At nearly the exact moment when boys started to notice me, my father announced I was going to the all-girls Ursuline Academy in Dedham.
The class of 1971 had only 62 girls, so even with the usual cliques forming, we got to know each other and created a sisterhood. And occasionally we got to see live teenage boys when we had events with Xaverian Brothers up the road in Westwood, or Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury.
Our fall and winter uniform was a green blazer, white blouse, green plaid skirt, knee socks and loafers. In spring we wore full-skirted, short sleeved, pastel shirt dresses – and loafers. The school atoned for this somewhat by having us wear long white dresses (still a uniform, but a pretty one) and carry bouquets of red roses for graduation.
When I look back on high school what I remember most is the majority of the girls were kind. Most of our teachers wanted us to learn how to think, have self-respect, and figure out how to be in the world and keep a sense of spirituality and community.
We’ve since learned that until a few years ago, our class had the distinction of being the worst when it came to staying in touch with each other and the school. But lucky for us, some classmates had stayed in touch, and small groups would get together.
And about five years ago a few decided to find as many of the rest of us as possible, which led to one of our classmates hosting a summer mini-reunion party. About 15 of us came, some from very far away, many of whom hadn’t seen each other since we’d walked down the convent steps and across the lawn in our white dresses. On a beautiful summer day, sitting in a perfect garden by the ocean, we talked about our lives, families, careers, health, and our years together. There were lots of stories, warm feelings and laughter. We enjoyed the day so much we decided to have mini-reunions every summer and fall.
As we reconnect at our parties (this year’s summer event was on Zoom) we’re realizing during our high school years many of us felt, at least a little, that we didn’t fit in. We didn’t know how to find our place not just in our class but in the world. A few said they were nervous coming to our first, second, and even third gatherings, but they came anyway. Some came to the first party and didn’t come again. Some respond to group emails with well wishes. And some don’t respond to emails or personal notes, but we hope they will someday.
So, from being the least connected class, now we think we might be one of the most connected. We continue to have real conversations in addition to being doubled over laughing about prom dates and remembering or learning about hilarious classmates’ high jinks (maybe I’ll get permission to share them in a future post). We’re grateful for this connection that honors our shared history as we face the future.
There were 20 of us at our party last fall, and neighbors walking by the house said they could hear us laughing. Whether it’s in someone’s home or on Zoom, we’re happy to be together. Old insecurities are melting. Friendships are renewing. As we approach our 50th anniversary in 2021, the sisterhood gets deeper.
And, we can wear whatever we want.