Tales From A Hungry Life

July 31, 2013

It’s A Small World

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.

Maybe he had a point

Maybe he had a point

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.

We're all connected

We’re all connected

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.

Connected!

That’s right. All of us!

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.

My very scientific diagram

My very scientific diagram

For example:

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.

WHAT???

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:

Math tool & potential weapon

Math tool & potential weapon

  • 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

    Better yet, bring cake

    Better yet, bring cake

  • 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
    Get your candy bars here

    Get your candy bars here

    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)

    So confused.

    So confused.

  • 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!

    New Pope = No School

    New Pope = No School

  • 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”

    Ho, Ho, Ho

    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.

Singing Kumbaya

Singing Kumbaya

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.

Recipe:

I like candy

I like candy

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.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/27/homemade-candy-bar-recipes_n_1711256.html

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.

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21 Comments »

  1. I’m still paying (figuratively speaking, although I’m sure I “borrowed” the paperback from the library and never returned it) for reading “Rosemary’s Baby.”

    Comment by lisa — July 31, 2013 @ 9:35 am | Reply

  2. …and you do look like your mother!

    Comment by lisa — July 31, 2013 @ 9:36 am | Reply

  3. My school PS 120 is still there and even though I left it in Jan. 1948 I can close my eyes and still see the halls, classrooms, some of the teachers, the guys and gals and most of all the schoolyard. Everyone and anyone who went there in the times of my life remembers all the most important points about the school but most importantly the schoolyard. Those 8 years from 6 to 14 probably are the most formative years of our lives and the most memorable until we reach senility. Just coming from “The Hill” connected all of us who grew up there. Shared experiences are the things that tie us humans together. Your English teacher and I shared Flushing High School but there were more than 6 degrees of separation between us. He was a member of honor society’s and had great marks beloved by his teachers. I was at the opposite end of that scale just barely eking out of each class into my graduation. Our shared experience of Flushing High School was a bit different but our remembrances of the tests, coming in late and getting detention (for me not him), the Gargoyles some of the great teachers. These perhaps gave us 10 degrees of separation. Shared experiences are what closes the separation gap even if we never shared the experiences together. Nice post and I think you are “hot” but your mom’s hotness came from the spice of being a Latina, which is something else again and perhaps a subject for a future blog.

    Comment by Bglou — July 31, 2013 @ 10:09 am | Reply

    • Of course! The Hill! I remember those stories and always enjoyed learning about your friends, Babe and his brothers, Faithie, and all the rest. I can also close my eyes and see the classrooms, hear the teachers’ voices, and smell the cakes and cookies that the moms brought up for our bake sales. Those were tough times AND fun times. I don’t know about the “hotness” factor, but thanks all the same.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — August 4, 2013 @ 7:07 pm | Reply

  4. Thank you, that was good. it’s funny but true, I find as I get older the world is getting smaller, and to watch what you say, because somehow, someway, somebody always knows somebody!!

    ________________________________

    Comment by Diane Vitolo — July 31, 2013 @ 10:27 am | Reply

  5. I remember when you told me Borah and your parents went to school together! It was soooo weird!! Remember when I called you to tell you his name??!! We had a great laugh at that!!!

    Comment by Dorothy — July 31, 2013 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

    • Dorothy! It’s so great to know you’re reading my blog. Yeah, I remember how we laughed — at that and so many other things! Thanks for leaving a comment.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — August 4, 2013 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  6. I must have led a very boring life. I can’t recall any crazy way I am connected to someone other than telling someone I am a Lagalante and they all ask, are you related to the Lagalante family in Bayside? You know the one with all the kids!” Then I have to admit I had a weak moment and married one. LOL My grammar school is still going strong as far as I know. Why didn’t St. Roberts just merge with St. Kevins? I’ll never know. So I guess I will answer your question of what is your favorite candy bar? My favorite is Baby Ruth bars. They have the peanuts to give the salty flavor yet they have the nugget to give the sweet flavor. A combination of pure delight! Oh no, now I have a craving for one…..

    Comment by Kathleen Lagalante — July 31, 2013 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

    • See, Kathie — your life got so much more interesting when you joined our family! C’mon, what do you mean that never happens to you? Now that I’ve mentioned it, I bet you notice it happens all the time! Baby Ruth bars aren’t my favorites, but I was never unhappy when they landed in my Halloween candy bag. Thanks for always reading & commenting!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — August 4, 2013 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  7. The thing about going to Catholic school for eight years is that no matter when you went the same experiences occurred (this being said by a person who went to Saint Robert school seven years ahead of you). I will say that being connected to someone does not always carry a positive light. When I entered 8th grade I followed my brother who exited the school the year before. My first connection to someone else went like this, Sister Grace Anne asked – you’re Jude’s brother aren’t you? I said yes, which was then followed by a slap across the face and a threat – If you think you’re going to get away with what your brother did, you have another think coming! It is funny to talk to people who have gone to Catholic school because many of them have similar stories. When I went to my wife’s 25th grammar school reunion at a neighboring Catholic school it was amazing how well I fit in. I totally understood the stories they told and did not cringe like most people do who were not as privileged to attend the Holy institution. In fact I also came across several spouses of the class who knew Saint Robert’s students. So I guess I am a # 2 to some of them.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — August 1, 2013 @ 11:52 am | Reply

    • Oh I had a few of those conversations too — when teachers realized I was related to one of you guys. Sometimes it was a positive thing, and sometimes…well I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. You should’ve told S.G.A. “nice to meet you too, Sister!” Yes, I usually get lots of laughs from the Catholic school alumni crowds. Others? Not so much.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — August 4, 2013 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

  8. Picking up on the point Tony was making, if you really want to see a non-Catholic cringe, watch with them the movie, “Heaven Help Us!” As I watched this with a former girlfriend who came from a Unitarian upbringing, she was horrified by the classroom scenes. I was laughing out loud. You would think we were watching two different movies. Was it a comedy or a drama? I thought it was a comedy. A swing and a miss for me! I was then scolded and blasted for the next hour and a half and looked at differently because I would find humor in the situations presented. This I was told, was abuse of the highest order. My response was, you need to develop a thicker skin. A thick skin is what is really lacking today.

    I believe that going through the Catholic school experience was intense and really what we needed to prepare us for the “Real World.” Sometimes you get slapped in the face for no reason. Sometimes your head is slammed into a wall by a lunatic who grabs you by your ear with some hair thrown in….Wait a second? That was what it was like in our house! Forget everything I said.

    The feeling of love and connection cannot be understated with the Catholic / Christian experience. That is why I came back home to the Catholic Church. As GK Chesterton said about Christianity, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” There is comfort in the history and structure that was provided for us. It is interesting to run into old classmates who also agree that those years were some of the best of their lives as well but won’t walk into a Church today, removing any correlation to the whole picture. I cherish those people because we were all formed out of the same clay for 6 hours a day for 8 years.

    Sometimes a kid needs a slap on the butt. The Catholic school version was a little more severe. I believe we were better for it. Nice post Maria, keep churning out your blog. It is much needed.

    Comment by Chris — August 4, 2013 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

    • Oh geez, I forgot to list Heaven Help Us as one of my favorite summer movies! I still laugh when I watch that, but having seen it with a non-Catholic school friend, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Yes, there were bad times in Catholic school, but there were many good times too. Isn’t that true about life in general? I wouldn’t trade it in. Although I don’t think I’d like to sell candy or sit in any closets any time soon. Thanks for reading, commenting and encouraging me. It is much needed!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — August 4, 2013 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

  9. Sorry I missed this post when it was hot off the press. I agree, the 6 degrees thing is fun and a bit freaky at times. And as for you not looking like your mother, that is ridiculous!

    Comment by Lisa — August 14, 2013 @ 2:43 pm | Reply

  10. Just last week I met a friend in a diner in Florida. Friendly waitress starts chatting…we’re both from Brooklyn (no biggie, that happens always)–but when we exchanged neighborhoods, we found out she was best friends with my best friend’s younger sister, who lived directly upstairs from us.
    And the cheeseburger was delicious.

    Comment by lisa — August 15, 2013 @ 10:40 am | Reply


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