Saturday, November 15, 2003

Backroom Reunion

Beloved Commonwealth, how I learned from thee.

Past the redgold dining room and the open copper kitchen, through the dishroom and down the stairs at the back of the Del Raye in Northampton is a tiny furnished room with mirrors on the walls and a crisscross winerack along the back.

This evening, it was host to a regional reunion for The Commonwealth School, the tiny prep-school-in-a-brownstone -- yes, that's the entire school there in the picture -- most notable for highly competitive collegiate placement, sending 10% of graduates each year to each of several Ivy League schools, where I attended my last two years of high school. 15 people crammed into this tiny room, ate gourmet pate and oil-soaked toasted sesame breads and scallops in sauce, drank Steel Rail Pale Ale and some surely-decent red wine, and met strangers. With an average graduating class of 30, that’s not such a bad turnout; however – do the math – it’s only three Harvard-bound seniors.

Talked shop to a computer science prof from UMass, talked Marlboro to a couple of more recent Commonwealth grads who had gone on to there as well; said my name when asked to; overall, managed successfully to small talk my way through two hours. The only one I knew there was William Wharton. Once tweedcoat classics teacher, now still young but graying Headmaster, I remember Bill most because, on the cusp of Headhood in my senior year, it was he who refused to listen to the voice of adolescent reason, choosing instead not to back down from the definitive ruling that, no, the word suck was not to be allowed in the school yearbook, because it called up graphic images in the mind. (As a compromise, I and the other two senior editors put a photograph of a burning Fiske’s Guide To Colleges on the back page with a tiny caption: The pictures and expressions employed in this yearbook do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commonwealth School. At the time, this seemed bold and creative; looking back, it does seem a bit adolescent.)

Maybe I've been immersed in independent school life for too long. Seeing Wharton from the prep school teacher’s side – comparing the good old alma mater with the boarding school near-competitor which has been my everything for 6 years – he looked good, austere but not too stiff or formal. The kind of guy I’d give money to, I think. And the place really is worth sustaining. But I still think suck is yearbook-appropriate.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM |

Post a Comment
coming soon
now listening