Thursday, June 25, 2015

One of the Reasons Ronni Was an Angry Teen

Here we are, folks...the entire graduating class of 1966 at Chemainus Secondary School.  That's me in the center of the front row.  I was the shortest in the class, though my hair on that day had cooperated.  Many thanks to Esther Howe and an entire can of hair spray.

Here's what I looked like after we got home from the graduation ceremony:

Sweet, right?  My pretty pastel dress and pink rose corsage, and my fashionable up-do?  Yeah, not so much.  Look at my hands.  Clenched.  I was very, very angry.

In the early spring of 1966, my parents were notified that the possessions we had left in storage in England had been soaked and suffered considerable damage, including a lot of, books, linens, family portraits, glassware and china.  This necessitated a trip to England to sort it all out and Mom was the logical candidate, as Dad couldn't take that long off work.  The trip was paid for with the savings that were supposed to be used for my post-graduation trip to England.  So, yeah...I wasn't thrilled with that circumstance, as, every time I had wanted something in the previous four or five years, I got, "Would you rather go to the movies with your friends or go home to England when you graduate?"

Still, the major relevance here is that Mom was gone when I began to prepare for graduation.  My dad bought me an evening purse, because there was a dance associated with Graduation, albeit three weeks before the actual ceremony.  I cheerfully insisted that I wanted to make my own dress.  Dad was all for that; I promised it would be cheaper than buying one.

He was less than thrilled with the fact that he had to pay for three separate patterns.  The collar was the second one and the sleeves, the third.  I had a VISION, people!  Even so, the patterns, notions, fabric and lining cost less than $20.  Just for reference, the most expensive dress anyone bought off the rack for this event was the one on the girl standing at the far right in the second row...rumour had it that it cost (gasp) $90!  About half the girls made their own dresses in Home Economics class (out of which I had flunked in 8th grade), so it was no big deal that I made my own.  The problem ensued when Mom got back from England, after the dance and before the ceremony.

Mom and I always fought over sewing and she hated the dress, possibly because I made it without any input from her.  She insisted I had done it all wrong, and that she needed to fix it.  The focus of her ire was the blouson bodice that she thought was a mistake.  She must not have looked at the pattern.  In any case, she took the dress apart at the waist and said she would "fix it."  Every time I asked her when it would be done, she about bit my head off.

The day before the ceremony (my 17th birthday), she promised she would have it done in time.

The graduation took place at 2:00 PM in the school gym/auditorium.  Most of the girls were absent that morning, getting their hair done or busy with other last-minute prep.  By about 12:30, we were assembled at the school for a practice run.  My friend Esther had spent the morning in between classes, and lunch hour, doing my hair.  So there I was in my scruffy school dress and my closer-to-god hair, waiting for my parents to show up and the school with my dress so I could accouter myself in the girls' bathroom.  Just the way you want to dress for graduation, right?

By 1:15, teachers and admins were sticking their heads in the bathroom, asking me if I was ready yet.  Still no Mom and Dad.  They finally arrived at 1:40.  Mom pulled my dress out of a paper grocery bag--STILL IN TWO PIECES!!

In between complaining about my hair (too grown up), and my makeup (borrowed because I wasn't allowed to have any), she pinned me into the dress with STRAIGHT PINS, and tied the sash around my waist over the top of them.

Then, she insisted I wear gloves, because the other girls were.  Never mind that my dress was the only one with long sleeves, and one doesn't wear gloves with a long-sleeved formal...I didn't wear them, as you can see in the picture.

I slid into my place about a nanosecond before the music started our slow march up the aisle between the rows of folding chairs to take our places at the front.

After the ceremony, I got my picture taken with the pins sticking into my waist.  Then, it was change clothes and get on with the chores while the rest of the class celebrated with their families and friends.

They did get me the LP of Mary Poppins, but it was unclear whether it was a birthday present or a graduation present.  Oh...and the pink rose corsage was a gift from them.

It's a bit late in life to be pissed at my long-dead parents for things they did in 1966, but I still get an occasional twinge.

Occasions that are supposed to be special frequently aren't.


  1. The whole time I was in school neither of my parents ever turned up for anything. They thought that my life in school was nothing to do with them. Maybe I was the lucky one?

    1. There were many things mine didn't show up for...a dance recital at the dancing school I paid for a year of lessons with birthday money...the hospital benefit show when I sang with a folk group...the two parades, for one of which I won a costume prize (foreshadowing) and the other I rode the student council float because the girl who was supposed to never showed up and I was the only one dressed nicely...