Every now and then I put on a pair of boots, pretend they’re ruby slippers, and I bump my ankles together, whispering, “there’s no place like GCA, there’s no place like GCA”.
And there truly isn’t. There just isn’t.
I’ll always tell the trivial anecdotes along with the noteworthy ones, I mean, how could I ever refrain? I’m homesick for GCA, and constantly feel a force in my cut that keeps calling me back to my beloved school. Others should know that Good Counsel Academy was the greatest community a group of girls could ever have and I’m so glad to have been exposed to a perfect example of said community.
The first memory I had concerning good ol’ GCA was the first day of orientation freshman year. My mom drove me down to the picturesque campus that day before the clock struck 8am, as she continued doing for everyday for four years, bless her heart. I was too tense to take a nap during the ride as my mind was scattered but contained within the speedy automobile, instead I began silently tapping my fingers on the glass my breath fogged up. Then again, it was my first day at a new school, I knew a grand total of zero people, and on the first day of orientation God came down and said ‘give this one acne’.
Adele’s latest hit came on the radio then, as we drove up to a stoplight. Keep in mind, this was back in 2011 so no, the hit was not Hello, rather, it was chef-d’oeuvre Rolling in the Deep, here to help me rise from the dead. My head rested on the glass window, which coincidentally was hazy from my heavy breathing. Just as I wiped away a smear, and the beat to the song dropped, I spotted a woman out the window whose body was popping and locking and absolutely polka-dotting along to the infectious tune. This wasn’t even purposefully, as the window was closed and she couldn’t hear the song, but for some reason, that was my antidote. Chin up, I figured. It’s not even 8 in the morning yet that glorious incident happened. The whole day is out there – there is so much more ahead.
My sophomore year had its ups and downs, nevertheless, I met some of my best friends that year, and strengthened relationships with those I met freshman year. One of the best occurrences, though, can only be told a specific way. Here I go. It was a day like any other in my history class towards the end of the lecture. I sat in the back of the room behind my friend Geena, who I occasionally reprimand for the spelling of her name (I love her, nonetheless), taking notes as everybody else was, when all of a sudden, the sound of screaming girls could be heard. My teacher, a strong-headed, intellectual woman who was essentially loved by everyone and constantly called us ‘girlie girls’, stopped her lecture to investigate, and seconds later she runs back in, exclaims “there’s a squirrel!” and I nearly fell out of my chair cackling. Our class was on the fifth floor, by the way, so that squirrel really had to travel. In a matter of minutes, our principal stepped into the room strutting a pantsuit, clutching a giant net that stood taller than her, ready to catch the squirrel herself.
There was also the time when a few friends and I were stuck in a study period, which met in the school’s cafeteria, an hour before school ended. My friends and I, for whatever reason, were looking for dating websites that weren’t blocked by the school. Black People Mingle and Farmers Meet Farmers were the only ones that weren’t blocked, though, GCA was an all girls Catholic school, so the reasoning behind Christian Mingle being blocked is unjustified. As a joke, we began typing in the information for one of my teachers on Black People Mingle. The username was LLCoolJackson, and we chose to say that our female had a big and beautiful build, accompanying an unflattering picture of LA Reid with an alien sized head. In the end, I typed in my mom’s email and clicked save, thus setting up an account. While hysterical, I managed to send a warning text to my mom, saying, verbatim, “you’ll be getting an email from blackpeoplemingle.com don’t take it seriously”. Three years later and I have yet to deactivate the account.
I was lucky enough junior year to have a religion teacher like no other at the crack of dawn every other morning. She made up words, took a month to remember my friend’s name – and even resorted to picking up a sheet on her desk to check what her name was – and sassed us all. One day at the beginning of class, she stopped talking right in the middle of prayer, reached into her mouth, pulled out her tooth, and then debriefed the whole class in her faulty British accent, “oh no my tooth just fell out.” The icing on the cake, amongst our failed attempts not to laugh, was when she casually put her tooth in her purse. The whole school was well aware of the incident by the end of the day. What a small, close-knit world.
Of course, there were less in-depth memories. On half days we’d flee the campus and madly mob Panera, Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, and the malls no more than a ten-minute walk away from campus each. We’d celebrate each others birthdays by decorating each others lockers and screaming our wishes across campus whenever someone was wearing a tiara. When higher authorities were announcing names on the honor roll, at least twenty names were mispronounced, especially girls in my grade. Every morning someone went on a Dunkin or Starbucks run and made the morning so much better for their friend. We’d laugh at each other but in the end, if some dumb boy from a rival school attacked one of our girls, the whole school was on the defense. While air conditioners were a myth at that school, unconditional love between friends was practiced every second of the day.
