We Were Children Once

by Marinka on June 16, 2012

When I attended the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers’ Workshop in Dayton this spring, I re-dedicated myself to humor writing. I promised myself that I would write funny pieces, steer clear of all mommy wars controversies, and not engage in rage-filled political diatribes that are bound to surface in an election year.

I wanted none of it. I would stick to writing humorous posts about home and hearth and children.  (By the way, I don’t know what hearth means, so I hope that no one else does either.)

I was set. I’d found my niche.

But then last week’s Sunday New York Times Magazine had a story about Prep School Predators on its cover and all my humor writing intentions have gone to hell.

Because the story is about my high school, about the time that I was a student there.

I read it with shock and recognition– some of the accounts I’d heard before others were completely new and unfathomable.  The  conduct alleged– sexual assault by male faculty members on male students and a decided lack of action by  the administration are harrowing. It’s been almost two weeks now (the article came out online the Wednesday before it was published in print) and I still haven’t caught my breath.

It’s taking me a long time to process this, and generally I’m not a slow processor.  I’m learning things about some teachers I admired, I’m reliving my high school years, I’m reuniting with some of my classmates.

Which is huge for me. I felt like an outsider in high school, a kid who didn’t belong, who had  few friends. For these reasons I cringe at the thought of me in high school. I’ve been cringing since I’d been graduated , so long that I have not attended a single alumni event in the decades since graduation, I gladly missed every reunion and I’ve crossed the street when I thought I spotted a former classmate.

So for me to now have online conversations with people who knew me back then has been truly transformative.

But I’m struggling. I’m truly struggling and I feel like my world doesn’t make any sense.

I have so many questions.

I have so much sadness.

I want so much to go back in time to speak up for those classmates who were so miserably failed by the very people who were supposed to have been looking out for them.

I know that I want to return to humor writing at some point, but right now I just can’t.

Right now I  need to cry and to hold my children close and to remember that we were children once too.

And to cry some more.

Please hang in there with me.




One year ago ...

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

June 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

How upsetting, M. I didn’t realize that you attended the school. What a failure on the part of so many.


Dana @ Bungalow'56
June 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

The hubs just found out about a former teacher and student. It’s floored the community. How could they not see it, when looking back now it was right there. Just makes you sick and so very sad.


Alexandra June 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I am just like you.

Just like you.

How can we write humor when THIS goes on???

Take your time, because you’re human and we’re all on this planet together.


June 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Oh dear. I can’t imagine. You. Them. Now. Past. Future. We shouldn’t have such ghosts in our lives as children. Certainly not by the hands of those that are to care for us.


deborah l quinn
June 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

A brutal failure on every level and those in charge now, who are saying “gosh, wasn’t our problem back then” ought to be having a difficult time looking themselves in the mirror. It’s the current silence that chills me, I think, because it makes me wonder how safe, god forbid, any of our children are, if those “in charge” don’t want to face the truth. Incredibly, appallingly sad.


Jonathan June 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I am glad you are taking the time to process all of this, it’s overwhelming to find out information about people you admired and were around daily and frustrating to find out nothing was done to help them. It’s really sad.


Deb Rox
June 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Just sending love and comfort and fury and outrage and hope. Xo


Caryn Caldwell June 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Oh, wow. I can’t imagine reading something like that. I’m so sorry. You must have so many questions, so many people you’ve had see in a new light.


Fairly Odd Mother
June 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I’m so sorry. I read that story when it came out and was horrified. It must be so much more so when you know the people involved. Take your time.

And, you know, I’m a little suspicious about people who are funny ALL the time, so I’d be happy to read anything you write. It’s all good.


Arieloser June 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I’m so sorry to hear. Though, I will be an avid reader no matter the subject. 🙂


anna see June 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

sick. sad. sick. i’ve been following the sandusky trial all week, too. too much darkness in this world.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes June 17, 2012 at 4:01 am

This must be so awfull and so difficult for you. Wishing you strength


Carinn @welcometothemotherhood
June 17, 2012 at 8:22 am

It’s awful. Sickening and sad. As a mother of two very young children who are just beginning the journey into NYC school systems it made me think, “if they aren’t safe there, at a school as good as that, where will they be safe?”

Please keep hugging your babies, we will be doing the same until the humor returns.


dusty earth mother June 17, 2012 at 10:23 am

This breaks my heart. I am praying for you, my friend, and for all those who had their trust abused and their innocence stolen.


Hope June 17, 2012 at 10:32 am

Thank you for being genuine and for trusting us in such a sad and vulnerable time. Thoughts and love are with you.


magpie June 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

shit. i’m sorry, hon.

i felt similarly socked in the gut a few months ago, by a first person account of a rape – it happened in my home town, to someone a year younger than me, in the cemetery my grandparents are buried in, back when we all were in high school. and it’s such a small world: my brother recently bought her mother’s house.



June 17, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Breaks my heart, my friend. Thinking about you. xoxo


Michelle June 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm

A group of us from my public HS (also well known) from around the same time have been talking about the article, and about what we all suspected/knew at our own HS back then. Sometimes I think those of us who were on the “outside” imagine things being much better than they were.


Michelle June 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Oh, and I should add — it’s pretty clear in retrospect that people (at my HS) DID know it was going on, including administration. Since it was older male teachers/teen female students it had the appearance of consensual, so while the teachers were “advised” that this “wasn’t a good idea,” there was no outrage… it just continued. Even now a friend who was propositioned by one of the teachers so many years ago won’t talk of it publicly.


the mama bird diaries
June 17, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Ugh. I’m so sorry. Be gentle with the child you used to be. We are all much wiser now. xo


June 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm

I read the link when you tweeted it, having no idea of your personal connection. We–and I can obviously speak for everyone–love your blog because of your voice. No matter how you choose to use it.


annie June 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I’m so sorry! Thinking of you and sending you peace on many levels.


Erin I'm Gonna Kill Him
June 17, 2012 at 10:59 pm

You’ll find your way back to humor, but don’t rush through the trail or you’ll leave something behind.

And…I understand this as a person who grew up going to the same church, listening to the same priest, until I left for college. Shortly after I matriculated, the allegations of abuse surfaced and he was defrocked. This is the man who took my confessions, gave me communion, taught us right from wrong. While he hurt so many. I’ve not been able to set foot in a church – other than for a wedding – since.


Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac
June 17, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I’m with Ann. No matter what you write about, we want to hear it.

That was such a shocking story…thinking of you. Give yourself however much time you need.


June 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I read the link when you tweeted and figured you had a personal connection. It was bad enough just reading about it. I can’t imagine having been there. I hope you can get your funny back soon.

Incidentally, I thought I was the only person who remembers Erma Bombeck. Glad Dayton is remembering and respecting her!


Tracy Beckerman June 18, 2012 at 9:35 pm

BOY, can I relate to how you are feeling. I went to Penn State and I have been in a state of perpetual shock and mourning since the whole sordid Sandusky story came to light. I try to remind my self that the school, which I LOVED attending, is much more than this monster and the people who looked the other way to protect the Penn State reputation, but it all sickens me, on so many levels.


deb June 18, 2012 at 10:01 pm

ditto that of ann and others – i love your blog for your honest voice. it doesn’t have to be funny. nobody can be a comedic robot. you have to be human. process process process–until you feel like laughing again.


Allison Zapata June 18, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Always hanging in there for you. Always.

I’m so sorry. This is so heavy. Wishing you and everyone involved peace and healing.

Lots of love..


Holly - The Culture Mom June 22, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I can’t believe you went to that school. When I read the article, it shattered my world, too, and I didn’t even go there. Stay strong.


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