As I entered the big wide world of high school (or college as it is known in other Countries) I was faced with another changing set of teachers, friends and associates. Once more I was thrown into an unfamiliar environment, farther from home, hundreds of classrooms spread across multiple buildings and about 1500 other students.
Thankfully in my home class was Kim Diack. Kim and I had gone through primary school together. Our class had gone to her house to watch the moon landing on their television – not many families had a television back then. Kim and I had also been at Napier Intermediate School together, but not in the same class or circle of friend. I didn’t really know Kim at all as we lived in different areas but suddenly we were besties, partners in class activities, lunch companions …. stuck like glue to each other in an almost desperate attempt to find something or some one even remotely familiar. Most of the children who attended Napier Intermediate went on the Napier Boys High , Napier Girls High l or the newly opened Tamatea High School with a few (lucky ones) going off to boarding School. The majority of the students at Colenso High School had come from Wycliffe Intermediate School, had lived in the flat suburbs of Napier such as Marewa, Onekawa, Maraenui and Pirimai. Places foreign to me and people I didn’t know. Kim will probably never realise how much her friendship meant to me as we made this transition together.
Also transitioning to Colenso from Napier Intermediate, was Michelle Reay. We were not school friends but I knew her from attendance at Napier Athletics. She was more of a sprinter than me, I was more of a jumper, but she was a familiar face, and although in a different class we gradually got to know each other. Michelle was a popular young lady with a tight circle of friend that I never really felt part of yet when it was just the two of us we were special. We often went to her house after school and had coffee and round wine biscuits. Actually this was where I learnt to drink coffee – or rather suck it from dunked biscuits. During my three years at high school Michelle didn’t always do what I wanted her to do or keep the secrets I wanted her to keep – but she did always do ‘the right thing’ which was always with my best interests and safety at heart. I recall even spending a period of time “living” with Michelle and her family – I owe them a huge bouquet of gratitude for what they did for me.
During my first year at high School I started getting to know the Wycliffe girls that were in my class particularly Louise Tully, Karen Lynam, Debra Crampton, Suzanne Parsons and Dianne Mckenzie. They all knew each other so well and I was an outsider… but gradually we began to interact not only in class but socially. Louise Tully and I became very close with our friendship extending outside of and beyond High School. Her home was another place where I partook 0f afternoon tea on the way home from school with cups of coffee and Crackers with cheese and Ma Tullys Chutney – still a favourite of mine. Our families were intertwined in other ways and my parents still have contact with Ma Tully to this day.
In my second year at high school I was quite disillusioned with the competitive nature of education system, social structures, friendships and…. oh, everything really. While I had plenty of ability I failed to engage fully leading my teachers to comment that I “could try harder”. I fell in with some new friends who had “fun” lives. They didn’t seem to take themselves or anything too seriously and they were a year older than me with experiences and stories that were exciting. Tracey Barrett and I had a brief but intense friendship that involved skipping school, leaving home and creating mischief at the local police station – no charges were laid!!! We also went on a road trip to Dannevirke, during school time, with my Dad and managed to embarrass him totally in the quiet rural main street. OOps Sorry Dad.
The other friend I “fell in” with was Raewyn Harrington. Raewyn and I were both members of Hawkes Bay Presbyterian Harriers (as was my sister, her brother and a couple of her cousins) and loved having a natter as we gently jogged or strolled the country-side courses. We were regularly at the back of the pack during the runs but loved the social aspects of our membership. Our friendship grew and blossomed. We had sleepovers, attended parties, went on double-dates, confided secrets and shared dreams for our futures. I spent a lot of time at Raewyns with her family and have so many fond memories and photos of our antics. We were such good friends that I dated her brother for a bit and had the honour of being her bridesmaid when she married John.
While I knew lots of people, they seemed to have their own circles that I never really fitted into. While I had some friends – they all came from different circles and didn’t like each other all that much so I felt torn, separate and always on the outer. I started to learn the difference between Solitude, Being alone and Loneliness … and while I loved my friends and their families these years were full of Loneliness and a overwhelming sense that I didn’t belong anywhere.
Having said that, all of these friendships were intense and very real. These ladies helped me, shaped me and supported me as I went from being a school girl to an adult. The open homes of their families with coffee, biscuits, crackers, chutney and a spare bed were places of refuge and safety that my family and I were equally grateful for. Their love and friendship was my strength as I battled the transitions and to all of them I owe thanks that words will never express fully. I can only hope that I was able to benefit them as much as they did me and that I can do for others what they did for me.
There was another familiar face in my class at the start of high school – Susan Mills from Westshore and we sort of knew each other through our families. I don’t recall us being ‘friends’ at school but we did work on some projects together and always got along really well. Oddly enough, out of all of these friendships it is only Susan with whom I have any sort of contact, as as a friend on my facebook.
The transient nature of school friendships and the loss of these people from my life saddens me – please, if you know where my friends are now, share this with them.