There’s a scene in the movie The Jane Austen Book Club when Prudie accuses her husband Dean of flirting with a girl she used to go to high school with during her mother’s funeral. They are fighting it out in their hotel room afterwards and she is trying to explain how it made her feel to see them together. She talks about how this girl used to treat her in high school and how she was teased by her relentlessly.
Dean says, “High school’s over.” And then Prudie says, “High school’s never over.”
Regardless of what you think of the book and the movie, that is one hell of a line because it is so bloody true. High school is never over because it is such a profound experience for us all that occurs during our formative years. That’s why reunions are so emotional, that’s why friends we made in high school are so special, that’s why memories of our high school days are so vivid.
And that’s why my head has been well and truly scrambled by the process of enrolling my son into the high school I attended, that he will attend next year.
My big sister Marina was enrolling her daughter Giacinata. She and my son Philip will start together which gives us some relief. Our memories of high school are mixed. How can they not be? It’s high school, a place where teenagers and authority and rebellion and hormones collide.
I’m making it sound as though my high school experience was terrible (isn’t everyone’s?) but it wasn’t. It was typical, a mixture of good, bad, great, horrendous, life-changing, life-ruining, all the things high school has always been and still is. That’s why we have movies like Mean Girls, Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, Old School, American Pie Reunion… and so many episodes of our favourite TV shows.
The memories began in earnest as my son Philip, 12, and I walked to my old high school, a walk that took just 15 minutes but during which we talked about so much. I tried to answer his questions honestly.
Will high school be hard?
What was it like?
Where did you sit?
Will any of my friends come here?
Then we arrived and I scanned the grounds, noting all the changes, the new gates, the demountables that were added in after a building fire that was started on annual Muck Up Day, not during my tenure, a few years after. But I was one of the ones who called the police because I just so happened to be driving to my breakfast radio gig that morning at 3.30am and was shocked to see it well and truly up in flames.
I thought I was hallucinating but no, it was actually happening.
We walked up the driveway and I was struck by how small everything seemed. In my head it was much bigger, more expansive and significant in presence.
A group of prospective families had already formed a large group in the middle of the quadrangle and we waited patiently for a tour and presentation.
We visited the room where I used to have Ancient History. I remember my friend and I getting the same score on a test and the teacher telling her she knew she could do better, but not saying the same to me. I decided to try harder and ended up blitzing it and doing 3 Unit.
We walked through the doorway where I tripped over during my first day and one of the boys yelled out, “Did you have a nice trip?”