I’ve written here about Hampshire Country School. My memories of it bob like boats moored in a harbor, masts swinging to and from as if to wave for my attention. I have sifted my recollections nicely, keeping the many pleasant ones polished and fortified against the elements like the brightwork on the aforementioned boats. I have to dig deeply for the memories because they originate more than half a century past, but with each stretch and reach, I am rewarded with rich treasures to inspect in my palm.
Quite by chance, and through one of the few occasions where the Internet does its intended job, I happened across a man who worked at HCS; he invited me to join a mailing list of various school alumni who’s tenures, for the most part, appear to have followed after mine. But in short order, I have been able to ‘catch up’ as it were, on the formerly blank slate of the fifty-something interceding years. It’s remarkable to compare notes and find that some things while changing have also remain the same.
I’d recently posted on my feelings about revisiting old haunts. Disenchanted by the changes inflicted by time, I find myself immersing myself in exactly that era I chose to guard and keep the same, protecting my recollections with the verve of a momma bear defending her cubs. There is some great vulnerability in me that embraces these people I have met. Perhaps because they are so much like me; rubber stamps of my id repeatedly embossed on passing decades. Their experiences are mine and mine are theirs, I think. It feels that way. Familiar total strangers.
It all causes me to think about how a place can create a bond. Like soldiers in battle might become like family, it may be that our own experiences at the school have created a subset of us. Us against an unnamed and invisible them. Or maybe not. Perhaps it’s like the stare of passing motorists moving past a traffic accident, temporarily slowing to gawk. At this early point there is no real way to tell, and life has taught me to wait for the punchline before laughing at the joke. They all seem to be kindred spirits, at least. Time will tell, its loose lips always do.
I found out that the school was a man’s world. Communicating with a couple of the women who attended presented a different view than the one I’d maintained all these years. In looking back I did see evidence of the assertions that the girls were treated very differently than the boys. It made me sad and I wondered how they could have taken the benefit from the school they did. I recall that the girls were literally sequestered while we guys could move about virtually at will. I didn’t notice at the time, of course. I also remember that when I and a girl who reflected the twinkle in my eye made our stealthy plans for us each to experience our first-ever kiss with a non-relative, that she was on a short leash. We had to be quick about our experiment because the faculty would be searching for her in short minutes. My overseers could have cared less where I was, so long as I was in my room at the lights out bed check. We wasted most of the few minutes we had giggling with embarrassed glee before we pecked. She was beginning to flee when we heard her name being called. Thankfully, the staff stayed unaware of our brief push against puberty, but trying to find a time to confirm the pleasure of our brief encounter failed. I would have to wait for a different time and a different place and a different girl to continue my investigations of the mysteries of mating rituals. Jeez, it still makes me sigh. But the memory ratifies the complaints of restriction and constant monitoring the girls experienced –in contrast to the freedoms of we males. Dammit, I should know better than to make modern visits to old haunts, especially having written a diatribe about just that a mere couple weeks ago. A pox on my hipocrisy.
But I should do as I always have, as the song says, accentuate the positive. It is good to find kindred spirits wherever they’re encountered and so I will revel in my discovery.