In their haste to go swimming at a friend’s house today, my three favorite children left the kitchen a complete mess; apparently there’s nothing as scary to my kids than a clean dishwasher. I have a lot of work to do today but, since I have a Ph.D. in procrastination, I decided to clean the kitchen. While I did, I put on Jimmy Buffett’s Banana Wind album—I may not be lounging poolside like my offspring, but I can pretend damnit.
On comes track three, School Boy Heart. I forgot how much I love this easy going song, which starts off with
“I got a school boy heart
A novelist eye…”
Say no more. I know I have the former and like to believe I also have the later (having published seven novels). Last week, this 45 year old man with a school boy heart and novelist’s eye found himself at his alma mater watching his three kids graduate—my school boy heart was full that day, though I was filled with a number of emotions during the ceremony:
- Proud of my children for all they accomplished (each had one numerous awards and one was the Salutatorian).
- Happy that they were able to have an in-person graduation ceremony during the COVID-19 pandemic (note, the school adhered to all state guidelines to pull this off as safely as possible).
- Excited to see all of their friends (and their parents), most of whom we’ve known since grammar school.
- Sad that this would be the last graduating class of Trinity Catholic High School.
When I look back, the school and its teachers had a profound impact on my life. When I think about who I was when I entered the school in the Fall of 1988, I wasn’t involved in many school activities (aside from academics) and feel in many ways as if I were asleep. Cliques formed, and I wasn’t anywhere near the popular ones. Parties, what were those?
Then I started to get involved in the theatre arts team, model United Nations, and, eventually, found a love of running after joining the cross country team. I had awoken and left as a completely different person than I was four years prior—like a snake that had shed its skin.
When I look back on my time at Stamford/Trinity Catholic High School one of the things I will always treasure is the push that some of my teachers gave to find elements of faith in popular culture. Two teachers stand out; my music teacher Marie Corsaut (also our theatre director) and my spiritual advisor and religion teacher Fr. Bert.
Mrs. Corsaut always challenged us to bring in popular music and to find a connection with our Catholic Faith. I remember bringing in Def Leppard’s Hysteria album (make that cassette tape) and she analyzed the cover art making a link between the triangle on the front and the holy Trinity. I’m not sure that’s what the artist intended it to represent, but art is subjective, isn’t it? Regardless, it was a lesson I never forgot.
Fr. Bert, on the other hand, introduced me to the spiritual side of my favorite band, U2. One day in class he played Love Rescue Me from Rattle and Hum. Co-written with Bob Dylan, the song quotes scripture and a wandering feel to it—as if the singer is searching for the faith that may have left him:
Yea, though I walk
In the valley of shadow
Yea, I will fear no evil
I have cursed thy rod and staff
They no longer comfort me
Love rescue me
Having been to more than my fair share of funerals in my life, I recognized the reference to Psalm 23:4, which is often read during a mass of Christian burial.
Last Thursday’s graduation ceremony wasn’t just a sendoff of our seniors; it was a funeral of sorts. The last official event the school will have. People are hard at work cleaning out the school. Scavengers from other schools in the diocese are coming in to pick over furniture and technology, and social media accounts for the school will likely be archived.
I’ve gone through the 5 stages of grief over the loss of the school:
- Denial. The Bishop can’t really close the only Catholic high school serving lower fairfield county and parts of Westchester county, can he? Certainly not after we helped him raise all that money for the Foundations in Education fund. No way, not going to happen!
- Anger. See if the diocese gets any more of my money. I’ll just give all the more to my parish!
- Bargaining. Come on, what if we work together to do a sales blitz for the school? We can buy at least one more year, can’t we?
- Depression. This just sucks.
- Acceptance. Well, I guess this is just the way of the world. The Church may want to consider getting out of the K-12 education business, or at least letting business minded people run that side of the organization.
As the news is now many months old, I really have come to understand the decision that was made. Inspired by Ecclesiates, The Byrds sang, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
While I do not believe that the season for higher Catholic education has come and gone in Fairfield County, the season for Trinity Catholic clearly has. I’m grateful for all the teachers and staff who have impacted my life and the lives of my children. I am indebted to those administrators, educators, coaches, and advisors who helped wake up a sleeping child and mold him into a man with a school boy heart and novelist eye.