High School Reunion Recap

I wasn’t going to take my camera at all, and as it happened, I should’ve left it in the hotel room. But I was asked to take some photos, and I thought, “Well, sure. I can do that.” Yet in the end I yammered too much, snap too few photos, and the ones I captured weren’t all that spectacular. Photography fail!

Still, the reunion was great. Here’s the Assistant Head of School for Advancement telling us not to post unflattering, unbecoming photos on social media throughout the night because everything on the internet sticks.

Social media announcement

I started around the room with good intentions. “Hey, good to see you! Get together for a photo!”

Here’s proof:

Roopal, Brooke, and Darria

Some people saw the lens and responded appropriately:

Cara and April

When the room got dark, I flipped on the flash (which I hate to use). There were smiles all around:

Group shot

But then I gave up. I wanted to talk and socialize and see where these ladies have been for the last twenty years. The room was full and loud. The husbands who knew each other huddled in safe, secure circles until there’d been enough alcohol for no one to care. Chuck was grateful to have Jerry (Kathryn’s husband, the only other familiar face at the reunion).

The Husbands

There are only a couple of photos of me from the night. One is a photo that Chuck took of me with Jenny. She and I both started GPS in the tenth grade, though I recall her already knowing a few people at the school and presuming those relationships helped her acclimate. I was so thrilled to see her again.

Jennie and Jenny P

The other photo of me is an unfortunate one. It was arranged that we’d have a class photo taken outside the event space, a lovely idea on a beautiful night. However, I was chatting, or trying to find a spot, or something, and I wound up in the back of the photo with other girls who were doing the same thing. We couldn’t see or hear anything, so we couldn’t follow the directions from the photographer to stand up straight, look forward, and smile.

So instead of being in position, I’m dazed. I’m slanted. I look like a felled tree on the way to the ground. Worse than my posture, I think my tongue is sticking out in laughter.

I swear to you, I’d only had two glasses of wine.

Class photo 2016

A few of us carried on the night at a local dive, where we continued to talk and catch up. By midnight, my feet and body were tired. Some of the girls still had stamina, but I did not, and I was pretty sure I’d used up all my words.

Okay, so I misspoke. There is one more photo from the night I need to share. It’s Kathryn and me. When I think of high school, I think of her. I think of how much she kept me laughing, how we struggled through academics together, how much fun we had the summer before our senior year. We don’t live in the same city, but man, I wish we did.

Me and Kathryn at Clydes

Thank you, Cara, Fannie, and Katherine, for all of your hard labor pulling this reunion together. Thanks to everyone who carved out time to attend. For those who missed it, we missed you, but hopefully we’ll catch up at the next one.

A big throwback to 20 years ago

This weekend is my twenty-year high school reunion. Mathematically, it’s accurate, but in my brain, it feels as though the years have been miscalculated, like we still have another decade to go.

My high school experience was unique from a lot of my peers because I attended an all-girls college prep school. In keeping with the mishmash that was my entire educational experience, I went from being a freshman at a large, predominantly African-American high school on the south side of Atlanta to being a sophomore at a small, predominantly Caucasian, all-girls school in the Scenic City. Before that, I attended a Dept. of Defense school on a military base in West Germany, and before that… you get the picture. If anything, I knew how to adapt.

I will never forget the day Dad told me I was going to GPS. He had retired from the military and had just come home from a long contract job at Guantanamo Bay. We were supposed to move there, or somewhere near there, or something. I can’t recall the specifics, but I remember talking to Corey about what it might be like to live near Jamaica. Then, when I wasn’t paying attention, the plans changed. Dad got a job at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, an all-boys college prep school. We weren’t moving to Cuba after all. We were moving to Tennessee, and guess what? I could attend the sister school at a little discount. Doesn’t that sound great?

Um, pardon? 

No, it didn’t sound great, but it didn’t sound horrible either. Like every other move during my childhood, I would have to adapt and make friends, which is exactly what I did.

(Below: That time we made our rats Milli Vanilli…)

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It wasn’t easy though, and it was mainly due to the coursework. GPS was hard. Crazy hard. I wasn’t used to the academic demands, even though I was an honor roll student at my previous school. The “college prep” part was no joke.

That sophomore year? No, it wasn’t easy. I cried almost every day after lunch in Mr. Tumelaire’s Western Civ class, where I consistently earned straight C’s. Geometry was terrible, and the research papers nearly killed me. Plus, at more than 200 lbs., I could barely fit into the weird, potato-sack uniform. Sophomore year was nothing special.

