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  • The Horse Lady

Time Passeth All

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

More than a year after my last post on this blog, here I am, returned and wondering if anyone will recognize me. There were all kinds of reasons for the lapse, injuries, illness, etc, etc. But it really doesn't matter, what matters is that I have something to say and I hope you want to read it.

For this return post, I actually don't want to talk about horses, although on this snow day they are outside the windows sheltering in the trees, well away from their expensive and beautiful shelter.

For this post, I would like to talk about high school.

No matter what age you are, cast your mind back to high school and a whole host of memories come to the surface. For some those memories are mostly positive, all dances and hi jinks and remembering where your locker was. For some they are mostly negative, like the Facebook post I read yesterday from the young woman who constantly struggled and as a result her parents were regularly offered the opportunity to move her to another school. No pressure in that.

For me high school memories are a complicated mess. I went to Immaculata High School, at that time a hybrid separate school/private school in downtown Ottawa. The "old" building was built in 1932, and until 1978 housed only female students. The standard of education was extremely high, and generation of girls with neat handwriting and compliant behaviour were turned out and got jobs as clerks and secretaries on the strength of the tutelage provided by the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

By 1978 the world had become a changed place. Young women went on to University, not clerical work. The Catholic church was adapting to the changes in society, and the nuns had to as well. The diocese did not provide the income to the exclusive girls school that it once did, and so ways had to be found to increase enrollment. After much prayer, Immaculata opened its doors to boys.

I wouldn't say that all hell broke loose, but inclusion of boys certainly changed the character of the student body, and not all of the teachers were fully prepared. By now a large proportion of the teachers were lay people and not nuns, but the nuns set policy, as well as setting the pace.

Boys have a different world view than girls, and during their teenage years, even Catholic boys want to get laid. And frankly, it was the same urge that came to the fore in the Catholic girls too. Through my four years at Immaculata, girls disappeared one at a time, quietly, and never came back. Even when their siblings remained, with the only explanation being "she didn't like it here".

In grade 12 religion class, a sex ed curriculum was finally provided, the gist of which was to teach natural methods of birth control sanctioned by the church and to tell us to govern our sexual behaviour by "what was appropriate for the situation". It was ridiculous and it was wrong.

Boys can get up to hi-jinks that girls would never consider. A particular incident comes to mind where two boys stole pickled frogs from the biology lab and threw them into the elevator reserved for teachers use. Unfortunately the frogs hit the one remaining nerve of our principal, a nun, and she resigned her position that very day. Those boys meant no harm at all, just to play a prank, and had the Sister not been severely stressed at the time, the incident would have been handled differently, and hopefully with humour. But alas, the official reaction was overreaction.

There are so many stories I could tell out of school (get it?) but I won't go on. Suffice to say that we all have issues of our own during high school, and I had a boat load of them. It took me years to iron them out. I finally did so, in time to organize a twenty-five year reunion for my year. It was fabulous, and the experience engendered warm and wonderful feelings for the people who attended. It was so fascinating to see where everyone ended up. And with very few exceptions, that everyone looked exactly the same, just with a wrinkle or two.

What brought this up is that last Saturday Sister Anna Clare, the principal during my first three years at Immaculata, died. I had been meaning to go see her, to tie up the final ends of my healing process. But it always took a back seat to my busy life. So tomorrow, I will drive up to Pembroke and spend the morning once again seeing old friends and old teachers from Immaculata. I will attend funeral mass and pray for Sister Anna Clare and all of us who remember those days.

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