I’m on a bit of a nostalgia kick these last few weeks. It started with a wonderful email out of the blue from an old school friend now living in Dublin. She wrote to say that she had found my blog and to say “WOW!” to the existence of Amelia J. What startled her more was the existence of little Jimmy A, my brother’s child. “I think the most shocking thing was learning that [your brother] has had a baby too … how old am I! YIKES! How old are you! YIKES! How old are we!”
And then yesterday I received another email from an old mate now living in Thailand to let me know that he had heard that one of the old gang had died two weeks ago from a drug overdose. I hadn’t seen him in 7 years or more but this is a great sadness indeed, especially for his family and close friends. He was a wonderful, creative, unique soul. He and another art school friend once turned up to my parent’s house while they were out about ten years ago and pasted up weird words written on masking tape all over the house. My mum has trouble throwing anything away (I fear that Amelia J’s first birthday party decorations in the kitchen will remain where they are for the next 20 years, as the fluorescent, floral painted windows from my “hippy party” in 1990 are still up in the lounge room today) so a label that he wrote saying “Flight of the Pantamorphic Duck” (don’t ask me why) is still above the fireplace in the kitchen, and the word “morning” is still up on the ceiling above their pillows. I was just looking at all these labels last week and thinking “god, this place!!! Why can’t mum throw anything away?” and now I look at them and want them to stay there forever too.
And then last night, Dad pointed out an interview in the education section of the newspaper with one of the girls who I went through school with. She now holds an impressive and artistically interesting managerial position and was talking about her school experiences. She spoke with great eloquence about the encouragement we were given and the quality of care at the school. She pointed out that our year group was full of strong personalities who taught her to be tough skinned and fiercely strong willed. My first reaction was to balk at these suggestions, thinking my usual thoughts of “school was a bloody miserable place full of bitchy girls and bad times”. That’s been my schtick for so long now — everyone knows my school days were crap. It’s so old it’s become a part of my personal mythology. I wondered whether the years spanning between now and then had created some false sense of nostalgia for this woman. But then I kept reading and she drew out a different angle on the school that I guess I have ignored for so long. “We were encouraged to believe in ourselves, and in the idea that we could do just about anything.” She went on to talk about some key teachers – who were the key teachers for me too – and how we learnt “to back ourselves, to put up a strong case, and we weren’t easily bluffed or too easily persuaded.” Thanks to her words, for the first time ever I saw what school had actually given me. Maybe now I will have a little perspective and stop my endless bitching about it. Even so, I doubt I will still be brave enough to make it to my 20 year reunion in 6 years (!!!) time.