(Below: Jenny and Jennie)

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My grades turned a corner the next year, as did my social life, and by the time I was senior, I’d clawed my way back to being an A/B student and I felt like a significant part of the school at large. I was vice president of the school’s literary group, a solid debate team member, and a teen staff writer for the city paper. To top things off, I met my future husband. 

I was also in the throes of terrible eating disorder, but that’s another story for another day.

(Below: The future President/CEO of United Way of Greater Chattanooga… Way to go, Lesley!)

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Though I wasn’t there from the beginning, I’m pretty sure senior year at Girls Preparatory School is the best year of all. May Day, Chapel Talks, Disney World, and all those wonderful free periods. Senior prank, Cat/Rat, the senior lounge, and leaving campus for lunch. The perks helped ease the course load and make me a little less stressed when walking into Madame Sutton’s Honors French III class, where no English was allowed. En Français, s’il vous plaît! 

(In the May Day photo below, I’m in the front row, left side, first girl from the center.)

Class of 1996 May Day

I’ve yet to attend a high school reunion. The five-year was too soon, as was the ten-year. Was there a fifteen-year? If so, I was probably in Texas. The twenty-year feels just right. We’ve grown into a our personalities and experienced real life. There have been marriages, divorces, and children. Some of us have lost parents and siblings, and some of us have survived cancer. Some of us are in the careers of our dreams, and some of us are still searching. A couple of us have already passed away.

(Below: I dearly loved my May Day dress. It was made of a linen-type drapery fabric that gave it a vintage feel. It was a dress I could’ve pulled from my mom’s closet when she was in high school.)

May Day 1996

I’m not sure how many ladies are attending the reunion this weekend, and I have no idea what my classmates remember about me in the three short years I attended GPS, but my memories are fond and full. Though I had serious reservations about continuing after my sophomore year, I graduated with gratitude over the experiences I gained there. I was fully prepared for college and I was privy to experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, like traveling to Key West to study Ernest Hemingway, becoming a Peer AIDS Educator, and getting an early start on my career as a journalist. 

(In the class photo below, I’m standing on the far left in a long, flowery skirt.)

Class of 1996 photo

To prepare for the weekend, I’ve uploaded a few playlists that instantly take me back to 1996. Tori Amos, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dave Matthews Band, Bush… The boys are suffering for it. They especially didn’t know what to make of Tori. (“It’s kinda creepy,” said Jack.) I’ve showed them photos from my high school years and they’ve made a few sweet remarks. It’s a funny thing about photos – this was the pre-digital age. Most of the pictures I took were event-driven, with few everyday photos in the collection.

The largest chunk of photos are of Chuck and me in our sweetest, mushiest phase of dating. It’s not lost on me the significance of going to my high school reunion with my high school sweetheart. Though he had little to do with my GPS experience, he had much to do with my life at 17 years old. 

I’m not taking my camera to the reunion, but there will be no shortage of photos. I’ll be sure to share them. 

The GPS Honor Code lives on

A couple of weeks ago I went rummaging through a Rubbermaid container in the basement full of my old school books from high school and college. I didn’t keep everything, mind you, but I did hang on to a few notebooks and projects from subjects I enjoyed or that I thought might come in handy – like French. Here I am a homeschooling mom and I’ve introduced French to my sixth grader. How smart of me that I hung on to all of my work from the Honors French III class I took my senior year of high school.

So I rummaged. I found my old English-French dictionary, a folder of notes, a personal copy of The Little Prince in French and a copy of The Little Prince in English… which I apparently borrowed from the high school library in 1996 and quite clearly failed to return.


The Old Little Prince

Oops. This book is 19 years overdue. I laughed at myself, took a photo of it, and posted it on Facebook so others could laugh with me. I tagged a classmate of mine who works at the school, and other classmates commented and liked the post. All in good fun.

Then, a brilliant idea was suggested – buy a new copy and “return” the book. Of course! I wish I’d thought of it myself.

The New Little Prince

I wrote this note on the inside cover:

Note inside the book

I also wrote a note to the current librarian:

Note to Will Glass

Why not, right? The Honor Code is a big deal at GPS. Since it was taught that honor was our most valued possession, the Honor Code was the thread that ran through every activity, every engagement, and absolutely every assignment. We signed our work to say that it our own work and not the work of someone else. We pledged our honor every day of every year we attended that school, so when it was suggested I purchase a replacement book, I knew there was no other way to make this right, even though not returning a library book – entirely on accident – seems like the smallest infraction of all.

Oops I stole a book

So read this as my formal apology to the Girls Preparatory School. A new edition of The Little Prince is headed your way.