Last week I wrote about being in elementary school in a suburb of Sydney, Australia. The time I spent in Australia was short, only 4 ½ years, but those years had a profound effect on who I am today.
High school begins in grade seven in Australia. I was very fortunate to be chosen to go to St. George Girls High School. It was, and still is, a selective high school which means students write a particular exam and are accepted into the school based on their academic merit. (Did I just hear you utter a confused “huh”? Whatever! They let me in!)
St. George Girls High School has a reputation for excellence and a proud heritage since it’s beginning in 1916 and I was very proud to have been a part of it while I attended.
A highlight of going to that school was the close bond made with the other girls. We were all so terrified on our first day. We were entering into unknown and apparently quite strict territory and I believe this helped form some of our close and lasting connections. I’ll never forget that first day of school. My classmates and I all arrived in our crisp full summer uniform with our hems at the specified “knee” length and our high white socks pulled up and our black shoes polished. If our hair was past shoulder length then it was tied back, off of our faces and pulled away from our wide eyes. We were eager to please. By the next year we had relaxed a little. You can see in our class photo that we had found ways to push the boundaries a little. Our skirts were shorter and most of us had chic new short hair cuts. We’d also plucked the hell out of our eye brows and were wearing a small amount of subtle makeup. Mascara and lip gloss was about all that we could get away with then as I recall. Still, we wore our uniforms proudly. We were lectured on how we represented the whole school when in those uniforms on and off the school grounds. The same concept would appear in my life again when I worked as a flight attendant many years later.
We moved back to Canada when I was just starting my 9th year. I had a wonderful group of girl friends at school that gave me a fantastic going away party. On my last day of school everyone signed their name on my white uniform shirt. What the heck, I was never going to wear it again. This made me both sad and thrilled at the same time. I had such an amazing time at that all girls’ school and I will always cherish the fond memories I have of that time in my life. Memories like singeing off my eye lashes and arm hair when lighting the gas ovens in cooking class, memories of going to swim meets where one of our students, Michelle Ford, won everything because she was a future Olympic gold medal winning swimmer, memories of competing with the gymnastics club, of buying those delicious vanilla slices at the canteen, learning Indonesian and Latin (I remember learning but I forget all of it now), of the horrible bloomers that were part of our sports uniform, and of hiking our uniform up and pouring baby oil all over our legs to tan during lunch hour. Yes, it was the seventies and we loved our baby oil no SPF anything for us!
I can’t help but wonder how my life would have been different if I had stayed and graduated from SGGHS. Who would I be today if I had stayed? Would I have had an influence on the friends I made there and if so would their lives be any different today?
I’ve recently been able to re-connect with a few of these girls through the magic of Facebook (I love you Facebook!). My closest friend from those days and I have been chatting up a storm on FB. We’re even planning on how we can get together in person. Thirty four years have melted away and we are giggling fourteen year old girls again. Sweet!