I’m especially proud of my secondary school alma mater, Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. The co-ed school, founded in 1960, turned out a Supreme Court justice (Sonia Sotomayor) and kicked out a Catholic playwright (John Patrick Shanley). Along the way there have been politicians, astronauts, lawyer, businesspersons, police and firefighters, teachers and a lot of other really good people, most of whom never forget their roots.
Lucia Viti is a classmate of mine from 1978, and earlier this year she published “Dr. Tom’s War — a Daughter’s Journey.” Lucy’s dad was a physician who had served with the Marines in Vietnam, and after his death she came upon correspondence and documentation of his related to that period. The book the resulted from that discovery gave her insight into her father, as well. I’ve just ordered my copy from Amazon and passed the word onto classmates about it. I can’t wait to read it.
Tracking down classmates for a reunion a few years ago — Lucia among them — was a revealing and cathartic experience for me. In phone and email communication, sometimes with people I’d never even talked to in our four years of sharing hallways and classrooms, I learned a lot about not judging someone until you’ve walked in his or her shoes. The jocks, the popular girls, the cheerleaders, twirlers, geeks, student council leaders, theater folk — they all were dealing with their own private issues.
One twirler told me she hated high school. Since I’d always lusted after the twirling talent and adorable outfit twirlers got to display, I was shocked. Another beautiful girl told me of a prom date who’d dumped her a few days before for someone else. Several other classmates told tales of broken homes, alcohol and drug abuse, failed marriages, confused sexual identity, bullying, deaths of children, spouses and parents. Several classmates have committed suicide, leaving questions for the rest of us.
Of the 540 people I graduated with, I would venture to say there is no one who didn’t have his or her issues then and now. They might have hidden them well — as I apparently did, too. But you never really know what the athlete or cheerleader’s life is like until you live it. Those years I spent wistfully wishing I was prettier, more athletic, more popular? I realize now, 33 or so years later, that everyone had a wishlist.
Anyway, check out Lucy’s book. I have a feeling it will be well worth the time.