Forty Days Revisited, Day 22–Reminiscences

Florence, Clare, Josephine, Stella, Rose (and even Alice)—the first names of five women, then girls, with whom I went to boarding school in Uganda. The fact that their names (I omitted their last names, even though I remember them quite clearly) is remarkable given that I have not seen or spoken to any of them since I left Uganda 46 years ago.

I just now googled Florence, typing in her name, only to discover that she died in 2002. When I looked for more information, I was asked if I wanted to subscribe to an African news service to read the full story. I felt an interesting pang of regret that, in these days of easy and instantaneous global connection, I never looked for or reached out to Florence or any of the other girls for that matter. Florence had been class prefect for our grade level—the S2As—who were forever getting in trouble, thereby getting Florence in trouble.

     “Banange, girls!” She would utter in exasperation, “can you all please quiet down before we all get in trouble..again?”

Her reasonable admonitions never seemed to do much good, we were always perennially in trouble. Sister Victoire Kennedy, an Irish nun and the headmistress of the school would sweep in to our classroom after another breach of good behavior, assigning chores as punishment, always exempting me as “the new girl” who clearly hadn’t had time to be corrupted by the evil influences running rampant through the S2As.  I only ever had contact with two of the girls—Stella and Josephine—after we left Uganda and returned to the US. For that time to have had such a profound impact on my young life, it’s interesting to find myself reminiscing about those days after all these years.

It’s fascinating how random things can trigger specific memories. This morning on my commute to work a song came on the radio and I was instantly transported back in time. My then four-year-old daughter was sitting in the passenger seat of our big white van as we drove to South Bend to visit my mother. We were just going down for the day, enjoying the time together without “the boys,” listening to music as we rode along. When that song came on, we sang really loud and did all of our hand signals that we’d made up to accompany it. That had been a sweet day, and a sweet time with my daughter and my mother, who’d died a few months later. That was as real to me in the moment as I drove this morning as if it had just happened.

Time is a funny thing. It plays tricks on us, making us believe,if only briefly, that something that happened 20 years ago just happened, or that girls you hadn’t spoken to suddenly popped into your consciousness as if i were yesterday, not over four decades ago. Such interesting and random reminiscences that still have the power to move and touch us.

During these 40 days, I think about Jesus a lot. What did he know, think about, remember? Did the “son of God” have a photographic memory? Did he know and remember everything that ever happened to him from the time he was born and laid into the straw of the manger? Or was he the “son of man” who was most ways just like the rest of us: learning from the things he experienced, remembering snatches of conversations and interactions with his “stepfather” and his half siblings? As I described in an earlier post (Day 11, One Thing Jesus Didn’t Do) he never grew old. He died at approximately 33 years old.  So he didn’t have 46 year old memories, or a best friend of 40 years, or any of those things some of us older folks have. His memories would have been compressed into the 33 years he walked on the planet.

I will spend some time searching for those girls from my boarding school days. I may not find them, but I will remember them. And by recording their stories here, I keep a little piece of them alive. And so the journey continues.

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