As Cam and I wandered the halls of Lawrence Park, looking at the photos of former classmates on the walls, we came across five girls sitting on the floor. They all smiled when I said hi, which was lovely. “We went here fifty years ago.” Shock and, I think, curiosity. “Do you still have school dances in the gym?” Yes, a few. I proceeded to tell them the ritual of the day: girls sitting on one side of the gym, boys on the other. I would walk across the floor, ask a girl to dance, and usually she would say no. So … there I was, plodding back to the boys’ side, with everybody in the room knowing what had just happened. Owwie.
The girls seemed to hang on every word. I then launched into the topic of acne, since my young face had been covered with it. Smiles of recognition. And friendly goodbyes as we moved on.
We walked into the auditorium, where I’d attended countless assemblies, and performed in many concerts. I was floating in my memories when I decided to turn around and face the back of the hall. There on the wall were the missing plaques. Under 1967, I was indeed there, resplendent in yellow calligraphy. I just stared. Who was this young man? How much of him is with me now? Lots.
I wanted to see the orchestra room, where I had practiced the cello for the five years of high school. Being an orchestra member, playing concerts featuring symphonies from famous composers, had helped me rise above my acne and become a fuller human being. There was a Vocal class going on as Cam and I passed the open door so we decided to come back at the end of the period
As the old kids were filing out, we walked into a room which was the site of one of the most traumatic moments of my life. The Vocal teacher (also the orchestra and band teacher) welcomed us, and after hearing our story, invited us to listen to a few songs from the new group of students. Sounded good to us.
I asked the gentleman if I could say a few words to the kids. Of course. I told them of our presence here fifty years ago. I also told them about November 22, 1963. It was ten minutes into our morning Grade 10 String class. We were tuned up and ready to go, but our teacher, Miss Kuzmich, was nowhere to be found. How strange.
In 2015, I pointed to the door and said, “Suddenly, that door smashed open and Miss Kuzmich fell through the opening, tears pouring down her cheeks. ‘Kennedy’s been shot!’ And the shock raced through the String room. I was immobile. Terrified. No body parts worked. It was a moment that will never leave me. At lunchtime, I raced home to watch TV with my mom, and found out that the president was dead.”
The kids listened and, I believe, gulped. They too were silent.
We heard two lovely songs from the group. So skilled. So expressive. We applauded. Then I asked the teacher if I could sing a song. Seems to me that Cam’s face dropped a bit right then. But what the heck. Time to sing. Was it “Imagine” by John Lennon that flowed from my mouth? How about a little opera from Verdi? Naw … it was “Give a cheer for the good old gold and blue.” The students smiled.
Just before we left the room, I said, “Lawrence has meant a lot to me. Fifty years from now, I hope that you look back on your days at LPCI with joy, that you reminisce about how your time here contributed to your life.” We all waved goodbye.
It was a precious day in the hallways of my youth. Thanks, young Bruce, for being there. Thanks, young classmates, for giving me so much. Thanks, young teens of 2015, for listening.