Subject: [class59] An Old Photo
Estes Park was my fifth WOSA reunion and I find myself asking why I go to these events. One reason, of course, is to see old friends but I also find these reunions are a time for evaluating my progress through life.
The first major reunion I went to was the one for just our class in Tennessee in 1982. I did most of the work of finding people for that event motivated, I think, by the need to reconnect with my childhood so different from the childhoods of anyone I knew here in Eugene. I didn't realize how intense that experience was going to be until I got there and found myself at home for the first time in 23 years. When I left I felt overwhelmed by grief because "home" had been snatched away from me again so quickly.
The first WOSA reunion I attended was in Monterey in 1989 and only five people from our class (Li, Norm, Vinode, Kiran and I) attended but the temporary "recreation" of the 50s Landour community seemed even stronger than in 82 because of all the people from other classes there. I also heard for the first time a discussion of TCKs (third culture kids) and began to gain some insight into my feelings. Intellectually, I was glad to hear about all the changes at Woodstock both to its physical plant and in its philosophy (becoming an international school) but in my heart I still felt like I wanted everything to stay just as it was in the 1950s.
Port Townsend 1994, Rhode Island 1999, Abbotsford, BC 2002 and Estes Park followed. Somewhere along the line I read that the loss of my community when I left Landour in 1959 was an unrecognized loss that I needed to grieve and as I did so I found my sadness diminishing on leaving each successive reunion.
Because Estes Park was also the 150th anniversary there was a display of photographs covering much of the school's history. One photograph from 1902 of a group of women, both staff and students, in the days when Woodstock was a girl's school. No one in the picture was identified. However I recognized the picture which is in volume one of the Woodstock history and I knew that the young woman on the extreme right was Gertrude Moss whom many of us remember from the 50s when she was the music cells supervisor. Her death on August 21st, 1957 is recorded on an " In Memoriam" page. She must have been well into her 70s then and she had had a full life as a student and teacher at Woodstock, as a teacher of Bengali girls for many years in Calcutta and then back at Woodstock. She was around for the 100th anniversary celebrations in 1954 and must have thought often about all the changes from the Woodstock she had known more than 50 years earlier.
It occurred to me that at the 200th anniversary celebrations in 2054 there may be a similar display of photographs perhaps even including a 100 year old photo of some of us as we were in the 1950s. I imagined someone looking at that photo, not knowing who any of us were and not knowing that we had all gone on to lead full lives. Thinking about all the changes at Woodstock since our day (now as great as they were during Miss Moss' lifetime), I knew for the first time that I was truly glad in my heart for them. At the same time I recognized that I belong to Woodstock's past and that I am content with that knowledge and if my fate is to appear anonymously in a historic photograph at some far distant gathering than that is altogether fitting and proper.
As for the future, I expect to attend the WOSA reunion in 2009 no matter where it is held since we celebrate our 50th anniversary then. After that I do not know.
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Webber Philip McEldowney