Saturday, May 24, 2008

Do you remember...?

I’ve recently reconnected with some old friends from The Philadelphia School, my progressive hippie dippy elementary educational school.

It started with Jacob (now Jake) Tapper. He found me on, where else, Facebook. Apparently we had our first date in junior high. We went to see “Jaws II” and he put his hand in my Coke; not like the movie “Diner” where, well, something else markedly un-hand like went in the popcorn. I believe his hand in my Coke was accidental. Though I can’t be sure because I don’t remember this so-called date that turned into a non-date because we were somehow joined by several other kids from TPS, as we called our beloved school. Today, he’s mock heartbroken that I don’t recall this monumental date of ours. After much prodding I do remember him in his Philadelphia Fliers jersey doing Richard Nixon impressions. His political astuteness has served him well; he's a national correspondent for ABC News. I'm sure he was quite a kid - smart, interesting, funny, kind - as he's quite an adult. I wish I remembered more.

Jake re-introduced me to Liz Cohen. Now Elisabeth LaMotte. I nearly choked to death on a butterscotch candy at her house in seventh grade. Someone - her mother? - performed the Heimlich and the candy was gently and un-dramatically brought forth, allowing me to breathe again. My throat was bruised for days after, a reminder of my near-death experience in her oh-so-swanky center city townhouse. We both remember this incident with fondness, despite the scariness of it back then. Liz, however, also quite impressively remembers every word of a student-scribed song we used to sing at TPS about our favorite Phillie baseball player, Steve Carlton. I have no recollection of this ditty though I do remember our city’s famous lefty pitcher.

His number's thirty two and he makes the batters boo; He always strikes them out with never any doubt; He comes to every game and he's gained a lot of fame; He doesn't hesitate to close the gate and win the game; Steve Carlton, always doin fine Steve Carlton, fastest of his kind Steve Carlton, will never be outdone Steve Carlton, always -- number one!

Liz re-introduced me to Susan Levine, Zahavah or “Z” today. Susan was impossibly cool and sophisticated. She was in the KISS club (Ace Frehley), had a boyfriend, took public transportation and taught me the ways of crank phone calls. We spent an afternoon in “Is your refrigerator running” hysterics after school one day when, I apparently did not have gymnastics practice. I recently got in touch with Zahavah through Liz. She lives in San Francisco, about 2 miles from me. She is impressively accomplished as legal counsel for YouTube and just as cool as ever.

And finally, they all brought me to Liz Spikol. Another TPS-er, Liz was recently featured in the New York Times for her writing, video blogging and general outspoken-ness on bipolar disorder. She fondly remembers my favorite teacher from back then, Lisa. I recall Lisa being worldly and enthusiastic, a curly-haired hippie in flowy skirts. Liz remembers her outfits differently, though we agree on her general appearance.

"She had brown wavy hair. She was really nice and was quick to laugh. She used to wear an off-white sweater and brown pants."

I guess Lisa had brown pants and hippie skirts. Or maybe not.

Liz Lamotte seems to recall that I, along with Zahavah, killed our class bird Chico, the Spanish-speaking parrot. Z and I let him out of the cage, allowing him to walk atop the lattice, where he fell between the bars and hurt his little bird legs. He died soon thereafter, I’m told. Liz felt left out, not having been bonded for life with Z and me in this tragedy. I don’t remember any of this. Not the faintest, “Yeah, that sounds familiar.” Nothing. In fact, I am likely getting the details of this avian murder all wrong because I don’t remember there even being a linguistically gifted Latino "pajaro" in our classroom. Still, I have no doubt this poor flapper died because of my carelessness.

Apparently, I don't remember every detail of my youth. I killed a bird, went on a date with the now famous Jake Tapper and had a whole bunch of teachers that I have only the fuzziest, if any, recollection of. They include: John the mountain man, Betsy somebody with red hair, Nancy someone with who knows what color hair, Tossi the music teacher (remember the name but not her – how could you forget that name?!) and Ellen the principal. There were also disco skating parties, spin the bottle sessions, ice skating at the Farm (our urban school’s way of getting us in touch with nature) and dramatic performances of Antigone. Nope. No memory. Perhaps I just wasn’t invited which jibes more with my recollection of not feeling like I fit in with all these cool city kids. Though I now know they didn't see me as I saw myself (nerdy suburban doofus with no idea who KISS was); to them I was some sort of flipping golden girl with loads of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and a mom who drove a white Camaro (still not sure if kids thought this was cool or pathetic) to haul me off to gymnastics practice before class was officially dismissed.

Funny thing, memory. Perspective driven, it is strange and slippery and prismatic. What is indelible to some, is non-existent to others. Two people can stand side by side and experience an event completely differently. Or one may not remember it at all. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen. May Chico rest in peace.

1 comment:

KA said...

Hi Jen,

I'm feeling a bit spastic about this blogging thing as I tried to post one and it seems to not have worked - hopefully second time's a charm.

Given your hazy TPS memory, you likely do not remember me, but I am Liz Cohen/LaMotte's younger sister, Kathyanne. I vividly remember when you nearly choked to death on the butterscotch candy in our home and our mother performed the Heimlich on you finally allowing you to breath again.

Perspective driven memory is a funny thing. What I find so striking about your blog entry is that you saw yourself as a "nerdy suburban dufus" because I absolutely idolized you as the most beautiful blond haired girl who could effortlessly flip down any TPS hallway - while I was an ordinary girl struggling to master the cartwheel.

In any event, I just finished your book and found it so interesting, moving and intense. I'm glad that you are doing so well and just wanted to say hello and wish you the best.