*Long-time Pink Slip readers may recall a long-ago screed about my horrific experience trying to buy Red Sox tickets online and being condemned to hours bouncing off the walls in the Virtual Waiting Room. Somehow, both the President and the Vice President of Marketing for the Red Sox managed to see my post, and I was invited to buy tickets directly via e-mail. The young man who facilitated the purchase was, I now know, the son of a former classmate. (Franny, by the way, gets my nod for the class member who has changed the least since high school, and, believe me, there was quite a bit of competition.)