I’ve written before about Hillside Public School, a small redbrick building that still stands across from the Toronto Zoo in northeast Scarborough. Many of us Hillsiders travelled from Kindergarten through high school together, and that, I believe, is the magical bond that has joined us for all of these years.
Until a huge government expropriation of farmland in the early ’70s, families of most of my schoolmates farmed there. In many cases, our parents attended Hillside together, as had their parents before that, but that rich history ended with our generation. High school graduation was followed by college, university, travel, or jobs. None of us ended up all that far away, but for the most part, we lost contact.
Careers were forged, marriages celebrated, and children were born, even as some of those unions ended. Our extended families thrived, but as life always goes, illness and loss darkened our paths at times. No matter where life took us, though, it seems that each of us felt a longing to reconnect.
Some of us are related, and we kept in touch with occasional visits and family gatherings. In one instance, jobs at the same place meant our random paths crossed. We’ve had a couple of get-togethers over the years, and they were okay, but a few days ago, another reunion took place, and this time it was girls only.
I can only describe the time we spent together as magical. The years fell away as we caught up on each other’s lives. News of jobs, spouses, and children, along with some of the not-so-nice stuff, was shared over excellent food. Late in the evening, requisite pictures were taken, and yet we were reluctant to part. It was Thursday, a work night for most, but midnight found us still dawdling at the door, new conversations breaking out as easily as they had earlier in the evening. It was hard to go home.
We’ve decided to make it all happen again, and I’m sure this promise isn’t hollow. When we greeted each other, there were no air kisses, cheeks lightly touching. This was an evening of full-on hugs, laughter from the belly, and genuine interest in each other’s lives. It was a time of joyful reunion and delight in the fact that no matter how we had changed, we really hadn’t changed at all. Schoolyard cliques and childhood hierarchy no longer existed, and we visited on level ground, confident in the people we now are.
Thank you for a wonderful evening new/old friends, and now that we’ve found each other, let’s never lose touch again.
**Update: Alas, we lost one in our midst short months later. I think I can speak for each of us when I say that a small piece of our own hearts went with her.