Monday, April 19, 2010

Schoolhouses and Sloppy Joes: The Wonder Years are alive and well

Patty Hill, today
One night a week or so ago, I  ventured out to out of sheer boredom, curious to see if anyone I graduated with had 'joined the ranks'.  I had overheard someone at work talking about the website, and I realized I hadn't visited Classmates since I registered there a few years ago. 

I was surprised to see over half my senior class out there--okay, so there were only around fifty names,  but our graduating class only had a total of 104 students.  Nothing like these giant high schools in Pittsburgh.

What really surprised me though was this private note attached to my account:  "Hi Douglas, this is an old classmate of yours. I moved before the 9th grade, but haven't forgotten my childhood friends. Hope all is well. Please respond. Thanks Patty Hill"

I was almost taken aback:  Patty Hill?  I hadn't heard that name in thirty-five years!  Her family moved to Ohio when we were in the eighth grade, never to be heard from again:  and yet I realized that I probably remembered Patty better than most of the kids I attended high school with.  I responded to her note (unsure if I'd hear back or not--she had left that note on my Classmates account several months ago).  She replied almost immediately though, gracious and friendly and polite, and I sat here scratching my head, feeling like a 13 year old kid again, amazed that the prettiest girl in class was talking to me. 

patty1972Patty in 6th grade, and how I remember her

It's surprising, the preconceived notions about others (and yourself) you can carry through the years.   In fourth thru sixth grade, we were seated alphabetically & Patty sat directly across from me in the next row.  She wasn't just pretty, she was downright striking: always impeccably dressed and very modern, her soft voice & easy grace intimidated me.   (I didn't intimidate easily at that age, either; I teased and flirted with every girl in that classroom.)  But I never felt in Patty's league.

So here I am, my "upper forties" and feeling like a kid all over again.  Never mind my accomplishments or the women I've known since then, this is Patty Hill. When I ask her why she's reaching out to someone she hasn't seen since 1975, surely she must've made hundreds of friends in her life in Ohio, she explains that her happiest memories were in southwestern Pa, of her house in the country, our little red schoolhouse and her childhood friends.

Lippencott School

Lippincott School, where I attended school with Patty in the early 70s; it looks just the same today, but it’s a private Christian school now

Patty told me her happiest memories there were "Ms. Clutter, the smell of inky dittos, hot lunches with sloppy joes and Wise potato chips, Miss Diamond who married and became Mrs. Skovera, monkey bars, and play day, music class with Mrs. English and choir, studying bible verses for Fridays at the Baptist church, Mr. Rumancik and Mrs. McNay, shiny hardwood floors, watching reel movies, passing notes and laughter, watching the horses out our 6th grade window, and walking to the covered bridge." 

Cox Farm Bridge, 35 years later and still looks exactly the same

To be honest, reading Patty's memories both surprised me and put a real lump in my throat.  I remembered everything she wrote, of course.  For some reason though, I never expected I'd be hearing such recollections from Patty Hill…                       

Well, it makes me happy, knowing someone out there (my age) holds on to these same memories.  For the first time in a long time, I feel a little less older and a little less guilty about my reminiscing.   And it's been nice getting to know Patty Hill all over again.teepee_dribbble_1x