The lyrics of the theme song from the TV show “Cheers” comes to mind when I think of the night of July 20th 2013 when I stood in a room with my SJC sisters.
We were a smiling sea of blue in a room where everybody knew everyone’s name and not because of the gigantic name tags we were wearing but because we Trini gyals take really looonggg time to age. I had no problem recognizing anybody and I was so happy to see everyone so lively and well. Almost like when we were in school, we were dressed the same, we were all the same age, we looked very much the same as we did years ago and after chatting with everyone, it was clear that though we had all lived a whole lot of life and had found our niche in the world, the essence of who we are is still the same.
Even if just “Once in a Blue Moon” everyone’s soul needs to experience reconnection. This year is our 35th high school reunion. Unfortunately, try as I might, I cannot attend this year and I am sad to miss it. My God, we are all 51/52 years old! I think back to when we were in Form1 through 5 and for some Lower and Upper 6 and I just don’t know where the time has gone. I can barely wrap my head around the things we thought were so important back then but I am glad to have reconnected with these beautiful, down to earth and amazing women and learn about what matters in their lives today. Having lived abroad, longer than I lived at home, the Trinidad in my head is the Trinidad of my childhood through age 20. Most of those memories are warm and tasty as a nice piece of sweetbread fresh out of my mother’s oven and they put a smile on my face much like the one I would have when I slathered butter over said sweetbread in anticipation of eating it up. Other memories are a little bitter (what is life without the bitter to make the sweet, sweeter?) but not so bitter that they would ever keep me from reuniting with the now grown women I went to school with.
Living in another country is not easy. It was not my idea to move, but with no house to come home to after graduation, I chose to make Canada, my home. For me, it’s not the weather or the culture that makes it difficult – that stuff is easy to adapt to and enjoy. For me, it was a struggle adapting to the nature of people who grew up so differently from me. There is a distinct bubble within which people live in this country that casts a sort of shroud of hesitation and skepticism over them. People here sometimes wary of letting people get close to them. They don’t trust easily and have a hard time throwing caution to the wind. They have schedules they can never stray from and the walls they build around themselves for self-preservation are obvious. In a big country, people are from everywhere and it can at time be difficult to make sincere connections, friendships and relationships. Throw into the mix something that makes you different. For me it wasn’t so much race or colour, accent or culture that separated me from other people in my adopted country, it was my child who made our family of four quite …odd.
Long story short, I wanted to come to the 25th reunion and couldn’t at the time because Daddy was ill. So, when the 30th reunion came about, I was hell bent on being there. It was called “Once in a Blue Moon” and I really felt that if I missed the 30th, I would miss out on so much more that it had to offer. I had a sense that if I did not go, it would be harder for me to get a chance to reconnect with anyone for a very long time and that scared me a little. I felt like that would snip away even more of what was left of the roots of my youth, which was a happy and carefree time of my life. I needed that reunion so I made sure I wasn’t going to miss it. After the uphill battles of my life, I needed something, somewhere and some people who were familiar….I needed home. I needed ole talk with women who shared a similar girlhood. I needed to say “hear nuh,” “in trut” “Oh geed” and I needed to steupes and say “ent?” and “how yuh goin chile?” without having to translate my dialect.
Lord, it was like breathing in a nice sea breeze just talking and having people understand everything I was saying. That year I needed to be among people who grew up the way I did. Sure, I have Trini friends and cousins in Canada and at home whom I visit, but I think the reunion in 2013 was the homecoming I was looking for to remind myself of who I was then and that that same girl with the long plait and Oscar eyebrows was still dwelling inside me. At “Once In a Blue Moon” she surfaced because she was among childhood friends.
To be clear, it was not easy hooking up with people on Facebook. I wondered with every friend request if they would A) remember me and B) like me and C) want to connect after all these years. I am happy to say, most of them did with a genuine warmth and to be honest, it is the only reason I am still on Facebook. Since the reunion in 2013, I have met up with many girls in many different places enjoying some good laughs and walks down memory lane. At the last reunion, whether it was at a pre-lime or post-lime or just getting a drop from somebody, I heard so many stories from these women I had known since I was 11, some since 7 and some even from age 5. Stories of situations they experienced, stories of their children (a few with a child like mine) stories that made me understand that we all lived a whole lot of life and the petty shite of our teen years never surfaced.
