Message from Edie Clark/Mary's Farm, May 2010
May 3, 2010Greetings, friends,
I've just posted my blog for this week (www.edieclark.com/blog) which makes remark on this strange and changeable weather. Now this, along with the announcement that in July of this year, a new book will be published, "States of Graces: Encounters with Real Yankees," a collection of profiles I have written over the years, with updates for each articles. I'm spent the past few months putting this together. These folks are so inspiring, I've been lost in their lives, full of quiet passion. I'll keep you posted on when this book might be available.
Thanks so much! Here's the essay for May/June
Return to the Old Country
I didn’t come out of the oven here, as the old folks like to say. I am originally from New Jersey. Growing up, visiting my New England relatives, I vowed to one day make this place my home. And, soon enough after college, I did, pushing off from the shores of the Old Country, arriving here eager to pledge allegiance to the promising New World of New England. I’ve never looked back.
Until last May. The high school I went to in northern New Jersey was a small girls’ school, only 28 of us in our graduating class. As if cooperating with my desire to leave it all behind, in the early 1970s, the school merged with a nearby boys’ school and moved to its larger campus in another town. Essentially, the school as we knew it ceased to exist. As a result, our class had never held a reunion. Then, one of the few classmates I’d kept up with died. Though she had lived in London most of her adult life, her funeral took place in our hometown. I attended and reconnected with a few others from our class who were also there. Over coffee after the service, we wondered: where was everyone else? What happened to us all? None of us knew anything about any of our old friends. We were such a small school, there was a time when we were just like one big family all in one big old house of a school. The schoolmarms were our daytime mothers, encouraging us, scolding us and, generally, watching out for us. I viewed it all as if through a thick fog.
Then and there, we hatched a plan for a reunion. When we returned home, we searched the internet for our old friends. And found them all, discovering along the way that two more members of our class had passed away. All from cancer. So what if it was not a banner year, such as our 50th? It had been 43 years since we strode down the grass lawn in our white, wedding-style dresses to receive our diplomas. Time to gather.
The reunion took place the following year on a weekend in May. Sixteen of us attended, some flying in from Oregon, California, Wisconsin, while others simply drove over from a few towns away. Several still lived in the vicinity of the old school and offered to host us. We had dinners together, lunches, brunches and we hired a little school bus to trundle us around to various places we remembered so fondly. The fog began to clear. The din on board that bus could have drowned out the roar of a jetliner on take-off. We were the Merry Pranksters, together again to remember things as small as passing notes in the back of the classrooms (most of us) and as amazing as finagling into Paul McCartney’s hotel room when he was on tour (three of us). Since then, we were discovering, we had become such diverse women as librarians, a Green Peace activist and architect, innkeeper, artist, musician, writer, teacher, lawyer, champion equestrian, designer, data analyst, real estate agent, businessperson, and, of course, mother. We were no longer frozen into the photos of our yearbook. We had lived lives, without each other, for better or worse. It was all a bit like those reunions we read about of siblings who haven’t seen each other since childhood.
We’d all lived in many different places, near and far. Most of us had married and most of us had children and grandchildren. Many of us had lost our parents or were dealing with the difficulties of our parents’ last years. Some had lost husbands and brothers. Many of us had experienced divorce, some have survived cancer and other difficult illnesses. Many paths had led us to where we were that weekend. Being together again, it seemed that no matter what we had been through, here were our old friends, just as they were, still there to share with, to remember with, to laugh with, even to cry with. Like family, we knew each other so well, we shared so much at a certain time in our lives, we had traveled so far but never so far that we could not come back together again. And recover those bonds so very quickly. I was never so enriched as I was to rediscover all my lost sisters. They were all missing pieces that I didn’t know I had lost.
On my way home to New Hampshire, I thought about all of this. I have lived my whole adult life in this very satisfying place and consider it my home. In my mind, the Old Country, like my school, seemed to have vanished and yet, on my journey back into my past, I discovered that the places of our origin never go away, but rather, they continue on without you. The trip home is never so hard as the one away. I really don’t know why that was such a revelation. But it was.