Web of memories

By Julie Barzilay



I remember my first day of seventh grade – it started out in Kate Benton’s office. I was supposed to report there for that strange concept of “Attendance,” which any H-W student will tell you is code for a free period, but which to a brand new scrub seemed highly complex. I was incredibly happy to see familiar faces upon entering the Administration Building—Marissa from gymnastics camp, Emily from volleyball, Dana from dance class. And we had nothing to do – no work whatsoever, no teachers to see, no commitments to uphold. So we played cards on the Fire Road for a good 20 minutes, and experimented with our “lunch cards” in the cafeteria. I waited for second period history to start, not knowing what to expect in the next few minutes let alone the next six years.


By my next free I was already embedded in the chaotic but thrilling journey that is coming to a close as I write this column – I was enmeshed in homework, obligations and plans for the future that linked each class and each year to the next.


Recently, I’ve rediscovered that sensation of having no (read: very few) obligations to worry about while idling away free periods at school – but this time I’ve come out on the other side.


It’s easy to seal off an experience as something in which you came in one way and left another, but what I’d rather do is prop open my time at Harvard-Westlake with some specific memories that happened right smack in the middle: between class meeting and AP English Lit, between Chronicle and dance…


1. The Chinese plate-spinning, backflipping assembly we have the privilege of watching at the middle school. It blew our 13-year-old minds.


2. The obsessive pestering question “Do you X?” throughout our entire seventh grade year, like some bizarre, grammatically incorrect alien code. We were pretty excited about the concept of free periods (some things never change.)


3. Josh Budde and Julie Hollrah dress up as Kevin Federline and Brittany Spears for Halloween. We think it’s the greatest thing ever.


4. Ellie Bensinger ’09 launches her career as uber-talented, school-spirited costume designer extraordinaire with stellar umbrella-inspired H-W spirit motif.


5. Zip Disks. OMG!


6. Your first break between a double period. Looking at the person next to you as you walk to the cafeteria, wordlessly expressing thanks for this brief respite in another crazy day.


7. Lisa Elder ’09 sings “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” in assembly. We fall silent in awe.


8. Staring at the Mastin crew’s Pencey Prep T-shirts during the ninth grade English final. Wishing you had one.


9. Paul Mastin reads Dr. Seuss-style poems in a rocking chair next to a potted plant in the Marshall Center during “Oh, the Dances You’ll Dance!” Dance Production show. He rocks.


10. Jeremy Michaelson fourth period 07-08…you know you all have that class that needs no words to describe it.


11. Making your first real “upperclassmen” friend. Two years later, being someone’s first upperclassman friend.


12. The faculty dodgeball game in Taper gymnasium last year – “Reign of Terror” versus “Slaughterhouse Five,” anyone?


13. Watching Michael Diamant ’09 run around in face paint and a cape at Homecoming as wild Fanatics chant and beat a drum like a tribal dance.


14. Your last break between a double period. Feeling like you should commemorate every “last” that rolls out as these finals days of class slow to a halt.


15. We Can and We Did. Harvard-Westlake Seniors ’09. Thank you Caitlin Cunningham ’09.


I don’t know if you’ve realized it yet, but our grade is pretty much the best. There is trust and support between us, and we’re going to do some amazing things. I am not sure what it will be like to leave behind all the communities we’ve built here or to move far away from the web of support we’ve woven.


But I do know one thing – you can make a huge difference in someone’s life just by greeting them everyday, by paying attention when they talk or by valuing their ideas. And we can weave webs in our new communities by throwing ourselves into whatever we do with all our hearts, and treating everyone with kindness and respect.


But let’s not reflect on H-W as a story with just a start and a finish, a complete entity without details or quirks. Personally, I feel like my mind opened up in a thousand directions over these six years – through chemistry, volleyball teams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, endless Dance Concert rehearsals, “As I Lay Dying,” class meetings or Chronicle dinners at midnight. I can’t really phrase all the nuances of those experiences in words, so I’ll try to preserve their essence – “esencia” for those of you in Spanish V – in little memories.


Not only do those memories freeze time and keep your past alive, but they will always be there to remind you of the web that’s here, between North Faring and Coldwater Canyon, ready to support us if we need it.

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