by Maria Schulz
Have you ever met someone new, and after talking to him or her, realized that you were actually connected in some way?
One of my early experiences with this occurred when I was leafing through the pages of my father’s high school yearbook. Lo and behold, there was a goofy yearbook photo of my favorite High School English teacher!
Upon further investigation, I verified that he had actually gone to high school with my parents. When I told him I found his photo in my father’s yearbook, he laughed.
But when I told him my mother knew him too, he asked me who she was and I gave him her name.
“That’s YOUR mother?” He said, as he whistled. “She was HOT! Boy, you don’t look anything like her.”
Um, yeah. Thanks.
I don’t think I’ve gotten over the psychological scars of that comment yet (my mother…HOT?) I guess the moral of this story is, sometimes it’s better not to know how you’re connected to others.
But seriously, I love the idea that we’re all connected to each other in some way, no matter how abstract. This “small world” concept spawned a movie called Six Degrees of Separation and led one group of college kids to create a game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
The idea behind the game is that every actor in Hollywood is somehow connected to Kevin Bacon. If you google “Bacon #” plus the name of any star, you’ll learn how closely they are connected to him. For instance, did you know: James Garner’s Bacon # is 2? He appeared in The Notebook with Ryan Gosling; Ryan Gosling appeared with Kevin Bacon in Crazy Stupid Love. Therefore, James Garner’s Bacon # is 2.
Now let’s take this one step further. Whenever I go out and meet new people, I somehow end up finding out that they come from my old neighborhood, or know someone that I know, or went to Catholic School. Why is that, you ask?
I think it’s because there are Six Degrees of Sister Felicity.
A roofer I hired revealed that he once dated a girl who was best friends with another girl who went to my old school and had Sister Felicity.
His Sister Felicity # is 3
An old H.S. friend once dated a boy who got put on tissue duty for Sister Felicity. That meant he had to pick up her dirty, used tissues from the floor and put them into the garbage.
My H.S. friend’s Sister Felicity # is 2.
I had Sister Felicity. She grabbed me by the back of the neck for passing notes and made me sit in the closet once for leaving out one question on my math homework (there were 50 questions; I got no credit for the other 49 answers).
My Sister Felicity # is 1
Okay, so maybe not everyone in the world is connected by Six Degrees of Sister Felicity. I’ll admit, I do like to poke fun at her. After all, she’s an easy target and her yardstick can’t reach me anymore.
It’s just that some connections were meant to stand the test of time. That’s the category I have Sister Felicity in, as well as the school I attended for a huge chunk of my childhood.
But recently, I got an email from my old grammar school Alumni Association that featured this shocking news flash:
“After 59 years of continuous teaching and 54 graduating classes…[our school] will be closing its doors for good. “
Yes, that’s right: my old school has gone the way of so many other Catholic schools around the country. With dwindling enrollment and skyrocketing tuition bills, it had to merge with another neighborhood’s school to become “The Young Pillars of Sanctimony Academy” or something like that.
My old school is gone? How did that happen? My old school isn’t supposed to EVER disappear. It’s supposed to be there forever, like God and Taxes. And yes, Sister Felicity.
Even though I haven’t walked those halls in over 3 decades, I still remember my days there fondly. Sure, there were the daily stresses of life in Catholic school. You never knew what dangerous snares lay ahead or what you might encounter:
- Rolling your eyes at any teacher could result in a yardstick being lodged in the back of your skull
- Dare to enter the premises without a marble notebook, pencil, pen or folder, and risk being sent down to the dreaded place known as “Mrs. Heaphy’s Closet,” where every school supply was sold at a 300% markup
- Passing notes was a crime punishable by death, or at least public shaming (same thing when you’re 12)
- Eating candy that you hid in your bolero while simultaneously not bringing enough to share with everyone was a sin requiring 10 Hail Mary’s, 10 Our Father’s, 5 Glory Be’s, and a very, very convincing Act of Contrition. NOTE TO SELF: bring the whole bag next time
- Laughing out loud at a joke told by the class clown could result in detention for – that’s right—YOU, while the class clown waved goodbye to you from the street below
- Did someone say, “CANDY DRIVE?” No 6-year-old should think they have to sell
enough chocolate to keep an entire school running, or feel guilty when their diabetic grandmother turns down their best sales pitch
- Reading something that’s on the Banned Book List should not expose you to a public shaming of operatic proportions (see my post, Summer Reading)
- Hot Dog Day is Mandatory, even if you hate hot dogs and live close enough to walk home and eat a turkey sandwich
- No, Hot Dog Day is NOT a good excuse to slip out the side door and run home because you think no one will ever miss you anyway
- Going up to the roof is NEVER okay (see my post, Super-Juiced ) even if you can see the Twin Towers and The Empire State Building from there
- Comprehending Pre-Algebra is really, really hard, especially when your teacher hits you with a yardstick over the back of your noggin because you got the answer wrong
- The Birds and Bees don’t make much sense, especially when goats are involved (see my post, Puberty Night)
- You always met the most interesting people in Catholic School (Sister Felicity, Sister Clara, Sister Margaret, Mrs. McG, your fellow students)
But in all honesty, there were many good things about those growing-up years at our school:
- White smoke came out of the Vatican. You know what that means? We got the day off!
- Ditto the following year when the pope came to town for a visit
- Communion Dresses! Veils! Flowers & Shoes for the girls! Suits and ties for the boys! $5 from your grandmother! How cool!
- The Crowning of Mary was a fun time to wear your Communion clothes all over again
- Seeing your friend play the part of The Jolly Green Giant with the exact same intensity as Sir Lawrence Olivier might have if he’d been painted green and directed to say, “HO HO HO”
- Watching your twin brother make everyone laugh when he nailed it in the 7th grade Speech contest
- Older brothers in almost every grade who were always there to stand up for you and strike fear into the hearts of bullies
- Friends everywhere you looked
- Adults who cared enough about you to set you straight when you went off the rails. Okay, so sometimes they did it a little too enthusiastically, but. Still.
- The cultivation of a very dark sense of humor and a feeling of camaraderie that never went away
- Summer Reading Lists. English major geek that I am, I enjoyed these. I read The Outsiders, That Was Then, This Is Now, and Death Be Not Proud. So maybe those lists were kind of a downer, but I enjoyed them anyway
- Attending school with basically the same 80 people for 8 years, which was the best of times AND the worst of times
When you’re young, you think that everything is forever. I think this was especially true for me because, for 8 solid years, everything was essentially the same.
I always thought I’d be able to stroll those halls with my grandchildren some day, pointing out the auditorium where we put on plays like “Crispus Attucks and The Boston Massacre” and sang “One Tin Soldier Rides Away” in Folk Group; the gym where the boys pelted us in Dodge Ball or we all danced The Hustle; and the classrooms where I learned to love the written word and fear my math teacher’s yardstick-wielding wrath.
What makes the loss a little easier to bear is the realization that the distance between us is not as great as we imagine. Institutions may cease to exist; times may change; but we all continue to be connected to each other, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Even if it is through Sister Felicity.
Nothing strikes fear into my heart in quite the same way as memories of the dreaded Candy Bar Drive. So, in a salute to my old school, here’s a slide show of 11 Homemade Candy Bars – including ones that taste like Snickers, Twix, Almond Joy, Peanut Butter Cups and more.
Make your Own Candy Bar – Sell it or Eat It, I Don’t Care!
So, Hungry Lifers: what’s the craziest way you ever found out you were connected to someone? Has an old school or club that you once belonged to vanished forever? What’s your favorite candy bar? Leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks.