Friday, January 13, 2012


One of these days, I plan to write about new beginnings, starting all over again... about globalization, family, the village and the internet.  Every time our family moved, it was both a blessing and a curse.  It was an opportunity to start over again, to try something different, be a different "me" than I had been before.  It also meant that nobody knew where I was coming from, or why something might be meaningful to me.

My first high school was Mercy High School, in Omaha, Nebraska.  An all-girls private liberal arts Catholic high school run by the Sisters of Mercy.  I was there for two years, transferring to a public school just in time for my Junior year of high school.  But today I want to talk about Mercy.

Mercy worked hard, had traditions and culture in place, to try to minimize cliques from forming.  Each class had a school assembly performance during the year.  Freshmen did Freshman Assembly towards the end of the year.  Sophomores did a Sophomore Assembly and announced their class song.  Juniors performed a play for Prom Announcement.  Seniors selected a particular student to be Mother McAuley, and performed the story of Catherine McAuley for Mercy Day.  The school did a Welcome Picnic towards the beginning of the year, and a Farewell Picnic towards the end.

There were certain classes that were taken by grade level.  Freshmen took Intro. to Arts, Freshman Religion, P.E., Study Skills/Life Skills, and a general science class.  Of course we took English and Math as well, but those were based on placement tests, and electives.  Sophomores took Sophomore Religion, P.E., Speech, Health, and Biology, plus the next English and Math.  My mom told me that they made a point to mix students up in these classes, so that friends would have to interact with other students.

The clubs all met during the lunch period, so that nobody had to worry about arriving early or staying late to attend.  I remember vividly, the first Science Club meeting of my Freshman year.  The advertising signs all said that they were going to talk about Space Camp, two of the Upperclassmen had attended.  I walk into the room, and there is just the teacher and these two, Seniors I think.  I look around awkwardly, and ask "Are there any Freshmen?"

The teacher looked at me, and asked "Does it matter?"

I sat down.  Next time, there was another freshman.

As it turned out, the person I would call my best friend from Mercy was never in any classes with me.  We met at lunchtime.  The table I'd been trying to sit at was pretty crowded, and eventually I migrated away to where there was more room.  I knew two of the girls from volleyball tryouts (all three of us had been cut from the team).  One was in Religion with me, the other in Honors English.  The third I didn't know, but we got into a conversation.

In Life Skills, our teacher asked us to describe our group of friends.  The first thing I thought of at that time, was that we all liked to read.  There were some differences, some were into romance while I was more into SF and Fantasy, but we all liked to read.

Looking back now, I would say differently.  The group changed, grew.  Four became seven, eight, sometimes more, sometimes less.  Looking back now, the thing that they all had in common -- the one thing I didn't do at Mercy -- was that they were all into theater.

Mrs. Jensen was the music teacher at the school, and I think I also had her for Homeroom.  Once a week, we had a Joint Homeroom, where all the Freshmen met in the cafeteria.  At one of those Joint Homerooms, Mrs. Jensen sent around a paper asking about instruments we might have played or might own / have access to.  So I wrote down that I used to play clarinet.  She asked me about it, whether I owned an instrument.  When I said that I did, she encouraged me to start private lessons that year, and join the Intermediate Band as a Sophomore.

My family lived about 30 minutes south of the school.  Sometimes I needed to wait around after school until my parents could pick me up. My closest friend's mother was that Science Club teacher, so she had to wait around for her ride home, too.  We'd hang out and talk, sometimes in the cafeteria.  But as time went on, we spent more and more of that after-school time in the Choir room.   My clarinet lessons were after school anyway, and sometimes I would use one of the practice rooms.  She and another girl would play the piano, or sing, or both.  Most often one or both would work on "Memory," from Cats.

It was many, many years before I finally got to see a performance of Cats, at Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music.