Submitted this to Chicken Soup’s upcoming “From Lemons To Lemonade” book – Now I wait….
It was the summer of 1964. I was fourteen years old and all was right with the world. Not only was I ready to start my freshman year in high school, but wonder of wonders, I had achieved coolness: I had a boyfriend! Life couldn’t get much better, I thought. September was only a few months away, and in the meantime I was basking in the glory of being someone’s “main squeeze”.
And then my parents, whose work caused them to travel extensively, pulled the rug out from under me: “Surprise! You’re going to Europe with us for a month. We’re leaving the first week in September.”
“What?” I squeaked. “I have school, remember?”
“No problem,” they replied. “You can study on the trip and the education you’ll get from visiting all the places we’ll go is worth missing school for.”
I was aghast. “No way! I have a boyfriend, remember? And this is my freshman year. I can’t miss the first month of school!”
“The arrangements are made; we’re going and that’s that,” my mother said while wearing that “don’t argue with me” expression I knew so well. But being my mother’s daughter, I too could be implacable, and the dispute escalated until finally I shouted, “I’d rather go to boarding school than to Europe with you!”
Before my parents’ “Oh really?” had faded from my ears, I had been registered at, and delivered to, an all-girl Catholic boarding school across town from where we lived.
Well, I thought, once the initial shock wore off, at least I’ll still be in Portland. My boyfriend can come see me, and take me out.
Unfortunately, this hopeful plan was defeated once I was informed that freshman were not allowed out on dates. I could have supervised male visitors, once a week, but that was it. Well, I can see him when I go home for the weekends, I thought. But then I realized my parents would be in Europe until October! It became clear that my stubbornness had gotten me into much more than I had bargained for.
The months that followed brought every frustration imaginable. Although I had fond memories of many of the nuns I was taught by since grade school, these nuns, perhaps due to my bitter attitude, seemed mostly cold and militant. My schoolwork, which had always been marked by A’s, dropped to C’s and D’s, because I sullenly refused to put forth any effort. This, I soon learned, would not hurt anyone but me; those who did poorly in school were grounded to campus. Any infractions of the rules resulted in the cancellation of weekends at home. And weekends spent at school meant being assigned work duties such as sweeping, mopping, and cleaning bathrooms. “I’m in prison!” I would moan to my boyfriend, when he occasionally got through on the always busy dorm floor telephone.
As for the other boarders, many of the girls were from wealthy families and quickly formed unapproachable, elite cliques. Some of the others were noticeably troubled, obviously sent off to keep them out of mischief. Of course there were some nice girls too, but I was so unhappy, I just didn’t try to make friends with them. I wanted to go home. My parents, however, wisely felt that I would learn a valuable lesson by reaping the consequences of what I’d sown.
The only consolation I had was that my parents had arranged for me to have a private room. The girls in the dorm had very little privacy, just curtains between them. But despite this costly perk, I was depressed and miserable.
And then one day, Marcie appeared at my door. “Hi!”
I’d seen her around; she was hard to miss—beautiful, always smiling and radiating kindness. I’d noticed that she, like me, wasn’t being sought after by any of the school’s exclusive groups. But it didn’t seem to bother her. She went about being friendly to everyone in general anyway.
“Hi,” I returned.
“You’re so lucky to have a private room. Can I come in?”
Her smile was infectious; I smiled back and nodded.
She made herself comfortable on my bed and we started to talk. We talked about our families, our boyfriends, and our dreams. We compared makeup, clothing, views on popular TV programs and observances of the other girls. That conversation became one of too many to count. In no time we were joined at the hip, both at school and when taking turns going home on weekends (when I wasn’t grounded) to one anothers houses.
The school year flew by, and all too soon, came to an end. I would be going back to my home on the other side of town, but Marcie’s parents had moved to California. Marcie would be living in Riverside. We were inconsolable, but we vowed to always stay close through letters and phone calls.
Somehow, though, through time and circumstances, we lost touch.
The years passed. One day I was shopping downtown, turned a corner and literally ran into my old friend.
“Marcie!” I cried.
She grabbed me in a joyous hug, “Tina! Hi! We just moved back!”
“Tell me where you’re living!” “Are you dating anyone?” “I love your hair!” In one instant, the conversation we suspended all those years ago at school began right where we left off.
Over the seasons to follow, our friendship deepened; we became roommates; became ex-roommates; laughed and cried together; disapproved of one anothers choices in men; fell in love with a variety of animals, she with dogs, and me with cats; stood with each other at our weddings and mourned together the loss of our parents
Today, we still talk about everything going on in our lives. And we often speak about our year at boarding school, “I hated it”, I’ll say. “Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad,” she’ll reply. We talk about the good food and the friends we remember. We talk about our long-gone boyfriends from back then, and we talk about the serendipity of our meeting. Our conversation inevitably brings laughter, just as it always did—a conversation that has lasted for 49 years.