Part 3 - From Prep School to Boston: Happy Endings

For those of you whom have yet to read the first two parts, you might want to skip down!
And now for the finale. (More is being written for the memoir.)


The summer before my senior year turned out to be a really good one.

Almost as soon as I touched down in New York we packed up the car and headed for Newport. I spent my days swimming in the pool and playing tennis at The Tennis Hall of Fame where I had been taking lessons for years.

I took sailing lessons at the Ida Lewis Yacht club and made friends with two girls who were American but lived in London. The coincidence of it all! I put myself on a strict diet and between all the exercise and my very limited (500 calories a day) the pounds came flying off.

I was beginning to look and feel like me. I had a social life again and while my summer would never be what it was the year before – (Had it only been a year? It seemed as though decades had passed.) I started to get a little spring in my step again. I think I lost 25 or 30 pounds that summer. I still wasn’t quite as slim as I had been, but I was well on my way and almost there.

As the summer drew to a close we returned to New York to prepare for school. I was rather excited about it all. Mother had given me her credit cards so I could go shopping at Bloomingdale's and Macy’s and Lord & Taylor’s. I required a whole new wardrobe. Shopping was so very much fun! Packing to return to school in England was so very much fun. I was going to have a great year. I could tell!

The flight over was a vastly different experience from the one a year earlier. This time I had picked my room, my roommate and my dorm. Where last year everything had been so very out of my control, this year everything was within my control.

I could tell from the way La Jolie Grandmère greeted me that she was both pleased and proud of my progress. I cannot tell you how wonderful that made me feel!

She still talked about weight and calories and had a certain code. But this was how she was. She was always very careful regarding her own weight. While she adored fine food and ate only the best, she ate like a bird. She always claimed that she needed to keep her weight down so that her husband and chauffeur could better push her around in her wheel chair, though I am pretty certain that she would have eaten this way had she not been wheel chair bound. She was very conscientious about her weight, image and appearance.

This was how and who she was.

I was eager to get back to school and see my dorm and my friends. The girls were shocked and amazed at home I was able to transform myself so drastically. Compliments flowed like champagne on New Year’s Eve. Even the cold and crusty members of the faculty noticed and complimented and commended me. Everyone was eager to borrow my new clothes. How wonderful it was to be able to share clothes with my friends. How wonderful it was to be able to wear the same clothes and the same sizes!

I adapted a healthier lifestyle. The diet had gone by the wayside, but I had a decent control over what I was eating … I didn’t deny myself anything, I was just careful not to go too overboard. A few of the pounds came back on, but nothing too terrible. I was neither uncomfortable nor terribly concerned. I was having fun. This was my senior year, after all!

My friends and I played tennis in the late afternoons after classes were over. We’d grab a quite bite to eat at tea time and head out to the courts.

One day in late October or early November I had neglected to clear a ball that had landed near the net which resulted in my slipping on it and toppling over. My ankle swelled up immediately. I thought I was going to throw up and I couldn’t put any weight on it. I somehow got to the infirmary and was given crutches. The following day I go to experience the lovely British Health System and went to a doctor to have a good look at my ankle. He declared it a bad sprain and sent me on my way. No X-rays, no physical therapy no nothing.To this day I wonder if something had indeed broken.( It’s never been right and at the end of every day, especially the long ones, it blows up all over again.)

After that (and what would be the first of many ankle injuries) I led a more sedentary life once again. I began to eat again. And once again the weight returned. Somehow. I don’t remember the small warning signs I had had the year before, as this time it seemed to happen suddenly and over night. As though the very moment when my ankle went “crack” the weight piled back on. It was so maddening and disheartening. Once again I had lost all control. And of course with the weight gain come sadness and insecurity and the desire and need to have something fuel that vacancy… and food became again, my best friend.

I saw the disappointment again in the eyes of my mother and my grandmother. I didn’t know what would be done… what could be done. I was resolved to enjoying my last few months there and no one was going to discourage me. I was going to travel to Paris with my Art History class and see some sights in England.I also had to figure out this thing called College Applications.

Since I was the only American Border at the school I had no direction or guidance to help with my college applications. My Hewitt transcripts were mediocre at best and since I would not be taking my A-Level exams until the end of June I had no grades to supply with my applications. The whole thing was a sordid and lousy mess. I was absolutely positive that I would not be going to college anywhere. And I would be damned if I was going to have to end up repeating a year back home after all my hard work and efforts. After everything I had been through.

La Jolie Grandmère, of course, and Larry were incredibly well connected. I could go to Oxford University, they assured me, or RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) since art and drama were my “things.” Why thank you ever so much Beautiful Grandmother, and as flattered and humbled and gracious as I am by the gesture of your offers, A) I could not get into Oxford University no matter how well connected you are and no matter how many colleges where Larry is a Fellow… no more than B) would I ever make it into the esteemed and reputable RADA on my own merits even with all your clout and pull. But really even if I could, I really just want to go home, back to the States.

And I was left in a panic.

Where would I go? What would I do? Without the guise of a guidance counselor I filled and submitted my own applications. I had brought some college books with me from home and decided to send applications to those places I liked the most. I really had no idea what I was doing! In the mail my replies were the same; thank you but no thank you… we cannot make any acceptances without proper transcripts. And since no one in the UK, it seemed, knew what to do with me or what a bloody transcript was, I wasn’t going anywhere.

