by lorene cary
June 1989:It was fifteen years after Lorene Cary had graduated, and six years after she became a teacher. She was now ending her term as a trustee. She watched 'her kids,' the minority students. One young man, Harlem, still had the gait of an inner city youth. She remembers how he once asked if she would send her daughter to St. Paul's. She remembered how she was wary of John Walker, the first black teacher at St. Paul's and its first black trustee, then the first black Bishop of the D.C. diocese of the Episcopal Church. He died in September of that year. She remembered how she was asked if she liked St. Paul's when she went there. She gave a sour face, and they looked relieved.
Chapter One: Mrs. Evans called one fall night in 1971, after Lorene had just returned from Woolworth's, where she worked at a fountain in "Tacky" Darby. Mrs. Evans was their neighbor, a retired kindergarten teawcher married to a reporter- the first black reporter for the Bulletin. Mr. Evans gave Lorene her first typewriter. She called because she was told by a 'lovely' woman that St. Paul's had recently admitted girls and was looking for black girls. She called the judge, an alumnus who would give her more information, but he wasn't home. He called back and told her about a meeting. The meeting was at Chestnut Hill, a symbol of money and social exclusiveness. She felt the inferiority of Yeadon, her family's area, an enclave of black professionals. They reached the house, and she saw a young, distant boy and his mother, who resembled Coretta Scott King. Jeremy Price, a St. Paul's teacher, tried to make small talk, but he was out of place. Lorene's father was a student of judo, and that always served as an ice-breaker. He had first seen judo in a Cagney film, Blood on the Sun, and loved the power. Lorene was impressed by Mike Russell, a senior who narrated the slide show. Her mother asked about co-education, and they told her about tea dances, which created conflicting images for Lorene. She asked about the grading system, but really asked if it was fair. Mike Russell was very honest about the black students. The mother told about Lorene winning third place with a buoyancy experiment in a science competition, but only after an ordeal with a box.. The Mam's boy asked about things, and was appalled to hear about the phone situation. Their host was Ralph Starr. The mother could not believe how Mrs. Starr had given her toddler peanut butter, which she considered to be the food of poor white trash.
Chapter Two: Carole, her sister, watched them drive off to New Hampshire. Lorene had earlier argued with her mother about socks- she wanted stockings, her mother wanted knee socks. They eventually reached Concord and St. Paul's. They went in (Willard) Scudder House, a white cottage. They put their luggage in their room and met the housekeeper, who three years later would give her five dollars for graduation. Lorene was pleased to think that Willard Scudder would be appalled at a black girl staying there. Lorene took a tour with Mike Russell, and enjoyed the prospect of remaking herself. They went into the Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul, where she thought her God would not fit. Mr. Dick, the admissions officer, met with her and her parents. Then, her parents left and he talked to Lorene. When asked what most attracts her to St. Paul's, she says that she wants to be where it is not uncool to be intelligent. She lies when he asks if she likes school. They discussed books- safe ground for her- but she did not tell him that she was reading The Spook Who Sat by the Door, a story about a murderous token black. Mr. Dick warned her about homework, and she is a bit defiant. After the interview, a senior hits on her. Mr. Price took them to lunch. On the way, Mr. Price found another student, Alma Jean, and had her meet them. They were afraid of fallin on the ice. Alma Jean was from Memphis. She tells them that she appreciates the school, but does not like it. Lorene ate with Lee Bouton, a semi-black girl with a white mother. Lorene felt that SPS (St. Paul's School) was her destiny, just like the special public grade school outside of Lea School. They eventually reached New Jersey, where they picked up Carole. She noticed the pointed crystals from Czechoslovakia- as beautiful as anything she had seen at SPS. SPS reminded her of her grandparents, who belonged to 'dicty' or 'blue-vein' clubs of old, genteel black Philadelphia. In February she completed her application, and used a story about stealing Christmas trees to illustrate her family.
