Curiosity peaked, I took a look at her friends list to see who, along with Elinor, we had in common. And I remembered all the Humbersiders there (my God there were a lot of them on her list): the athletes, the musicians, the jokesters, and the few who did me a kindness when it was uncool to do so.
**settle in, this is a very long one**
So my high school reunion at Humberside Collegiate Institute is this year. And I’m not going. It’s funny really, as I am passionately an HCI alumna. I will always be proud of having been a student there because it was brilliant place of learning.
But I have no reason to go back.
A former classmate showed up on my friend Elinor’s wall. And while I remembered that she was a classmate, and that I had liked her, I did not know her at all.
And frankly, I did not know any of them. And then I realized something.They did not know me either. Nor did they care to, for the most part.
For that matter I did not know myself, yet. I knew that I had had the diagnosis of being autistic. My mother had rejected it for my own safety – as a registered nurse who worked with physically disabled children, she knew what would happen to a Black Autistic five year old. We did not have the language of “spectrum” in the 70s. Or in the 80s. Or the 90s really.
Then there was the queer component. Bisexuality did not exist in the 80s in high school. Dr. Ruth did not talk about it. Neither did Sue Johannson. My classmates knew that I liked boys but my involvement in the phone sex line scandal confused the hell out of them. Girls were not supposed to call up phone sex lines.
The main thing that neither they nor I knew at the time was the fact that I was bipolar (which is part of the spectrum, as it happens). Which would account for the hyperactivity, the mood swings, the mad crushes on people I really should not have had mad crushes on.
I shan’t presume that they gave me any thought at all – I am not that vain (though the length of this essay could lead one to presume otherwise) All my classmates knew, I think, was that I was shiitake – that is to say, that I had the social skills of a mushroom.
And I still do. But I have been a puppeteer and playwright, a journalist and freelance writer, a tv guest regular, a dancer, a storyteller, a body issues workshop facilitator, a Black History educator. I have nothing to prove.
And since leaving high school I have come to meet so many people from all walks of life. Artists, activists, award winning writers (including a Giller nominee), scientists, librarians, poets and musicians, priests and priestesses, researchers (who were invited to the White House), even a politician or two. My life has been full, even if I do not have a corner office.
So in 2017 I will remember my Latin teacher Miss Wilson (RIP), my Girls Choir mistress Ms Keele, and my brilliant Math teacher Mr. Estabrooks. I will read some of fellow alumnus Peter Rintoul’s poetry, and drink some JD and cran in a toast to my past — from my living room some 4 blocks from my alma mater, HCI.