Schools for Girls

Dear Leo and Miller,

I loved school. Some of the happiest memories I have are from my school days and I expect I will write a lot about them in these letters. The first school I went to was a convent school and many of the teachers were nuns. It didn’t seem strange at the time but looking back, I suppose was and it will seem very strange to you two. On my first day at La Sagesse, aged 3, I met Lucy and we swiftly became best friends. Miller, that is one of your godmothers. I have photographs of us doing ballet, performing in the nativity play and at various birthday parties (in questionable tracksuits) through the years. I hope you both meet friends early in your childhood who you stick with for life because know one knows you like they do. Cling to them and make time for them. I always say the true test of friendship is if you’re both happy to sit and do nothing but watch TV together. Like grounded teenagers. Maybe occasionally saying something but mainly just hanging out in total silence. Over our shared history, Lucy and I have spent full days together only watching TV with very few words spoken. The last time she came to stay (which she does for one night, every year, between Christmas and New Year) we just watched films trailers. Dozens of trailers on Apple TV for hours and we had a blast. That’s true friendship.

When I was 11, I moved to a different school, another school for girls. We walk past it now all the time because it’s very near our house. Last week, I saw a small gold plaque in the garden area in front of the building I think used to be the six form common room. The building itself is now up for sale and looked very decrepit and sad which made me pay more attention than usual. I had never noticed the plaque before. It read: In Loving Memory of Sara Bernstone who was a pupil here between 1997 – 2007 ‘I think paper cuts absolutely wreck and you get no sympathy because most of the time you can’t even see the damn things.’

I left that school in 1998 and I didn’t  know Sara Bernstone but I keep thinking about this plaque dedicated to her. The quote about the paper cut must have been her words and someone who loved her (her parents? her school friends?) must have chosen those words to remember her by. They’re funny and open and light-hearted and presumably that’s exactly the way she was. It didn’t make me sad to read that plaque, it made me smile and I thought, that’s what I want these letters to do. I want them to sound like me and make you smile. So instead of trying to be dramatic and poignant, which, I’m going to be honest, is exhausting to keep up on a regular basis, I’m going to write like how I am – which is light-hearted and open and hopefully funny. I keep telling you both to play to your strengths, so I will also play to mine.

Thank you Sara Bernstone, whoever you are. I hope you had as good a time at Central High as I did.

Love Mum.

PS – I can be serious too. Just maybe not once a week.