Chapter Three: She was accepted. She first let her two best friends know, and wondered why she was going to SPS and not them, or Tyrone Albert, a football player? She became sentimental and did everything with Karen and Ruthie. She corresponded steadily with SPS and they suggested clothing and questioned the wisdom of signing up for six courses. Nana Hamilton lived in a row house in West Philly. She would often secretly visit her great-grandfather, a weathered man with eye problems. He would repeat his scary stories from Barbados. She was relieved to be leaving the motif of death. During the summer, she worked at Darby full time. Karen worked across the street in John's Bargain store. Before it was time to go, her mother had a talk with her. She told her not to get into any trouble, but if she did, to come to her first, not friends or even her grandparents. She thought about pregnancy, and how she thought about sex at certain times. She left for SPS, and missed her baton. She thought she might be making a terrible decision. They were greeted by Wally Talbot, the president of the Sixth Form. Mr. Oates, the Rector also greeted them. She wished that she could see Mike Russell. She would later find out that Ed Shockley, a black student who graduated with her, was afraid that the white students would attack him in the woods. She began to be unsure about herself and about Mr. Hawley, who looked like Kriss Kringle. At her dorm room, she dusted. She met a Chinese boy who wanted her to go see Fumiko, a newly arrived Japanese girl who needed welcoming. She did, and they agreed to meet again. Lorene had taken a girdle from her mother without telling her, so she refused to let her unpack the clothes, lest she find out. They argued about it.
Chapter Four: After her parents had left, Lorene went into her room to cry. She then washed her face and went to Fumiko's room. She then peeked in the common room, and met two black students- Jimmy Hill and Annette Frazier. Jimmy Hill was extremely skinny, and Annette was a 9th grader that seemed older. They found a place to smoke. Lorene remembered how her mother would 'turn out' department stores and elementary schools. She met Pam Hudson, a new 5th former who cursed liberally. She could not believe that Lorene was cleaning. The next morning, she took and shower and got ready for school. They went to the Rector's and received their instructions. Her teachers were all men: Sr. Fuster, the humorous Spanisht eacher, Mr. Buxton, the athletic English teacher, Mr. Clark, the math teacher. She also had a class in religion, taught by Reverend Ingersoll, whom she had told that the class would be a waste. They had to read four pages of "Dynamics of Faith" by Paul Tillich. Lorene was taking soccer, while Jimmy was taking cross country. Fumiko wanted to teach Lorene basketball. She felt ashamed that she had stereotyped Fumiko. Lorene described the dinner schedule. After dinner, the students would gather around their favorite teachers to talk. Lorene was part of the artsy sophisticate group. There was the first meeting of the Third World Coalition. It was founded by Bernard Cash, who led the group to power. Mr. Price was the only teacher who would attend these meetings. There was sharp but playful bantering. Jose Maldonado now unofficially led the group. Mr. Price lectured them about studies, then left. They then make fun of him. Only Carmen, a Hispanic girl, defended him. Lorene gets tired of hearing about Cash. Years later she learned that Cash felt loneliness.
Chapter Five: Lorene began to dream old dreams. In one, she was naked and surrounded by sepia-colored teddy bears that eventually leered at her. She ran from them and fell off a cliff. When she awoke, she expected to be back on Addison Street in Philadelphia. She also dreamt that she was watching her own funeral. In a third dream, she was walking on the sidewalk toward her friend Siboney while the pavement swallowed her up. The white girls discussed race with her. She feels like she forgot turning SPS out. The 'inside' grades for the Fall Term caught her by surprise. She got two honors and three high passes. Mr. Hawley tried to reassure her. Parents Day came, and it reminded her father of his days at Lincoln University, where Julian Bond went. SPS did not switch to Standard Time until a day later- a metaphor for arrogance. In November her soccer team played one of the boy's club teams. She was incredibly competitive despite her asthma. She broke a short boy's leg. Lorene began to work harder. Exams approached. Her religion exam was the question "Who is Jesus?" Fumiko came home with Lorene during Christmas break. On the bus, she is offered a drink, but refuses. Lorene's mother acts as Fumiko's mother, warning her about dating a Puerto Rican boy she'd met at another prep school. Two nights before returning, she stayed up drinking her mother's Christmas liquor. She leveled with herself: she no longer belonged anywhere.
