by Gina Sestak
Last weekend I attended my 40th high school reunion.
The word "reunion" implies a reconnection, a coming together of things that were separated from one another. I never felt connected in high school, though, so I wasn't sure what to expect.
I attended Sacred Heart, an all-girl Catholic high school in Pittsburgh's Shady Side neighborhood. It was considered the academic high school of the diocesan school system and required an entrance exam for admittance. I went there with high hopes. They were soon dashed.
I wasn't bullied by the other students who, by and large, were normal decent kids. I was bullied by the nuns.
I'd had trouble with the nuns all through grade school, but those nuns had been Franciscans. Sacred Heart was staffed by Sisters of Charity. I thought they might be different. Nicer. They weren't.
Anyone who hasn't attended Catholic school or been under the control of nuns might think that the sisters are sweet holy women, devoted to God and community service. Based on experience in the Catholic school system, I always thought that their primary requirement for teaching sisters was a profound hatred for children.
Only one of my former teachers came to the reunion, the French teacher Sister Patrice. I hadn't had any specific problems with her, so I didn't have to repress the desire for confrontation. That's one of the harder parts. While you're going through these things, it seems normal. Then when you get older and realize how young and vulnerable children and teens are, you get angry.
I didn't really fit in with most of the other students, who by and large seemed to come from middle class families with parents who wanted them to get an education. I ate lunch with a group of girls who didn't quite fit in either. Only one of them came to the reunion.
Surprisingly, the reunion wasn't bad. We ate and danced at Station Square on Saturday night, then went to mass at the old church on Sunday morning and ate lunch in the grade school cafeteria. The school itself no longer exists, merged years ago with Cathedral High to form Oakland Catholic.
What about you, dear readers? Did you enjoy your high school years? Have you been to any reunions lately?