When I originally started thinking about this post it was going to be all about the things I got right (or wrong) in high school and how I hoped my girls would get some things right in high school too. But sadly yesterday as I was formulating ideas in my head in preparation for this post I learned that one of my high school classmates died over the weekend and will be laid to rest on Saturday. Ken was a great guy, and although I lost touch with him during college, he was someone without whom my high school experience would have been vastly different. He was a friend to everyone and you could always count on him for a smile or a laugh. And so, this post suddenly takes a different turn as it doesn’t seem right now to lightheartedly poke fun at my high school experience, but rather pay tribute to those who helped me through it.
Let’s get the highlights out of the way first: I graduated from Windsor High School in 1994. Before email, cell phones, texting, or Facebook. While I was there I played two sports (swimming and lacrosse- the only two teams that didn’t make cuts-not a coincidence), was on Student Council and yearbook staff, was a graduate of the Leadership Greater Hartford Common Ground program, and traveled to Ireland on a class trip. I worked every summer as a camp counselor at Camp Aya-Po in Somers. I attended sailing camp at Mystic Seaport for three summers and sailed the schooner Brilliant from Mystic to Long Island with a crew of mostly high school students.
I also spent most of high school grieving the death of my sister who died the summer between 7th and 8th grade. I struggled with weight, mental health issues, and undiagnosed medical problems. I did my fair share of experimenting with drugs and alcohol and kissed a lot of random boys, although I never had a serious boyfriend. Despite all these complications, I still somehow managed to be a successful student and graduated in the top 25% of my class. I have often wondered how I ended up so resilient. The simple answer is; I had friends.
In high school I had two really close friends, Carolyn and Nicole. We did everything together and there was a contingent of peripheral friends that we all brought along with us. Ken was among that group. Somewhere along the line someone dubbed us the Three Stooges. We liked it and it stuck. I’m making it sound like we were popular. We weren’t. At all. But we had each other and that was enough. We would spend most weekends together, usually hanging out in Carolyn’s basement or in her pool. We’d pass notes back and forth in each other’s lockers and talk on the phone to each other every night. I still sometimes get the urge to call Carolyn while I’m doing the dishes which was my habit back then.
Nicole now lives with her family in Canada and we don’t talk often. After Sandy Hook she reached out with a beautiful message to me about our friendship. She will always hold a special place in my heart. Carolyn as I’ve mentioned before now lives 2 miles away from me and I get to see her once a week just about. I truly do not know where or who I would be if I hadn’t had these two women in my life then. There were actually times in high school when I didn’t do something risky not because of what my parents would think, but because of what Carolyn and Nicole would think.
I also had a bunch of pen pals (do kids today even know what that is?) that I corresponded with pretty regularly. I probably got a letter in the mail at least once a week. I had friends I met through camp, or Common Ground, or the German exchange student from junior year. My senior prom date was even a pen pal from NY. One of my pen pals was Ambria. I met her at sailing camp. For the most part our friendship was entirely based on letters we would write back and forth to each other. I’m sure I confided in her more than I did my friends at school. I actually found an unopened letter from her in the box that I quickly opened. She lives in DC now and we don’t talk much but she’s someone I’d love to sit down with and share a glass of wine and catch up.
I hope that I can protect my girls from some of the pain I experienced in high school. I want them to be successful and well-rounded students like I was and maybe have a little fun along the way too. More than anything though, I want them to have the kind of friendships that I had. I’m not naïve to the fact that at some point in their adolescence I will stop being a motivating factor in their lives. I would just like to think that there will be someone like Carolyn, or Nicole, or Ambria supporting, guiding, and motivating them in my place.