This past year, in preparing for my 50th high school reunion, I got involved as though the event was a runaway train that only I could stop. I started by being part of a committee to find people. Women are harder to trace as we have this habit of changing our names. Out of a class of 215 at an all girls academy (now defunct) I could not find 3, and one was a foreign exchange student that only lived among us her senior year. The building is now home to a co-ed Catholic high school that my two oldest children attended.
In finding the lost I found that the lost (deceased) were causing an uneasy stir in me. It was one thing to rekindle set aside friendships, even fledgling ones, knowing that there was still time to further develop, but I was drawn to remembering the girls who were prematurely plucked from our roster. Hold that thought...
Big parties have swags; the Oscars this year gave away trips to Greece and Hawaii, diamond necklaces, DNA testing kits, gum rejuvenation appointments and more. My brother-in-law's Jack's (he's the "J") of JSB BASEBALL (the "Best Senior Baseball Tournament in the Country") which is held every October in Pirate City, Florida. Their swags include bats, ball bags, coolers, robes and more; plus they are guided by former MLB greats.
Our Nazareth Academy swags were minor in comparison. Our little group handcrafted small drawstring bags out of used tee shirts with our names sewed on from mixed t-shirt lettering.
Inside, were small folk art house Christmas Tree ornaments that we handmade out of scrap wood. Some had foliage made from glue, paint and sawdust. Others had silver coated cardboard painted to resemble corrugated metal. When we wanted a rusty roof, cinnamon and salt provided that. Not shown are the small eyes and hemp hangers.
Also included were bars of handmade basil and lavender soaps. These were the actual hard cut and cured made by a classmate and her daughter, not the pour and melts. Another classmate made and donated handcrafted gift cards.
During the little house making project it evolved that we would make larger Memorial Houses that would represent each of our classmates who had died (25 at the time, and one was a last minute). Each would show their interests, education and careers.
The Standard Oil railroad car (house) was made in memory of one of our ladies who as a young girl came over from Ireland, married, became a social worker and accidental social activist while stopping an oil company's rail car leaking benzene through neighborhoods.
One of our classmates formerly worked for the CIA. This "house" is representative of the stadium at Progressive Field where the Cleveland Indians games are played. Her jobs were used as advertising on the field. This view is of the dugout. She watched the games on TV. We Mod Podged this TV to a block of wood, attached rabbit ears and had an unplugged cord attached as she is no longer watching from the "cheap" seats.
One of our most memorable characters owned a pizza place and styled hair since high school. She was forever in trouble with the nuns for her rolled skirt and teased hair. When a pencil was put to her scalp and could not be lifted without tangling she was led by Sr. Baptista to the lavatory by her tresses and hairdo rinsed out in the sink. We all laughed to her re-telling of the story at our 25th. The hairdo remained the same until we graduated, but the punishment was not repeated. Culprit on left below.
During the planning of the Memorial Houses it was also decided that we would affix a card to each with a graduation photo and also the most recent photo we could acquire along with a short bio. Still feeling incomplete, we further developed a video dedication slideshow that we set to music and used during our memorial service at our former school the morning of the reunion. As each skill was needed someone rose from the ranks with technical ability and willingness. The event was a JOY.
This is only a portion of my missing life. I have continued to paint, get kids off of school buses, make daily meals as though my scores of children were still under roof, contributed to school projects, attended my Girl Scout meetings, prayer groups and waged a non-stop campaign against capetbagging wildlife that has plagued my residence since the developer (10 or so houses down) has de-nuded their homes in anticipation of building 37 new, unnecessary McMansions on what is clearly a flood plain. It is time to be BAAACK.
Stephen King said in Shawshank, "Get busy living, or get busy dying." I'm doing a little of both. I read probably 2 books a day. Always, an audio tape is playing, plus whatever intrigues me, mostly mysteries, are scattered throughout the house. Right now, I have borrowed 28 books from the library and 32 are on hold. I just finished The Girl in Cabin 10, and am currently in the middle of The Girl in the Ice, and The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. The first two are set in Norway and the 3rd writer is an 81 year old author from Sweden who has written a book on saying goodbye to unnecessary things and down sizing your life. Not long ago I read a difficult-to-follow book called Charming Billy written by one of my favorite Irish American authors, Alice McDermott. She writes lyrically and my favorite quote in her description on finding that living with less can be joyful is; "He had always had a tremendous capacity for accommodation and contentment, whether alone with a newspaper, or at a dinner table filled with friends and family. I supposed his mother had taught him not to expect much from life and so it was easy enough for him to see each day as an endless parade of unexpected pleasures. She said it as a caution against excess, but my father said it with a kind of amazed gratitude; enough was as good as a feast."
So, on with the feast. Back to painting and posting. Back to family story telling and animal battles. I'm learning from my Irish, Swedish and Norwegian ancestors on streamlining my life, but right now I'm going to climb onto my sawhorse and get my power tools down. Lots to get busy living about until it's time for my Memorial House.