My name is Tracy Miller. I founded Arlene Miller Creative Writing in memory of my mother Arlene Miller (August 24, 1924- May 10, 2005).
June 16, 1983: I graduated from The Philadelphia High School for Girls by Tracy Diane Miller. #amwriting #nostalgia
“Vincit Qui Se Vinquit”
(She conquers, who conquers herself)
Philadelphia High School for Girls motto.
On Thursday, June 16, 1983 at 2:00 p.m., I graduated from The Philadelphia High School for Girls (Girls’ High). My high school graduation was held at the Academy of Music. Donning white dresses and carrying a bouquet of red roses, class #227 marched elegantly to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Optimism characterized our youthful gait. The future, it seemed, beckoned with a smorgasbord of opportunities.
I remember every minute of an event that occurred 34 years ago today, yet remains burned in my subconscious. Despite the almost angelic flavor of our graduation attire, dating back to the earliest days of Girls’ High (a public school that in the early 1980s enjoyed an almost elite reputation for academic excellence), I recall being very annoyed that I wasn’t graduating in the traditional cap and gown of most schools. My desire to graduate in a cap and gown would have to wait nearly 4 years later when I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science (Magna Cum Laude) from Temple University on Thursday, May 21, 1987.
It is so bizarre to reflect on my high school graduation. While I’m extremely grateful for the rigorous preparation in which high school afforded me, I didn’t enjoy my high school years at all. Coming from a low income public elementary school, I was so excited that my academic credentials as a grade schooler made it possible for me to attend a high school of Girls’ High caliber. The NBC series “The Facts of Life” premiered on August 24, 1979, a few weeks before I started high school. I was a bit naive to think that I would experience the camaraderie, compassion and respect of the fictional Eastland School For Girls. Instead of Blair, Jo, Natalie and Tootie, the majority of my classmates behaved like the self-appointed Queen Bees from the “Mean Girls” movie. I suppose it was somewhat fortunate that my high school years were decades before the Internet when bullying wasn’t as high tech: The “Slam Book” of yesteryear was the tool for recording mean-spirited remarks. To be a geek or a nerd wasn’t a thing of value in the early 1980s. I spent many a moment wishing that homeschooling had been my lot. Social interaction has never held any particular charm for me. My mind functions best in solitude. In addition, I never had any desire to play that “game” of changing myself to accommodate someone else’s whim.
Still, I’ll NEVER regret the academic foundation Girls’ High afforded, a foundation that is relevant for me even today. My honors English classes instilled in me a lifelong admiration and passion for Shakespeare. I learned the famous passages from “Hamlet”, “Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet” verbatim. I recited them orally. In 2017, I continue to be able to recite them strictly from memory. Not bad for someone approaching 52 years old.
I journeyed along with Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” and found sanctuary in Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” World and American History captured my fancy (they still do).
In high school, I was required to write 50 page research papers. High school was literally more difficult and more intense for me than college or law school.
Johnny Mercer’s stirring 1944 song “Accentuate The Positive” serves as my life anthem of choice. As Mercer charged: “You got to spread joy up to the maximum. Bring gloom down to the minimum. Have faith, or pandemonium. Liable to walk upon the scene.” I’ve called upon those lyrics more times than I can count when I need the words to punctuate my gratitude. And while our graduation class sang “Memory” from the musical “Cats” , I find my heart nostalgic for a Thursday a long time ago when I waited for the sunlight and I didn’t give in. “I remember the time I knew what happiness was.”
Today, I let the memory live again.