My high school class is in the throes of planning its 30th reunion. To get us excited about the upcoming festivities, the planners periodically ask us questions on Facebook. The current question is, “Where did you work in high school?” This question instigated any number of fond memories. But it dredged up awful memories too.
One of my friends was living with her father and step-mother during high school and the father died a painful death of disease. After her father died, she was shuffled between the remarried step-mother and her previously estranged mother for the duration of her high school years. Another friend found her mother’s dead body after she had committed suicide. Another friend watched his father try to murder his mother with a gun (luckily he missed). My husband spent his high school years watching his younger sister become schizophrenic and dealing with all the family turmoil that caused. I could go on and on with such stories. If you don’t have them yourself, I’m sure you have friends who do. To protect my family’s privacy (and my own sanity), I won’t go into the specifics of the misfortunes that my son and I perceived as tragedies during our high school years, although I will say that none involved suicide, attempted murder or guns.
I read these cheerful reminisces and wonder, “Am I the only one who gets this filled with dolor when I remember those days?” Even remembering my job brings water to my eyes because the lives of the people I worked with were so sad. Acquaintances from high school remember how they felt about taking certain tests and I think, “Good grief. Studying and tests were a relief for me. If I ever worried about a test, I would consider myself extraordinarily lucky that I didn’t have other matters pressing my mind harder.”
Misfortunes are such a slippery slope, it’s hard for me to even think much about them. I may think being afraid of a high school test is silly, but the African mother in a refugee camp in a foreign country who has just seen her children beheaded and her village burned down would have a strong case for finding my problems trivial. So, here’s a wild paradox: all misfortunes are trivial AND all misfortunes are serious. If someone tells us that sugar is the most evil substance on the planet, do we really have any choice but to believe that is true for her?
The difference between high school Julia and adult Julia is that, back then, I expended a great deal of effort convincing myself and others that my private “tragedies” didn’t matter. Whereas now, when I think of the misfortunes of my life, I say to myself , “Yeah. That was (is) bad. What are you going to do about it today?” The irony was that in high school, I was always looking for friends who were “real” about their lives, but I wasn’t “real” about mine. Maybe I keep going to school reunions of all sorts in hopes of being awarded a do-over. Sometimes that happens.
The DVD case for the movie “Juno” says that she takes a “detour” into adulthood when she goes through pregnancy in high school. Yesterday I was irritated by the superficial nature of so many childhood memories, but today I’m having fun taking a “detour” into high school, which I didn’t do much at the time, since I was pre-occupied with studying and hiding from my real life. Maybe, instead of a do-over, I’ll stay on that detour and remember everything about high school as ideal. We’ll see how I feel that week. Maybe I finally figure out how to do both.
Are you going to your next class reunion? Why or why not?
Yesterday, another strange thing happened. We had to buy gas close to our house, were that low. The Speedway station on the corner has gas for $3.79.9. The Speedway station two miles away had gas for $3.55.9. As we were pumping gas at the second Speedway, the price on the sign jumped to $379.9. Twenty-four cents! When my husband got back in the car, I said, “Check the receipt. Gas is a lot more expensive now.” It was the lower price – that was good. But I’ve never seen gas prices jump like that before my eyes. Good thing we bought gas before we went to church.
Yesterday I saw something that you rarely see in real life. In the back pew of the church I attended was a family with five boys, a father and a mother. The boys were seated in a row in perfect height (and probably age) order. They all had matching white dress shirts and fresh haircuts. Except for the baby, all the boys adhered religiously to the choreography of Catholic mass. Stand up. Sit down. Kneel. Say this. Cross yourself now. That was ridiculed all the way back in 1965 when The Sound of Music was released.
I didn’t like all the chattering, hanging out in the aisles and running around in the sanctuary after mass, but I’ll admit that seeing a young-ish father dancing while his teenage daughter rolled her eyes felt a lot more alive and reverent to me than the family of five matching boys. I’m all for tradition, but life is what really gives me hope for the Church.
Honestly! By most mainstream standards, I’m a voracious reader; yet every agent website I visit, every conversation I have with other writers, every contest that I enter, reminds me of how far behind I am in my reading. How fondly I remember the old days – when I was only a reader.
Wedding Cake: The bride and groom create a special bond when they share the abundance of the union by feeding each other cake. The bridegroom traditionally puts his hand on top of the bride’s when she is cutting the first piece of cake to symbolize that he will always protect her. The wheat used to bake the cake is symbolic of fertility (help! four boys is plenty!), while the cake’s sweetness is thought to bring sweetness to all areas of the couple’s new life. Traditionally, the top layer of the wedding cake is frozen and eaten by the bride and groom on their first wedding anniversary. If the cake lasts, so too will the marriage; if the cake doesn’t last, the freezer is broken.
We decided to make our wedding cake round for sure when we found out that food in a round shape is good luck for New Year’s Day. We decided not to put our guests at risk by burying coins in the cake.
Wedding date and colors: Wednesday is the luckiest wedding day. Saturday, the most popular day in America (and the day of our wedding), has no luck associated with it at all. June is the luckiest month to marry. January is very good too. May is the worst. Rain on a wedding day is inconvenient, but lucky. White and pink are the best colors for the bride to wear. Black (the color of my shoes and accessories) is the worst. I didn’t find anything about plum (the color of my dress), but Joe called me, “a delicious piece of fruit,” so I think plum turned out to be an OK color for me.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: Something old signifies the bride’s link with her past life. Something new represents a new future. Something borrowed should be something from a happily married friend or relative. And blue symbolizes purity and love.
Wedding Ring Placement: The left hand is generally used less often than the right and the third finger is the only one that cannot be moved in isolation from the other fingers. These two factors give extra protection to the ring.
This past week, in the midst of wedding-related tasks, we came upon a bit of knowledge that would have saved us quite a bit of time and money if we had known it a few weeks ago. On a wide finger, the taper of a wedding band makes a big difference in how the ring appears on the hand. Too flat and a size 13.5 ring, no matter how beautiful, looks like a pipe fitting.
So what do we do now? Since he won’t wear any jewelry besides a wedding band, I don’t expect we’ll ever buy him another ring. Every single person I know with fingers that large is already married. Oh well.
Have you ever had a piece of information that was so good and helpful that you HAD to tell someone, but you couldn’t think of any situation in which it would be useful?
This can be a really tough time of year. We’d like to be, but few of us are, exempt from bouts of feeling awful unless we gloss over our lives for the month of December, which is encouraged by the season. Surrounded by joyousness, we try our best to remember all that is good in our lives, but soon we descend into thoughts of all the things that are wrong: with our families, with our finances, with ourselves. Charlie Brown encapsulates exactly how I feel when he says, “I should be happy, but I’m not.” I wonder, why “should”? Is it such a terrible social sin to feel lousy now and then?