Chapter Six: Lorene returned to SPS with an agenda: she would earn straight Honors and get elected to student council. She signed up for biology and calculus. Once she was settled, she felt ready to make public her romance with Ricky Lockhart, her pen pal from another prep school. He was a senior, the oldest of three children from Schenectady. He was to visit one weekend and stay in Maldonado's room in Conover House. Lorene also made new friendships with Grace, a Chinese-American third former that moved in with her. Grace was always very precise. On Friday, Ricky called Lorene and told her that he would be there early. She decided to hide him in her room the first night. Another girl, Ruthie Belding, found out. She turned him down, like she had done to Washington and to Russell after prom. Finally, he induces her to sleep in the same bed. She falls asleep, and when she wakes up he was having sex with her. She became hysterical and went to the bathroom to wash herself out. The next day, she acted as if Ricky had just arrived. They took photos. He told her a secret: he had fathered a child. After that, she began to hate Ricky. Her dorm was going to put on "Alice in Wonderland," directed by Janie Saunders, a student. She lived in the most exclusive Simpson enclave and was an angry rebel against her white friends. Lorene became a bit of a kleptomaniac- she once took earrings or would pocket an occasional dollar bill.
Chapter Seven: Simpson did not win the Fiske Cup prize for "Alice." Lorene liked her caterpillar character. She went into overdrive for finals. Doug Ballard invited her to a little finals party, telling her that she looked too tense. She agrees. At the 'party' down by the pond, they try marijuana. Lorene had a delayed reaction to the drugs. They saw a match: it meant that Sr. Ordonez was around. They hide in the snow. When she reached the dorm, she was met by the petite Mandy Butler, who realizes that she was high. Pam Hudson makes her go to bed. After exam week, Lorene began to clean everything out, like the refrigerator. While doing that, she noticed Sara's skis and remarked how she had not yet learned how to ski. Shakespeare's Sonnet 64 made her think of the skis. After cleaning the refrigerator, she went down tot he Lower School Pond. She wanted to see the Black Ice, which was a legend. Ice hockey players always hoped for the black ice. It was the smoothest naturally occurring ice there is. She thought of the trip home. She also thought of Pap's stories about the dark. In that dark, he threw a stick at a white dog and heard it scream. He felt the pain, and the next morning he woke up with a knot of bone on his shoulder. She also thought another story. At night, there was a knock on Horace's door. It was a woman who was too frightened to get home. His wife warned him to take his gun. Outside the door, he could hear the woman say "Your wife saved you." She also thought of the story about Izzy and her father. It did not occur to Lorene until much later that she might not be sitting on Black Ice.
Chapter Eight: When she returned for spring break, nobody else was on vacation. She had failed calculus, yet the rest of her work was excellent. Lorene did not want to 'pass' calculus- she would rather fail than merely 'pass.' When she returned, the ponds were thawing. Her teacher, Mr. Shipman, let her not attend class and instead be tutored privately. She chose crew, led by Mr. Church, for her spring sport. They went out on Big Turkey Pond. Ricky invited her for a weekend at his school. In Mr. Ball's biology lab Lorene learned from Kenny that the body only needed three hours of sleep. Anthony teased Lorene about applying creative writing to biology. People teased her for taking crew. When Lorene visisted Ricky, they went cycling and played basketball. When she returned to SPS, she discussed Ricky with Jimmy. He was disappointed that every girl wanted to be friends instead of lovers. Lorene realized that calculus was not working at all for her. She went to see Mr. Hawley, but instead found Virginia Deane. They had met earlier when Lorene did not wake up during a fire drill. She discusses Mr. Shipman's sexism with Miss Deane. Miss Deane gives her a cold hard reality check. Shortly after, Lorene gets sick because of lack of sleep. She checks into the infirmary, where she is fed ginger ale and Jell-O. Janie suggests that Lorene drop crew. Lorene is nominated for president, but instead opts for vice-president. Peter Starr was elected president, and she was elected VP. She was the first girl officer. She begins to cry because she thought that people thought that there was something dubious about her election, but Tommy Painchaud tries to console her. Lorene asked Alma Howard to room with her for the next year. It was a surprising choice, but Lorene liked that Alma did not hold grudges. They decided to live in North Upper. The Sixth formers graduated, and the Fifth formers rejoiced. She watched Lee Bouton, the first black girl to graduate. She thought of Jose Maldonado.
