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out on a limb

Volume 15/Issue 18

Back to School/Back to the Future

Remember the Do Drive In? Hoppers? Frost Top Root beer? Or how about Birch Beer, John Pela, or The Great McNutt? Morgus, Chopsley? We were all teenagers once, and our memories of those times can be jogged by any number of radio stations currently broadcasting the Oldies but Goodies twenty-four hours a day. Even the dance clubs are playing remixes of 60's classics like Itchy-Koo Park.

What goes around, comes around-doesn't it? August is a time for remembering. Maybe it's because so many of us go back to something in, working regular hours, lovers we left in June. August is definitely a time for returning; I've been doing a lot of that lately.

Back to school was such an exciting whirlwind. Summer's heat would soon be over and winter clothes were in the stores. And the decisions, the decisions-should one go with a 3 subject notebook, or stick with the old permanently sewn speckled black version? Then there was the book bag. So many choices, so little space. Should I go designer Eddie Bauer or settle for a generic brand that might not hold up all year? And of course there were always new pens, paper, and other "school stuff" that had to be made ready for another year of learning.

When I was 17, I began my senior year in high school. It was going to be a banner year for me. I had managed to become co-editor of the Yearbook, stage-manager of the Drama Club, lead second alto in the chorus, and a reporter for the school paper. Classes were incidental. High school, then and now, was more about the social life of a teenager then about civics, English or American Government.

My homeroom teacher was Sister Vivian Marie and I was taking a full load of the usual college-prep courses. That meant I'd have to figure out ways to get my school work done during lunchtime, in study hall, or on the bus on the way home. I wanted my time free to pursue my extra-curricular activities.

Well, the best-laid plans and all that soon disrupted my life, and I found myself deep in dyke drama...long before I even knew I was a lesbian. But these experiences would answer my many questions about why I liked my girlfriends so much and why boys bored me to tears.

It all began innocently enough. We were having a school dance. Decorations had to be made and hung-atmosphere for the gymnasium. We were making hundreds of wisteria vines to drape over wires suspended in a grid around the ceiling. There was purple crepe paper everywhere.

I was in the attic of the main building finishing up some stars on that fall day in September when I heard laughter in the courtyard below. I crawled out on the fire escape and gazed down the four stories to the ground. There I saw two of my favorite teachers playing an impromptu game of tag, their black habits swirling out behind them as they ran.

In my perch far above their heads, I was as invisible as a bird soaring high up in the heavens. They had no idea that anyone was watching. And I hadn't meant to pry; I was just fascinated by the different side of them which was on display. I knew them as stern but excellent teachers who taught us many great things. Now, here they were as youthful women, running, laughing, reaching out to tag one another in their game.

Finally, they ran behind the building that was directly below me and stood in a small cubbyhole formed by the doorway. I could still see the outlines of their bodies in the shadows and I clearly saw them as they embraced and kissed.

Now I suppose you're thinking that I have concocted this story out of thin air...just the opposite. What I observed that day from my crow's nest vantage point was something no less thrilling than for a sailor to sight land after a thousand days at sea.

I was amazed...I was in awe...I was exhilarated...and I knew I was in trouble. If anyone found out that I had spied on the two nuns, I would surely be punished for some vague infraction of the rules. I knew that I would have to remain mum about what I had witnessed forever.

Well, forever is a long, long time and today I mark that moment as one of the stepping stones on my path to self-awareness. Did I keep their secret? Yes. Did I become a lesbian? Yes. Did the two events have anything to do with one another? Yes and No.

You see, all the actions of those two very strong influences in my life gave me the courage to pursue my dreams. They had already and they continued to teach me valuable lessons about life and living. The stolen kiss was only one chapter in the textbooks I had consumed during my high school years.

One thing is certain. Cool fall evenings, the smell of chalk dust, and the musty odor of burned candles will forever return my memories to the past, to a time when I was just learning about loving, to a time when I was a young explorer on the start of the greatest mission of my life-the one of self-discovery.

Back to school, back to the days when everything was possible and nothing was out of reach, back to the time when we believed in our ability to make the world a better place, to make time stand still, to make a million dollars.

So forgive me if this time of the year is a nostalgic one for me. All those back to school ads are like time machines that allow me to return to that fire escape and to become a silent witness to my own future.

What type of notebook did you used to use to take notes?

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