As I listened to them speak, I realized that though I often felt alone in Canada, I was not the only one who went through the twists and turns of life. These women have the same stubborn strength I have and like me, they knew when they needed to tap into it to set everybody straight. I came to reconnect and for a week, I was plugged in again to a sweetness I’d let slip away in the blur of North American life.
I will also tell you francomen, that the actual night of the reunion, I was a little apprehensive. I had already limed with some people but there was a whole lot more to bounce up that night and I wasn’t too sure how it would go down. Would people remember me? Did I make anybody vex back in the day? Were they still vex? I know I was still a tomboy when everybody else started looking nice and checking out boys. I know I wasn’t very cool because my parents were strict and I was barely able to leave the house without grief if it wasn’t for dancing or some sport. I remember getting closer to the doors of the venue that evening hoping to God everyone would be warm and friendly and I have to say by the time 20 minutes had gone by, I was talking to people as if I never left the country. Did I get chummy with everybody? Of course not. Not everyone is going to flock to you, not everybody will have nice things to say and yeah, you get vibes flying off some people. But if there is one thing I have learned from having my wonky family is that there is no point in judging people; no point about coming to conclusions about people whom you may find judgemental. Everybody has something they have to deal with. Everybody. It is hard to let go of pain. Hard to forget something that may have hurt or even humiliated you when you were young. But the beauty of youth, is that it is temporary. The beauty of youth is that we all do mature and become wiser with age and the beauty of youth is that it has it’s place in the past. I have to live a life where I look forward. If I glance back too long, I will stumble and find myself at a standstill or drowning in a deep dark hole. I went to a reunion fittingly called “Once in a Blue Moon” because I have no idea when I will see these women again; these women who gave me that little dose of familiarity and grounding I truly needed that year. I went, I re-connected and I came back to my home in Canada revitalized and reassured that I have 75 or so women who run their lives and their family much like I run mine and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that. I reach out to them sometimes with questions about various things and I get a genuine answer whether it is about children, work, travel, cooking and just about anything you could think of and I hope I have been a great source of support for them as well. We celebrate each other in times of joy, and comfort each other in times of sorrow … And when one of us needs prayers we don’t have to look too far. There is nothing like the honour of receiving the support and strength of a few girls from Convent among a bunch of Canadians punctuating the pews at your father’s funeral in a country where no one thought he would rest his bones.
I am glad Carla found me on line (as only she would with her passion and determination). As a grown ass 51 year old woman, the silly girlhood bygones are bygones. I think if we spend too much time thinking about nonsense from years gone by we are wasting precious time. I enjoyed the reunion and enjoyed my time with everyone there and I love seeing what they are up to on social media and meeting up with them when I am in their neck of the woods. I don’t care what people think about me. Honestly, I’m not any more special or interesting or important than anyone else. I have my crosses to bear like everyone so when I get a chance to enjoy what life has to offer, I do. In my job I help people protect and grow their earnings and I walk them through graduation, first job, marriage, first investments, first home, first car, first kid, first day of retirement and before you know it, I’m delivering the first death claim to a family. In my job, I am reminded every day how short and precious life is and that we should spend as much time as we can enjoying the journey while we are still upright and breathing because it will change and we will be stunned by that change and then it will happen again and again. So, before we can easily count how many of us are alive and well enough to gather together, if you can make it this year, get your gold dan-dan or your gold accessories and have a drink for me.
As many of you know, if you come to Ottawa, Toronto or anywhere along the 401 corridor or anywhere in the GTA, give me a shout out on line and I will show up and lime if you could take me on. No hard feelings if you don’t want to but I have been known to show up and cheer on people’s field hockey children,
If you are up my way, don’t be a stranger because I am not shy about bouncing you up when I am in your neighbourhood. Have a lovely time with each other at our 35th anniversary reunion. I will miss out this year but I will certainly enjoy all the photos on line and I know I will see you all again as we make our way to the 40th.