The forbidden staircase

Sunday, September 02, 2012

So we decided to get together, 100 in all for a weekend of fun. Many of us had not seen each other in almost 40 years. Names had changed, bodies had assumed different shapes, and faces had aged, but we had one thing in common, we were convent girls.

On the first day we were treated to a tour of the school. About 30 of us participated, and as we congregated in the courtyard, the noisy chatter filled the air. Were we that noisy when we were students? Somehow I doubted it; but everyone was so delighted to see each other, some trying desperately to connect names with faces. Many of us settled for hugs and hopes that our memories will return before the weekend was over.

After touring the chapel, we made our way through the school buildings, excited to see old classrooms, charmed by the improvements that had occurred since we left. We were surprised to find air conditioning. How did we manage without it, some of us wondered. We marveled at the high tech classrooms and the fact that the area that was once the domain of the senior students was now home for the nuns. Eventually we reached the forbidden stairs.

Forbidden stairs, you might ask, and as one of my friends did ask, "why was it forbidden?" Well to this day we are not sure and no one had an answer. Back then, we obeyed without question. Well, at least some of us did. I'm thinking that maybe it was a decision based on a hierarchical structure, or maybe they were too close to the nuns' residence. Maybe they wanted an area exclusively for the staff and administration; or maybe they were afraid that we would have worn down the beautiful carpet and scuffed the highly polished staircase. But forbidden it was, and we were disciplined, as I was, if we were ever caught on them.

We lingered at the top of the staircase, and some in our group continued around to the other. As we faced each other, the discussion turned to boasts of how many managed to traverse those stairs without being caught. We shouted our successes across the stairs. Then the suggestion was made, why don't we all go down the stairs. First one of my classmates ventured, and then another, and then I took a turn. Before we knew it everyone started walking down the stairs, and our tour guide, the current vice principal, who was younger than we were, found herself with a handful of cameras taking pictures of us as we walked down the forbidden staircase.

So after 39 years we finally walked down the stairs that had remained off-limits during our high school years. This time we would not be disciplined. We were once again young ladies, jubilant in our togetherness, happy to be back at our alma mater. It was a beautiful 3-day reunion which welcomed back classmates from Australia, England, Scotland, Nigeria, South Africa, the United States, Canada, and other countries, as well as those who decided to remain in Trinidad and/or Tobago. For me it was priceless spending time and catching up with former classmates. I had a wonderful time. It was definitely well worth the 9 hours (6 in the air) travel to Trinidad.

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