It’s the 50th anniversary of my high school alma mater, and when I open my senior yearbook the spine cracks like a knuckle pop.
The first picture of me is three page-flips in, hidden in a right corner. I’m wearing a frilly purple dress that someone’s mother made them once for Halloween and they decided they should bring to boarding school. There’s a bow on the top of my head. I’m pulling a face while next to me an Arabian gypsy, a King of the Jungle, and a Porcelain Doll grin.
In black and white are the faculty, haircuts so-five-years-ago. Familiar faces leap from the page and nestle straight into my heart.
Cutest Couple. I remember. I made the finals.
There are a few poems in the Creative Writing major’s section. I read them again, for the hundredth time, words penned by friends wise and young. They seem overwrought, now, heavy with simile and prose, thick with the maturity that comes too early in adolescence.
Page after page of round, grinning faces in suits and blacks. Musicians. Beautiful brown-haired girls with reeds to their lips, completely unaware of anything but the Shostakovich. The lopsided grin of the tall, flax-haired organ major, far from his native Texas in the non-denominational chapel, pedaling and pounding.
My heart drops as I flip through the Theatre section. I hunt around the space it leaves for the feeling there. I don’t know what it is. I let my eyes flick past the production pictures, there and gone.
The dorms are named after artists. Writers, painters, musicians. The photos of each hall, organized by RA, look like team photos for any high school club. Boys in hoodies, hanging off each other. Girls with their arms wrapped around each other. It’s easy to see them as gaggles of teens at a sleepover. I like to remind myself that they are world-class artists. It makes anything seem possible.
Faces fly past that haven’t crossed my mind in years. That girl fell into the orchestra pit and broke her nose. I fell for that boy on tour. Those boys are our class ambassadors. That girl intimidated me. That RA had a thing for my boyfriend. Those boys got expelled. I once tripped over that girl’s euphonium in the hallway.Those girls were my roommates.
There we are in our prom dresses, glowing with sweat from dancing. And there at senior dinner, spring light finally illuminating our cheeks outside the cafeteria. And look! There we are at the end of the year dance, arms looped around each others’ necks, my boyfriend and my friends bound with limbs to me. And in that photo, the end of the year party, I see a glimpse of my favorite sundress, and just obscuring the rest are three boys, all of us crouched, mouths open, singing. So many moments in dresses, celebrating one thing or another, celebrating all the many more moments we had in our uniforms, struggling through coursework or a particularly hard passage from Shakespeare.
And then the senior pictures and quotes, ensconced in black. Senior pictures were “student’s choice,” so there are the boys with their oboes and the girls with their horns, the dance photos or the artsy-edgy shots. The senior quotes run the gamut… permanent reminders of what was in our hearts all those years ago.
“I want to live and feel all the shaes, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.” –Sylvia Plath
J– Creative writing
Water for my horses, and whiskey for my men!
“I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.” –Miles Davis
E– Motion Picture Arts
“I wasn’t born yesterday, you know. I’ve seen movies.” –Aqua Teen Hunger Force
J– Visual Arts
Do unicorns wear bikinis?
Do they complain about their thighs?
Will they strut their stuff, wink,
At those fiesty uniform guys?
In the winter, will they fake bake?
Make their pure coats a scandalous brown?
Will they count their unicorn calories,
Refuse to keep their food down?
Does your unicorn wear bikinis?
Is it low on self-esteem?
Reassure your unicorn,
Feed it fatty ice cream! — A, Creative Writing
And my picture, sharing the the frame with a Shakespeare bobble-head doll. A picture of three-year-old-me, a daisy crown on my head. So we’ll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies. —King Lear