Being transferred to Bayview Glen in grade five was my first private school experience. The change from Catholic school was subtle; aside from the better funded facilities and passionate teachers, the only discernable difference was the manditory uniform. It was there that I met John in my classes, but back then he was the bully who threw me against a wall at first recess. My parents intervened in the form of an angry phonecall to the teacher, and I learned never to tell them about my problems at school again, out of fear that I would be emasculate me.
John maintained a reputation as one of the kings of the playground. At that age, he was a precocious pre-teen, matching machismo with Daniel Cappon for the attention of Pamela Arstikitis, the acerbic, metal-mouthed, blonde beauty. I remained blissfully young and ignorant, and we never really got along.
In grade seven, he changed schools to Upper Canada College, as his grandfather had done over fifty years ago, while I went through both the test and interview, and didn’t make the cut. Our parents knew of the school’s prestigious reputation and yearned desperately for their respective sons to be alumnus. Two years later I made a successful second attempt, and moved there too.
I was by myself, in a school full of jocks, academics, and artistic esoterics. John’s reputation didn’t follow him to this institution, where he was the odd, alienated, aloof, young man, while I remained the small, dysfunctional boy who never fit in anywhere. We were seperate loners, and our individuality is what brought us together. We never had any classes together, so lunches were spent philosophizing on the bleachers when the weather permitted, or misbehaving in Mr. Lorne’s classroom, throwing textbooks at each other in the winter. Eventually we went our seperate ways in university, and John was the only person I kept in touch with.
In the summer between grade seven and eight, as part of the children’s choir of Bayview Glen, we auditioned for a part in the Canadian premier of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This consisted of a demo tape, a semi-final competition between 25 schools, and finals of 10, with only four school choirs being selected. The judges told us to hold our celebration until all the finalists were announced, but by the time we were called, we couldn’t hold it in, and let out with a thunderous roar. It was the only time in my life that I was so happy I cried.
The picture of our choir, roughly 25 students between the ages of 10 and 14, ended up in the performance booklets that were handed out to the audience as they walked from the lobby to their seats in the Elgin Theatre. We were far from friends back then, but we stood next to each other. I still don’t understand why.
John’s haircut hasn’t deviated from a hastily brushed mop. Mine, on the other hand, has gone through various stages of shaggyness, poofiness, and occasional what-was-I-thinking. It’s just like the two of us. John did all his growing up before he was 12, and at his core he’s essentially the same person now as he was back then, while I continue the never-ending cycle of learning and growing.
And this will probably be true in another 15 years.