A South African High School Reunion
edited: Thursday, November 21, 2002
By Niki Collins-Queen
Posted: Sunday, November 17, 2002
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Peopleís stories fascinate me. They have told me new truths about my world. They have inspired me and taught me about love and loyalty.
Although Iím not able to attend my upcoming high school reunion in South Africa it did get me thinking. How are my fellow Krugersdorp High School students? What happened to the class of 1968? Are they parents and grandparents? How do they make a living and are they happy with their lives? Iíve fantasized sharing our blessing and our heartaches.
Iím particularly curious now that Iíve reached my mid-life years. I donít know about the men but for me going through menopause has been a roller coaster ride. With my hormones undergoing changes itís like being back in the teenage years. Molehills look like mountains and I have little patience. Itís become harder to deny my voice and to tolerate dead-end relationships. On the positive side Iím told the mid-life years are a time to complete tasks we started in our adolescence.
One of the greatest blessings during my teenage years was my five-year attendance at Krugersdorp High Schoolís coed boarding school. The family atmosphere helped me stand up in my loneliness and created an urgency to connect with the rest of the world. I made many friends (some of them life-long) and dated Dave, my first real boyfriend for five years. His gentle spirit provided an oasis for the pain in my life.
I sometimes think about what it would be like had I stayed in South Africa and married Dave. Barbara, my best friend, dated Roy, Daveís older brother. Those were good years. The love Dave and Roy had for us ran deep. They would probably have made good husbands. Daveís honesty, respect and love scared me. Iíd never been treated so well. It did not feel right. So what did I do? I returned to America and married Jeff Collinsóan American not unlike my mother who criticized and controlled me. We divorced five years later. He left me for another woman. Now I have come full circle. Bud Queen is my husband and heartís companion. His loving kindness has helped me to heal. It took me 25 years to accept that I deserved such a man.
My greatest heartbreak has been my motherís absence in my life. I had to adapt to the lives of others during my first seven yearsómy mother, my grandmother, my maternal aunt, an orphanage, my grandmother again then to my newly married mother and stepfather. I lived with my mother and stepfather for only six out of the 21 years I lived in South Africa and my mother has chosen to be on speaking terms with me for less than 12 of the 32 years Iíve lived in America. The meeting with my birth-father in America at the age of 21 was also a heartbreak. I suspect I was not the quiet adoring little girl he hoped for and he was not the mentor I envisioned.
My greatest blessings as an adult includes a move to Macon, Georgia, the receiving of a BA and MS degree in Psychology and becoming a childrenís therapist for 20 years at a Mental Health Center. Iíve also been blessed with 20-years of outdoor adventures that include hitchhiking on sailboats, many canoe-camps on rivers and backpacks in the mountains. The writing and publishing of a book about my outdoor adventures and the transformational power of nature has also been a wonderful experience.
Peopleís stories fascinate me. They have told me new truths about my world. They have inspired me and taught me about love and loyalty. Some stories were treasure maps that helped me to navigate my life and enabled me to better understand myself and plot my future.
I also know the telling of my story forced me to come face-to-face with the truth. Truths I have not allowed myself to see before. Digesting the sorrow dissolved and integrated my pain and let me move on. It opened my heart and let me bleed. Now, I remember what I saw and felt before I was silenced. Iíve caught a glimpse of my fleeting life. The heartache has been a gift. I have learned not to be tossed away. The heartbreaks have engendered compassion for others and no longer monopolize my mind. Out of my broken state has come a tenderness for all living things. I can look outside myself with a sense of generosity and feel a vast acceptance of everything. It is as if Iíve touched something holy. It is like Iím waking up and then a waking up some more.
Sadly, I wonít be able to attend my high school class reunion. There will be no sharing on South African soil. But I have an idea. Since I have shared my blessings and heartaches with you. Perhaps if Iím lucky you might even be moved to share yours with a loved one or with me.
Think about it. Itís importantóI believe we transmit the presence of everybody weíve ever known.