2018-06-07 / Columnists

Babylon News & Muse

•Has anyone seen a man in a robe building an ark? It has certainly seemed as though the past forty days have been as wet as they come! My grass is lush and mushrooms seem to be popping up everywhere!

•Believe it or not, the high school winds up this week, with Regent Exams starting in the next few days.

•For some reason, this wet spring reminds me of the summer following my second year in high school. I had spent most of the year in a boarding school in Tucson after an especially dreadful series of asthma attacks.

I hated spending that time in Arizona, although I have to admit that my health improved dramatically. Compared to the four seasons we enjoy here, the desert was dry and drab.

The school itself was very different from Babylon High. It was all girls and half of them were from South America, sent to the U.S. to learn to speak English. Other boarders were the daughters of diplomats whose parents were posted abroad. There were a few other girls that had been in serious trouble with the law and judges insisted they go away to school or else. As you can imagine, that group was very different from what I had encountered at Babylon High.

The dry desert was so different from our four seasons on Long Island. Everything in Arizona seemed to be brown in Tucson versus the many shades of green I found when I returned to Babylon. In addition, I was extremely homesick and vowed never to return to Arizona.

The boarding school, run by nuns, had been very strict, and students were not allowed to leave the small campus unless accompanied by a relative. Of course, I had no relatives, so I felt very confined, especially as children in Babylon at that time were free to go pretty much anywhere within village limits! We had so much freedom in those days; it was amazing!

School in Arizona wound up in the third week of May. When I returned to Babylon, my parents decided to send me back to classes at BHS so that I could take Regent Exams with the rest of my class. I have to admit I did not do well on the tests since I missed so much of the basics during the fall when I missed close to two months of school.

That summer, my parents took the four younger children on a trip to New England. We had never gone on vacation before, and all of us were excited by the prospect. We were going to Vermont to look at boarding schools for me (the idea being that the mountain air would be a healthy change), and at the same time look at colleges for my older brother, John.

At that time, John was 17, I was 15, Robby was 13, and Laura was 9. My two older sisters were already in college, and had summer jobs, so they stayed home.

Our first stop was Lake George. I remember how lovely the lake was, especially in the early morning. Dad had booked a cabin for us to stay in overnight. As I recall, there was one bedroom, and the four kids had cots in the living area. I suspect Dad had asked for one of the cheaper cabins, and it seemed as though there were more mosquitos inside than there were out of doors! But we were on vacation for the first time, so we didn’t complain too much.

We went on to Vermont, where we planned to look at two boarding schools. I have very little memory of those schools, other than they were in tiny towns.

The big thrill was when we stopped to look at some cows and calves by the side of the road. They were kept in their pasture by a simple wire fence. We found out the fence was electrified when poor Laura leaned over to try and pet a calf. It seems awful now, but I remember that my brothers and I thought that was hysterical! (Remember, we were all teens, and thought Laura was a big crybaby!)

After we left Vermont, we drove on to Boston. I remember being suitably impressed by being so close to so many historical sites. But ironically, the one memory that always stuck out was going to a drugstore with my Dad to buy film. While I stood next to him, a prostitute tried to pick up my father! I was stunned and very horrified, and I suspect my father must have been mortified. But I have to admit that that was the most vivid memory I have of my first and only childhood vacation!

Readers can reach Mary Gallagher via email at acjnews@rcn.com. Please put News and Muse in the subject line. Or drop her a letter in c/o Babylon Beacon, 65 Deer Park Ave., Babylon NY 11702.

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