If I Had Only Had…

It’s a perfect day to account for my failings as a writer, quite apart from the practical consideration that I have to teach school today. The call came. It came to me. I’m a class act.

I find myself at one of the real centres of juvenile creativity in Canada, Canterbury High School. It’s a specialized arts school. The annual musical is spectacular, and a far more important event than any number of Big Football Games. (Actually, there is no football at Canterbury. There aren’t even that many boys at CHS; it’s about a 70/30 split. The kids who attend here because they live in the immediate district are also a minority. They’re called “Generals”, as opposed to “Visuals” or “Instrumentals” or “Vocals”, and they can find it a hard place to come in some respects. The place is crammed with keeners who applied from all over the region to come here and dance, sing, play, act, paint, sculpt and write. It may still be the only school in the country with a Literary Arts program. My family’s move to Ottawa five years ago was made, in large measure, because Son the Third had been admitted here as a ninth-grade writer. It was a 500-kilometre move, and an easy decision, finally, and a wonderfully fruitful one.

Replacing Ms. Barkley today, my Dave’s ninth- and twelfth-grade writing guru, I’m in a class where to write myself seems not only possible but necessary. Grade 12s. Supremely pleasant and diligent and highly motivated, which does not suggest that they are not also distracted by the epic conversational possibilities with fellow writers they’ve shared and performed and edited and sweated with for four years now. Still, they don’t need much from me. It’s a strange kind of a high school. It’s beyond okay to be smart, to read, to care about social issues and cultural richness. Among the seniors, it verges on being a requirement, which explains why coming from the school catchment area without actually belonging to the Arts Canterbury crowd can be a bit of a trial. Generals. Of course, it could be a rich and fascinating place to wind up in if, say, you were a smart, sophisticated and confident adolescent, unbounded by cliques and suspicion. In other words, for only a few.

But back to me. (It’s all about me.) I am prone to think, Gosh. Sons One and Two would have been so much more at home or challenged or stimulated by a high school experience like this one. But I am also subject to selfish and exculpatory thoughts: Damn, if I’d been exposed to the idea that writers were real, if I’d had the chance to be among other kids that read as much or more than I did, if I’d been encouraged to write and party ARTY when I was young, I wouldn’t find the literary learning curve so steep in my advancing age. I coulda bin a contendah. I coulda bin a star. Yeah, I just didn’t get the breaks. Sigh. Et cetera.

All of which helps me not at all, but it’s a soothing diversion. And it’s writing, and so am I. And it’s now. And the bell hasn’t even rung yet. Maybe I’ll even get around to posting about the WritersFest, as I recently promised.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *