Aisle Seat: Remembrance of High Schools Past
Updated: Nov 25, 2021
By Naomi Serviss / New York City
My good friend Nona has been nudging me
to post on Cheltenham High School
Class of 1971’s
She’d like me to pen
a reflective, recollected summation
of my life and career
so other classmates could catch up.
That is, if they remember me at all.
Nona and I have been buds for decades,
having met in second grade.
She’s extremely task-oriented
and knows how to make the wheels turn
on any project she gets into.
Except in this case,
I’d prefer not to,
as Bartleby, the Scrivener famously said
in Melville’s book of the same name.
A three-day celebration had been planned
for last month.
Nona and classmate Neil worked doggedly
to land a jazzy, cool place to gather
for a long Philadelphia weekend.
Covid-19 put the kibosh on good intentions.
The reunion is now scheduled
for next October
in an equally swell venue.
Nona’s been sweetly requesting folks
to recap a life in 400 words.
Not really my thing.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
I hate disappointing my loyal buddy.
I really don’t belong in that group,
since Cheltenham was not technically
where I spent senior year.
For 12th grade, I attended
Philadelphia’s Parkway Program,
the nation’s first “school without walls.”
That non-structured “school”
may have been without a main edifice,
but there was a method to the madness
of unleashing self-motivated kids
onto the streets of Philadelphia.
No need for the particulars.
Cheltenham High School
was an overachiever’s dream/nightmare.
So many electives!
The school had everything:
excellent teachers (albeit a tad conservative);
a television studio, planetarium
and indoor swimming pool were icing.
Students overdosed on competition,
driven by grade-focused teachers.
I went to an inner-city high school
that was as awful as the ones on television shows.
I was randomly punched in the head.
And devastated by a friend’s heroin overdose.
Why did I go to dangerous Olney High
for 11th grade?
Because my mother moved us
from Cheltenham’s privileged school district
into Philadelphia’s jurisdiction.
When I won the Parkway lottery
to attend senior year,
I felt like a million bucks.
But for all other grades,
from kindergarten through 10th,
I was a legit Elkins Park resident.
So I do have every right to attend the 50th, if I
am so inclined.
At the height of the pandemic,
Nona played matchmaker
and suggested reconnecting
with my school pal Jane.
It was a suggestion I couldn’t refuse.
That led to a biweekly CHS Zoom group invite.
We share grievances, regrets
then move on
to current events and the like.
Lately we’ve been dishing
on our collective high-school romances
or lack thereof.
I’m grateful to Nona,
who is a powerful instigator, mover and shaker.
And a wonderful forever friend confidante.
If she wants a post from me, so be it.
But I’d rather not detail achievements
and career moves.
The thought of writing about them
bores me to tears.
Why should I subject fellow alumni
to my tedious employment history?
I’d much rather reminisce about being a mother,
of which I’m most proud.
Some of my playgroup’s moms
bemoaned side-tracked careers.
It was the ‘80s,
when women felt conflicted
about pausing a career
to raise kids.
I wasn’t conflicted.
Motherhood gave me the opportunity
to do the opposite of how I was raised.
And that’s virtually how my kids were parented.
They turned out pretty, pretty good.
As for my attending the rescheduled reunion,
If all goes well, I’ll be there.
It would be outstanding to see
high school Zoom-mates in the flesh.
And should a fellow alum need or want details
of my career path,
just ask Nona.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com