Monday, July 4, 2011

Hometown Memories: Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Although we were pretty good kids throughout our high school years, my friends and I were far from being angels. And while I’ll concede that being disobedient and somewhat mischievous wasn’t the right way to behave, our crimes were minor offenses – we didn’t break the law or take drugs or join gangs – so I don’t feel very guilty about those years.

One of our worst offenses was skipping school, something we did often, especially during the last two years of high school. We did it in order to spend time with our friends, to do some of the things we weren’t permitted to do otherwise – like hang out with boys. We all came from strict, traditional families therefore it was the only way to enjoy a slight taste of freedom.

That being said, I’d like to share with you one of the most memorable moments of skipping school. There’s nothing earth shattering about it, really, but it’s an amusing memory, funny enough to warrant a spot on this blog.

A very old friend of mine, let’s call her M, has one of the most creative minds I know. From an early age, she had the ability to fabricate stories in no time, and showed signs of being a promising writer, which she became in her later years. In addition, she has the gift of gab, an extroverted personality and a wonderful sense of humor. And it was all these skills that paid off one day for our whole group of friends.

Let’s go back in time...

On a beautiful spring morning in 1980, as we stood outside our school waiting for the bell to ring, a whole bunch of us – boys and girls – decided to play hooky. We chose, instead, to board the city bus and head up to Mount Royal – a 214-hectare (529-acre) park – to spend the day together. So far, so good.

Now, one of the things I need to mention is that whenever we did something ‘inappropriate’ in our neighbourhood, there was always the enormous possibility of getting caught. We lived in an area where people of a similar culture lived, played and attended church together; where everyone knew everyone, or at the very least, everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew your family. So it was extremely risky – if not downright stupid - to be parading your bad behaviour around the streets of this small area where gossip traveled quickly, and would inevitably end up finding your parents. But because it also had an element of danger in it, it was also very exciting. Pulling off a risky scheme like this under your parent’s - and every other ‘old world’ area resident’s nose – was a challenge. It was a heart-pounding, adrenaline-inducing high.

And those heart palpitations that day hit astronomical levels when we got caught by a parent. M’s to be precise. When we boarded the bus, much to our dismay, there was her mother sitting comfortably in one of the seats. Surprised and curious to see us, but especially her daughter, she called out M’s name. (Busted.) We all froze in our tracks. Actually, the girls froze and the boys scurried to the back of the bus. Even the boys in those years understood boy-girl segregation. Nice girls never associated with boys – especially in public areas where the gossip vultures could see them. It wasn’t considered rude if a boy ran off without saying hello to your parents. Rather, it was considered foolish and suicidal to stick around and do otherwise. So the boys ran for cover as the girls froze in their spots, tongue-tied and petrified, a million scenarios playing in our heads of what kind of trouble we’d be faced with at home and at school after M’s mother called all the other mothers to report our misconduct. Except for M. She was cool as a cucumber. She was completely, utterly unfazed. She didn’t bat an eye.

“Hi mom” she said coolly.

“Where are you going?” her mother asked.

“We’re all going on a field trip with the school...” she pointed to all the girls around her (and there were plenty of us that day - trying to hide behind each other). “...for our hairdressing class.”

Then to provide further evidence to back up her story, she pointed to her hairdressing equipment that she was forced to lug around with her that day. M was taking the intensive hairdressing courses offered in school, and because she had nowhere to leave her equipment while skipping classes, she had no choice but to take it all with her that morning – bags and cases galore.

Still cool as a cucumber, and rather convincing, M added “We’re leaving first thing in the morning so we can be back by lunch for our afternoon classes.”

My jaw almost dropped, as I’m sure the jaws of all the other girls almost did, too, but we smiled in unison instead, nodding our heads sheepishly, afraid to speak in case we said something foolish. Or incriminating. Or in case we laughed. Or cried. Her mother’s eyes scanned the hairdressing equipment, traveled from one girl to another - acknowledging those she knew - and then returned to make eye contact with her daughter. We all held our breath as she carried out an intense staring contest with M. It took less than a few seconds for the verdict, but it was the longest few seconds of our young lives. M’s mom finally looked away, smiled from one girl to the other, and wished us all a nice day.

I couldn’t believe it. M had done it; she had convinced her mom that we were on a school field trip. I suppose it kind of made sense since we were such a big group of girls traveling together. And the fact that M had her hairdressing equipment with her certainly didn’t hurt. Even so, I had expected her mom to ask – or demand – to know which adult on the bus was the teacher – or supervisor – traveling with us, responsible for us. But she didn’t. She just took it for granted that there was one. We. Got. Oh. So. Lucky. I gulped air into my lungs, mentally made the sign of the cross, thanked the heavens above for sparing us and promised to be good from now on. At least I’d try, anyway. Next school year.

We were very well-behaved, sitting quietly together, while her mother was on the bus, and made as little eye contact with her as possible. When she finally got off the bus, we let out a collective sigh of relief, and congratulated M on her award-winning performance. Our hero. Our saviour.

We skipped the entire day of school and had the most memorable time together. Did we feel guilty about skipping classes back then? No. We may have felt a little spooked about getting caught. But guilty? Never. That was the thing about us as young teens. We had no worries about our school or the future, or rather how our future was influenced by our school. We were just a bunch of girls that wanted to have fun.

Hit it Cyndi...

This post is for you, M. You know who you are...


  1. Hey! How did you get those photos from my high school, Martha?

  2. I am in tears.... I think you know why... What a memory! I am so impressed... Those moments are unforgotten. Thank God you didn't remember the salami story... no details needed! (and don;t get any ideas missy!)

  3. Too funny! Love how you related this. M sounds like quite a character. Great pics.

  4. I love the photos!
    Ahhh,those were the days...

  5. What a wonderful story, Martha! And you told it so well. I was laughing throughout...and cringing a bit, as well, because every time I ever tried to do something even slightly naughty when I was young, I got caught. I think I needed somebody like M around to cover for me, haha.

    Okay, now I'm really wanting to hear the salami story that Hellas Frappe alludes to...

  6. @Debra: We sure were at times :)


    @Liza: I've no doubt we all have very similar photos from high school.


    @ Hellas Frappe: Those moments are precious. And we have so many of them, don't we? Of course I remember the salami story! The question is: Will I ever write about it? Maybe I should leave that up to you. We'll see....


    @LaelShine: Those were definitely the days. Good, good times...


    @Beth: We all needed somebody like M around in our younger years. Maybe even our older ones :) The salami story is another funny incident that I'd forgotten about. There are so many funny moments that I'd like to share on this blog. I'll have to think about which ones to add.

  7. That's a great story. How well I remember the terror of being found out... However, I learned that parents aren't always as gullible as we thought, on a few occasions my parents knew what was going on, but didn't consider the infraction worth getting into a fight over. Is there a chance she knew, and just gave you a break?

  8. Tatiana, there may have been a couple of things our parents wouldn't make a big deal over, but this wouldn't be one of them. Our parents were strict with their girls, and there's no way they would accept us skipping school and running around town doing lord knows what with lord knows who.

  9. @Jane: How did I miss you up there? You got squished between everyone :)

    Yup, M was quite the character. She still is, and we're still great friends after so many years.