I attended a house-warming party for an organic farm with 3 cob houses on it that has taken 5 years to build from scratch. I came up to one of the hosts in the yard by the pond, and the woman she was standing with exclaimed my childhood name. I looked over at the woman, and realized I was standing there face to face with my class rival from the private school (see previous post for the whole story: the weight of shame). We were the only two students who went all the way from grade 1 to 8 at the school, and we had not seen each other since our time there, over 20 years ago. We stood there in waves of surreal shock and laughter for several minutes, and then we talked for several hours, standing in various locations on the farm together, with her baby on her back.
The experience of connecting with someone from my childhood was new for me — recognizing her features and mannerisms was a sense of profound comfort and home, as well as laughing together with the same sense of humour we shared as girls. The person I had known and the connection we had shared was still very much in tact; the joy, curiosity and respect were mutual.
She told me she’d had the feeling of a burning question whenever she thought of me, but had no idea what the question was or what it was about. She asked if I’d been in touch with our teacher, and then asked why there was a feeling of heaviness in my answer. Thinking she probably already knew the answer, I hinted at the gist of the story. When it was clear she honestly didn’t know, and that her question was burning, I asked if she really wanted to hear the story right then, which she did; and so I told her — the whole thing, standing there in the middle of the patio at the farm.
She told me that there had been a letter written to the school from another former student of the teacher’s. That the letter had spoken of inappropriate behavior on his part that had had long-standing adverse affects on the student’s life. She told me this as if it were someone else, and she was so convinced herself that I was also convinced, slightly relieved that I was not alone, and extremely curious who it was. I finally asked her how she knew it wasn’t me. She answered that it was because it was so many years after our class had graduated. It took us a couple hours of conversation and comparison of dates to convince us both that it was me. The letter was the letter I had written to the school. The name of the student had never been released.
What she said next will take me a while to process. The school had gone through a major process around this letter, as well as a series of complaints from our teacher’s then-current parents for a variety of failures on his part to adapt to new teaching regulations when the school became accredited with the National Association of [private school] Education. During that time, my classmate said that our teacher had gone through a major depression. He became anti-social and looked like hell wherever he went. In effect, the letter had either built or sealed his coffin there at the school.
All this time, I thought that my letter was burned and dismissed. I didn’t know that anything had come of it. I thought that my story didn’t matter to anyone. I thought that my actions had had no effect, as if I was some kind of ghost. I thought that I beared a terrible secret that no one wanted to hear. I was made out to be a drama queen around this at home. I wondered chronically if what I’d experienced was real. This was a huge chunk of the invalidation trauma in me. That I am not real, that my feelings aren’t based on anything real, and they have no real affect on anyone or anything. I do not matter.
The news from my classmate means to me that my story did matter, was heard; my actions did have an effect. I am not a ghost; I am real. My feelings are real. What happened really did happen, and I did not deserve the silent treatment.
What happened for the rest of the night: I danced a solo on stage with 2 Guinean Master Drummers, my classmate and I found ourselves square-dancing together on the lawn, and then singing together by the fire, as we had done so so much in our childhoods together. Our life paths had lead us here to this farm, and the art studio I have been practically living at, where she had also met the hosts of this party several years ago.
I think I’m still in shock. I’m afraid of how much I want to be with her now. I need a few WEEKS around the fire with her. I want to curl up in her arms. I still think the school should have communicated receipt and thanks to me, and in this moment, I am still angry that they didn’t; but they were probably doing their best, and no disrespect was meant … (?)