Chapter Nine: After school ended, Lorene went home and got a job waitressing at the Hearthglow DeVille. The dishwasher there was a drunk former fighter. The cook was Booker. The cooks would play tricks on the waitresses. Another waitress, Elaine, warned Lorene to check everything. A Friday-night polka crowd would often frequent the diner. When Lorene went in the freezer to get butter, the cook followed and trapped her in there. He grabs her arm, covers her face, and then swept his hand down her body. He at last lets her go. When her shift ended, she could barely drive home. The next day, she spoke to the manager, who did not do anything. At last his bosses came in, an Italian man named Jerry and his fancy wife. She spoke to him. He fired the cook the next day. She talks to Booker about the cook after several days of tension. Lorene visited Ricky that summer, and realized that she had no intention of dating him. When she returned home, she threw away his pendant. Ricky had sent her mother a framed picture of him and Lorene for Mother's Day. At work one day, she slips on a spot of grease. Booker asked her out, and she accepted. Her father did not approve. They went to a bar. She noticed how he was tall- six feet, while she was only five-five. She ordered a CC and water, just as Janie had done, while he ordered a boilermaker. Booker told her about getting high in Vietnam, and how he was saved by a blind army buddy. A cab takes them home. The next morning, she rushed to work. She gave Booker his money back, and he remarked how she had class. They never went out again, for they had already seen too much of each other. Lorene and Carole went to the playground behind The Nile, a swim club. They climbed a willow tree. Once, when babysitting Carole and a neighbor boy and girl, Carole hit the girl twice. Lorene took her upstairs, and when Carole yelled that she hate Lorene, she hit her. It was a defining moment. She became one of the adults then. Later, her mother's clan: Nan Hamilton, paralyzed Aunt Emily, Aunt Evelyn, and her great-grandfather, moved to a tract house in Wilmington. Her grandmother loved ferociously- like a lion.
Chapter Ten: On the first day of her Sixth form year, she greeted new students. She talked to new students, particularly minority students. She moved into her nice new dorm- warmer, but with loud radiators. Lorene tried to make a project out of Alma, correcting her in several ways. She began getting more involved in school politics, which separated her a bit from her friends, especially Janie. She argued with Janie in front of her friends. Anthony Wade noticed the change in her, and she considered dating him. She was takingdance, Modern Novels, Spanish, Bio II, and Chemistry. Parents Day was unsettling, because her mother was sick and could not attend. Mr. Oates, the Rector, announced her as the first female officer, and also as a member of the editorial board of the Horae, which she was not. She noticed Ethel Kennedy in the audience. She wet herself while speaking. She lost her place while dancing, but was helped by thinking about Anthony. Lorene decided to apply to Princeton and UPenn. She decided against Stanford because of the distance. Mr. Quirk, the college admissions advisor, wanted her to visit Stanford, but she refused. As her mother's health worsened, Lorene became more erratic, missing appointments and such. Mr. Oates spoke to her about it. She suspected that she was being treated like a volatile compound. She blurts out that her mother was sick. He suggests that she take a long weekend. The next day, she gets a letter from the Rector, telling her to meet with Mr. Price about plane tickets. SPS paid for it. She thanked Mr. Price for everything, such as taking a group of students to Harvard for classes about African history. Lorene arrived at Philadelphia and sees her mother in the hospital. Her sickness was caused by female trouble. Lorene considered her own inability to look weak.
Chapter Eleven: Bruce Chan, who had introduced her to Fumiko, suggested that they begin tutoring some younger students in proper English. She suggests to students that they think for themselves. She realized that she had something to contribute to SPS. Miss Clinton, a new black Spanish teacher, came to teach at SPS. She was tough. Miss Clinton developed a little friendship with Lorene. She was teaching under Mr. Lederer, who spent his sabbatical teaching at North Philadelphia. She had racial discussions, such as one with India Bridgeman, a girl she met through Janie and respected. India played a slave overseer in a SPS production. India finally realized a point Lorene was making about race. They bond over mayonnaise. A SPS alumnus, Archibald Cox, who was involved in the Watergate hearings, visited the campus. Mr. Cox told Lorene that Nixon did not hate black people- he hated the Eastern establishment. Vernon Jordan, president of the National Urban League, also visited. She thought of the scene in Native Son. Jimmy was in trouble. He had stolen cigarettes from a store and was caught. Mr. Price screamed at him. He was suspended for a few days, but not expelled. He was 'brainwashed' after that- and often joked about it, comparing himself to Winston Smith of 1984.
Chapter Twelve: (sorry, summary unfinished L )