The walls are sometimes so thin you could be in the middle of an economics test and hear a girl in the room next door fart. Occasionally you’ll have to evacuate room 103 because the walls are sweaty and the posters once white trade their innocence for grandma’s-tea-kettle-yellow. Your chemistry teacher may or may not present a PowerPoint full of Harry Potter memes and he definitely will spend a whole class period talking about the origin of demons and the antichrist.
The day’s before we were supposed to get snow, the halls were decorated with paper snowflakes made in study halls or in the best art teacher in the world’s art class. We’d all cheer at 2:56 on the dot because the loudspeaker came on and the dean would hesitantly disclose that we could wear Uggs the next day. On the other hand, we’d all sigh and pout if the same thing was announced in the morning, with no warning whatsoever for our unprepared bodies. In between classes we’d push each other into the snow and make snow angels, and we’d write harmlessly insulting things about our friends in the snow with our frostbitten fingers. We’d be reprimanded if a scarf was tied around our necks because, according to a ‘special source,’ scarfs kill an undisclosed number of people per year. There was one time the pathway was incredibly icy, and they only threw the blue salt down after I ice-skated 500 feet to my death. Between classes, and buildings, snowflakes got caught in our hair and we all became the ice princesses of sublime and animosity, also thanks to our grumpy cold faces.
As spring bloomed so did the cherry blossoms. Between classes we’d all go out and take photos next to them. Instead of going to lunch a few of us would sneak out of the cafeteria and play with some dogs. There was a skeleton in the art room whose name was Kevin – we all wonder how he’s doing now. We turned our friends’ into memes. We’d lock each others locks to the pipes in the locker-room known as “The Pit.” The transition from sophomore year to junior year was known as sweet sixteen season. For our last yearbook, common superlatives were ‘most likely to be out of uniform,’ and ‘soul sisters.’ Our go-to hashtag was: #OnceACougarAlwaysACougar. A squirrel will run away with a tube of chapstick in its mouth, but it won’t attack you if you take a photo. Friends and distinguished guests alike all took a tumble down a flight of stairs at one point or another.
The teachers themselves are surely unlike any others found at any other school. In all honesty, their personalities and other traits could only be honored and described through the work of a renowned best selling author who specialized in character behavior. The teachers at GCA were just incredible, amiable, and distinctive adults and figures.
A year ago today, the school’s closing was confirmed. In a matter of hours, that confirmation brought the whole school together. It was a bloodbath to say the least, and I’m sure it haunts everyone else who was in that room as it still haunts me. We shared advil and tissues. Our salty, understood tears stained the polo’s of the quivering bodies in our arms. Teachers became mourners. Students became mourners. Warm embraces mirrored faulty friendship bracelets that eventually break due to external forces.
When the news was announced, I managed to keep it together amidst the various breakdowns and outcries. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until I spotted my best friend, who at that time was a junior and would not be graduating through GCA, that I had a breakdown. I remember spotting her across the room amidst a sea of quivering bodies, and I pushed through that sea and ended up colliding into her arms. Something came over me then and all I could muster out was the same three worded apology over and over. Then, and this is something I think about from time to time, more so than I think in general, my tears cleared up just enough that I could see one of my classmates no more than twenty feet away from me, staring at me silently as I plummeted head first into the five stages of grief. Her cheeks weren’t discolored and tear-stained, nor were her eyes puffy, her body trembling, or any sign of sadness on her face. She stared at me like I was boring her, like my sorrow was the bane of her existence. I wondered, what has she been through that this was just another normal school day for her while it’s everyone else’s pea under the mattress?
To Sr. Carol: I’ll keep this blunt, as I truthfully believe you’re not worth my time, but I’ve always bottled in a few choice words. You, my dear, should be stripped of your title as ‘sister’. You have soiled your vow of poverty. You jeopardized the education of young women. You sneezed into the tissue that was GCA and discarded it in a New York City dumpster. And if you can, and I know you can, please teach me how to get rid of my emotions.
Hearing that my home was going to close ripped all these memories at their edges. Nothing was the same. In fact, every now and then I put on a pair of boots, pretend they’re ruby slippers, and I bump my ankles together, whispering, “there’s no place like GCA, there’s no place like GCA…”
Take care, and thank you for giving me something to convince me that I’m not a monster,