Sometimes when my parents drive up for a visit, they'll bring a box of stuff from my room at home. Mostly, there are things I no longer care much about but haven't worked up the courage to get rid of yet: a favorite t-shirt from junior high, college textbooks, old toys kind of broken with no value beyond the sentimental. This last time, the box included some worthless stuff I'd totally forgotten about that will be going straight to the charity shop (a rag doll, an inflatable travel pillow), plus a couple of my high school yearbooks and a handful of souvenirs from the New York City trip I made right after graduation. (Those souvenirs are a separate post, let me tell you.)

Wow, high school. The yearbooks are from my freshman and senior years. I'm not sure what happened to the two in between, but the first and last years of high school were definitely the most impressionable in my mind. Leafing through those is like a blast of cold air, a sudden reminder of what life was like in the mid-nineties for a young teen. It's not that I've been running away from high school, exactly. High school was what it was for me. Not great, but not awful, either. But I left my home state for college and after that grad school, and since then I've only been back in my hometown for visits and vacations, so I feel like I left high school behind me. I would like to think that I left the old, immature Suze behind me, too, but I'm not really sure that's true. There's a reason they call that time your "formative years," right?

I kind of enjoy showing this stuff to Stuart. "Hey, Stu? See if you can find me on this page! Hey, Stu - remember so-and-so? This is what he looked like as a high school freshman!" Stuart grew up in sub-Saharan Africa, the son of missionary parents - not the scary fundamentalist kind like in The Poisonwood Bible, I always hasten to add - and his high school and coming of age experience was completely different from mine. He was one of the white minority in the first mixed-race high school in South Africa during the breakdown of apartheid, Umtata High. Serious stuff. It was also the British system of education, where boys had to have short hair and wear ties to school every day and the fact that he and his older brother graduated without once being caned was nothing short of miraculous. In contrast, our dress code included a rule that your pants had to stay up on their own (boys) and your skirt couldn't reveal your underwear (girls), and corporal punishment was banned sometime in elementary school (I vividly remember the daily paddlings from the first grade teacher across the hall from my own classroom.) I don't know if Stuart had yearbooks, though they did have school photos. Oh, the Wall of Shame in his parents house! Oh how I enjoy perusing the series of uniformed, be-spectacled Stuarts from first through twelfth grade (or whatever they called it down there - Standard Something-Or-Other) alongside his brother's likeness!

So anyway. High school. Looking through those yearbooks reminds me of the people who were so important to me at the time (some of whom currently read this blog!), the things that seemed so life-and-death (relationships, friendships, drama productions every fall and spring), the truly scary hairstyles (I got over hair-sprayed bangs in middle school, thankfully, though not everyone did, judging from my yearbooks)...and also the fact that my high school experience really does, for better or for worse, inform the person I am today. If you'd asked me fifteen years ago (!) if I expected to be a stay-at-home-mother with a still-breastfeeding nearly 2yo, a languishing doctorate, a 10:30 bedtime, and a serious Knitting Habit, who tries to forget that she was once voted Most Likely to Succeed (at what?) and had the highest GPA of everyone in her class of 300 except for 3 boys, I would have laughed - no, I would have scoffed - in your face.

I'm not sure if all that says more about the state of educated mothers in current society, or my own issues, or what, but there you have it. This is what happens when I look at old yearbooks. I think about who I was, and where I came from, and what happened to the other over-hair-sprayed, mulleted figures in those pictures and where they ended up, and it makes me wonder how far I've really come.


Aww, I loved you in high school, with or without hair sprayed bangs! I will say that my high school experience was highly forgettable! I'm definitely not one who peaked in high school. THESE are the best years of my life.
Jessi said…
We were the queens of the nice flat hair. Well, after I finally got that awful perm cut out, I was. But really, our whole group had human looking hair.

I love going through those old yearbooks, too. And I don't know why. I'm not particularly nostalgic about high school. College, yes. High school, no. But I just love to look back at who I was, I guess.
Strangeite said…
This post make me what to find my old yearbooks.

If memory serves me right, my favorite picture from our freshman yearbook is the one taken in the cafeteria with me, you and Erin.

Jessi, speak for yourself, but I don't think I have ever had "human looking hair".
Jessi said…
Ah, yes. Correction: the girls in our group had mostly human looking hair. The boys, well... they did their best.
Strangeite said…
I should offer a correction as well.

I meant to say "cafetorium" not "cafeteria".

I apologize.
The only yearbook I bought was my senior yearbook. However, I turned my so-called "senior" memory book into a "high school" memory book, and pictures of all of you guys abound in it! I brought a bunch of high school pictures to scan and put up on here, just haven't had time to post them yet. And yes, I do believe you all are featured in those, too!
canadahauntsme said…
I have no sentiment towards highschool. All my yearbooks have long since visited the bin, and most of my connections lost. Mom, however, still clings to the notion that I remember everyone during that long period of my life. I don't know why, but I want to forget most of it, along with the vast unpleasant experiences of my youth.

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