One day my mother happened to be talking to a friend of hers, an artist also living in the city, who mentioned this small liberal arts women’s college in the tony Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill. My mother decided to call and inquire. They had a rolling admissions policy and liked what they saw of me on paper. Sight unseen I was accepted and would be attending college in Boston in the fall.

I was relieved that I had somewhere to go and was able to enjoy the rest of the year travelling across the country, across Europe and having fun.

While my years in England were certainly not my best, I did have some wonderful experiences and opportunities that I never would have otherwise had. This experience, pain and all, was, I would one day learn, instrumental in helping me to become the person I am today.

Without the bad one does not get to experience the good. My years in England were, perhaps, one great big juxtaposition.

The following September I was to start college in Boston where I would be a freshman, a member of the class of 1989. My grandmother was thrilled. I would love Boston, she told me. Chestnut Hill was a lovely town and her sister lived just down the road from what would be my school in a big beautiful home. Her husband, now retired, was a reputable and well loved doctor, who practiced at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and taught at Harvard. I should be sure to visit them!

I was a little wary about this new school and determined to transfer out immediately to the well known college on the other side of Route 9. What I did not expect, however, was to find what I did at that small school. I found life-long friends, security; warm, caring understanding teachers and faculty that would help set me on my way. In that small women’s college I truly found happiness.

And if I needed to scream and cry and complain I found people in whom I could trust to listen to me and offer me encouraging words of support. Of course I had my issues and battles and insecurities but I wasn’t fighting them alone.

For all that I did not have in England I had in Boston. I immediately recognized this and decided I need not transfer to a larger, more competitive, more popular school…

I needed what was there in front of me. I needed to join the school newspaper and the yearbook and the tennis team. I needed to have my Freshman English teacher praise me and put me in the advanced writing section. I needed to have my Personal Journalism teacher praise my essay about La Jolie Grandmère. (She begged me to publish it in the school paper, but I declined. It was too personal and I wasn’t ready to share the story.) I needed my friends and I needed the fact that they needed me.

I needed to be asked to join the student Government Association. I needed to stay out all night long on the weekends with my friends. I needed to meet these girls. I needed them in my life. I needed the laughter we shared and the memories we were busy creating. I needed that they made me feel good and special and smart. I needed the boyfriends… the good ones and the losers!

I needed to be able to The Boathouse Bar every night during the week and then decide to stay in the dorm scrap-booking on Saturday nights with my friend Cathy while everyone else went out… I needed to go to the parties at Harvard and BU and Babson and BC. I needed to go out for pizza in the middle of the night. I needed to do some things that might have gotten me into trouble had we gotten caught. I needed to goof off and completely forget about an exam… I needed to make honor roll. In short I needed everything that small school had to offer me.

Most of all I needed my girlfriends. All of them. My girls would stick with me through thick and thin. You girls all know who you are... You all know that after 20 years I love you each as much I loved you back then. We've gone off and disappeared for a while and had careers and babies and cancer and miscarriages and we've shared laughter and tears. And when we reconnect after not seeing each other for so long, it amazes me that we can pick right up from where we left off. So if my not so happy years across the Pond meant I would find you all... then each and every second over there there... the good, the bad, the ugly and the horrific were all so very well worth it!

This small, all women’s liberal arts college built me back up to where I once was, and then something else happened. Graduation! Suddenly all that self esteem and self confidence I had when I wore my black cap and robe dissolved the moment I had to enter the real world and compete with all the other recent college graduates vying for the same position.I was facing another great period of change and unknown in my life. How I hate change! How I still hate the unknown!

At 21 I did not have the confidence to boast that my abilities were superior. This would take time and age and maturity. Furthermore, even though I was newly equipped with a shiny new BA I had no idea what the hell I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I went on interviews that had been set up by my parents and family friends. I had some really good opportunities with some of Boston’s leading corporations and financial institutions. In the end I turned them all down. I turned down opportunities that in retrospect I shouldn’t have. My insecurity was my greatest enemy… and I was young still. More than anything I was driven by an urge to follow my creative side as ridiculous as it may sound now.

That first year, after graduation, in Boston, was a difficult one and once again I felt as though I did not belong. Boston was a strange place to be at that point in my life. I was no longer one of the hundreds of thousands of college co-eds that called the city their home, and I was not yet part of the working crowd.

Late that spring I decided to bid my college town a fond farewell and pack up all my belongings and move into to my parents home in Newport for the summer where I had a job waiting for me at The Tennis Hall of Fame, a place as comfortable to me as my own home – a place I spent much of my time in my youth playing tennis, and worked during the summers while I was in college. I was thrilled to be back there.

It felt like home. When the tournaments were over I headed over to New Haven to work for a tennis event there. That event was so insignificant in my life but yet would set the path down which I would travel and pave the way to my future.

In light of it all, how could I harbor any regrets? Sure I had some bumps in the road but who doesn't? And if not for those bumps I would not have found the happiness that my girlfriends...and in my life, in Boston and beyond.