Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another community

This has been a year in which I have jumped back and forth amongst the different worlds that I have inhabited during my lifetime. Another leap took place this past weekend, when I caught the ferry to Vancouver to participate in the a reunion of seven women who had attended the same Johannesburg high school and who now live across North America.

The reunion was a remarkable event. Except for Pauline, who had lived in Vancouver during the period that I'd lived in Calgary, I had lost touch with these women for nearly forty years! Yet, when we saw each other again, after recently reconnecting on Facebook, the decades just melted away.

I noticed some common threads during this reunion as well as the meetings I had with former classmates during my June / July 2009 trip to South Africa.

We were raised in a time and place in which our parents sealed over the cracks and did not share with us children what was really going on. In our milieu, the parent who actively encouraged his/her daughter to think of a career was rare. The general trends of the era were exacerbated by the fact that we attended a school run by Catholic nuns. The insulation from a fast changing world was all the greater amongst those of us who, like me, attended the school as boarders rather than day scholars.

Yet all of us have developed into resilient women who have met adversity head on. Most of us have worked very hard to grapple with our demons and to become more conscious. Many of us have done therapy. A persistent theme is that our relationships with our children are more authentic than the relationships our parents had with us.

Regardless of the fact that we were launched into the world as "good Catholics," only four out of 25 of us still are married to our first husbands. We felt this demonstrated that our husbands and we had high standards and would not settle for marriages that were less than meaningful.

Those of us who have left Southern Africa have the additional commonality of the emigrant experience.

Although our political and religious views varied considerably, I detected a sense of goodwill amongst us. We had a "live and let live" attitude. There also was a groundswell of support towards women who were facing challenges. Towards the end of the weekend, one woman spoke for all of us when she said she had experienced a safe space in which she had felt free to share.

I am grateful for the many communities to which I simultaneously belong. In their different ways, they support me in creating a life that feels rich, purposeful, loving and fun.

Here is one of those communities -- the seven women from the Parktown Convent class of 1969 who now live in North America:

We are, from left to right, Colleen (Vancouver), Jane (Atlanta), Anne (St Louis), Felicity (Seattle), Vanessa (Los Angeles), Pauline (Vancouver) and Judy (Nanaimo).

The photo was taken at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, where I was about to catch the ferry back to Vancouver Island, and just before the others also returned to their respective homes.

1 comment:

Frostbite and Sunburn said...

What a lovely summary of your meet-up. I bet that took some organising? Well done.

I had school reunion a couple of years ago, 20 years after leaving. There is definitely a commonality between you all - where and when you were brought up affects you in ways you don't understand at the time.