I suppose it was bound to happen. Someone was bound to decide to start the KDHS matriculating group of 1982 on facebook and I would end up on it. And that would be the beginning of me starting to have to think about high school, and in my case, how much I hated it.
102 people (so far) out of about 200 have been joined, and as could be expected from a Jewish South African class that graduated in the terrible early 80’s, the spread around the usual places in Jewish diaspora is wide, with only a handful of us still back at home. (The irony is not lost on me that most immigrating Jews felt like staying here was the soft, comfortable option!)
I need to be honest. I remember as little as 20 names as people with faces, personalities and substance. Most are so vague that I can barely attach them to a face, especially one that is 30 years older. And while I am interested in some of the people individually, and even made facebook friends with them before the group, especially ancient primary school ones, I find that, mostly, I am conjuring up horrible memories of school. Two nights ago I had one of those ‘back to school’ nightmares, in which old faces from my school past are back to make my life miserable, and I can’t find the maths classroom, ever.
I am momentarily, at the age of 46, finding myself having those totally rebel moments. I want to wear the black arm band that we wore (Karen Zwi, I remember you in particular) when Neil Agget died in detention. I want to smoke cigarettes in the downstairs girls’ toilets (even though I haven’t smoked for 10 years). I want to sing anti government songs, write bleak death poetry and beat up the boys who beat us up (and lied). I am terrified to find out what most of my old classmates think and feel now, because my instincts tell me that while we Â have turned almost middle aged many of them have stayed as conservative (if not become more so) then they were.
I find myself reliving those disappointments and injustices again. I find myself remembering the frustrations of being a young thinker in a tank full of rules. I find myself remembering the hurts felt by me and others, and really not enjoying those memories at all. I find myself thinking with shame about some of the childish, insensitive hurts I caused.
And I am shocked at how deep those wounds go, and that I still feel them.
So, when lots of people in the facebook group suggest a class reunion, I swallow bile and my palms sweat. I experience a kind of fear that I do not normally feel in my life (even though I still live in South Africa). The weird thing is, I have done what I consider to be really well in my life. I live well, work at what I love, have a beautiful long term relationship and joyous friendships. I am mostly proud of myself. Except when I think about school. So, King David High School, and those that were with me, this is my honest response.