Sunday, October 31, 2010
Photo: 1991 village of Peletoutou, Togo, bathing Georgina, a community event. I'm relieved to see I finally removed my watch.
It happened two weeks after my 50th birthday, when I open my eyes one morning and spotted a thick layer of dust on my high school year books. What was I hanging on to that era for? I survived all that mediocre intensive hormonal training in 1976 but how did it shape me exactly?
I vow that today is the day I finally burn these things and start sloughing off this useless stuff. After all, 50 is a new time for discernment, deciding what is truly important and worthy of packing around. This stuff might even be holding me back, suffocating growth.
I give them the once over before the formal torching and make a few observations; most students are uniformly shaped. The popular kids are holding trophies, microphones, sports equipment, each other... In particular, I see the smiling seductive face of my first taste of baffled betrayal. Lynne was my friend the summer she moved to our remote neighbourhood but in the fall she casually dropped me when she found out I was not part of the "in" crowd. This required some fancy doing at the morning bus stop when she succeeded in avoiding me among the 6 other kids there. One time, she had no choice but to share my seat on the bus, she sat so far removed on the edge it was like I was radiating something fierce. Hurt and confusion was moderated by my curiosity; she was so desperate to fit in, to be accepted, yet my parents would hold her up as the finest specimen of femininity. Why couldn't I be more like her, they'd ask. How could I say she was mean and snooty and had a loose reputation with the boys at school?
So where was I? In my grade 10 class photo I am posing proudly next to my friends Donna and Elizabeth, not only the sole black people at BHS but the only black people in all of Bathurst, New Brunswick at that time. They were political refugees in a time before the term existed. Thirty five years later I can see clearly the evidence of global ideas already firmly planted in the heart of this shy, awkward, self conscious girl. I had a hunch then that soon I'd be far far away making new friends and discovering the world in my way. I see that subtle look of confidence there in my sly grin.