Update and a Nostalgic Romp

It’s been a month, exactly, since my last post. I was reminded of that when a friend who rarely visits Facebook phoned me last evening. “I’ve been watching for an update on your blog,” she said. So, at the risk of boring those of you who already know all this, either personally or from Facebook, here’s a quick update, followed by a bit of silliness.

Jack had his left kidney, along with a very large tumour, removed on April 21 in Hamilton. The surgery went well, and the surgeon confirmed that there is no sign of metastasis, so we are very hopeful. We spent a few days at our daughter’s house in nearby Wellesley before driving home last weekend. Jack had very little—surprisingly little—pain, and was up and moving about very quickly. At home, he’s continuing to do well, walking every day. We’ve both come to realize that it will be some time before he returns to full strength. He’s learning the pleasures of a mid-day nap, something I’ve been trying to explain to him for years! He has a follow-up appointment with the surgeon in two weeks. After that, he’ll be referred back to the local urologist/oncologist for ongoing monitoring.

As you can imagine, I was more than ready for some diversion in the immediate aftermath of Jack’s surgery, so I was delighted to receive an email from an old high school friend, Marilyn, addressed to me and our mutual friend, Carolyn. (Yes, Marilyn and Carolyn. Even worse. Marilyn Cooper and Carolyn Miller. I was a non-alliterative Smith.)

The subject line of her email read “Something I found”. Like many of my friends (and me soon, really, I mean it…), Marilyn is de-cluttering, and she stumbled on a folder of high school memorabilia in which she found this elaborate composition, a note from Carolyn on side one










and from me on side two, clearly written during Algebra class. You can see why they were worth saving without trying to decipher.

Marilyn, it seems, was not in that class and apparently we missed her!

Algebra III. I remember it well. The class, not the content. It was the last math class I ever took, and I’ve never regretted my ignorance of Trigonometry and Calculus. I can’t imagine it would have been worth the pain. There’s some evidence here that I wasn’t particularly attentive in Algebra, which would have made further study even more challenging.

A flurry of reminiscent emails among the three of us ensued. Was it that day or another day that the teacher rudely interrupted our whispered conversation or our elaborate note-writing by expelling us from the classroom? Both Carolyn and I remember that moment clearly. Miss Smith, Miss Miller: You may leave. I can still hear it, still feel the mortification, still see us clutching our notebooks outside the classroom door, uncertain what to do.

But this wasn’t the end of Marilyn’s discoveries. She also reminded us of a long-forgotten and never fully appreciated sport, introduced in 1962 in our alma mater. Matracking: an all-male team sport, invented and promoted by the Nerds of State College High School, many of whom have gone on to do great things.(Yes, there were Nerds before computers, sometimes referred to as Egg-Heads.)

“It was a kind of anti-jock enterprise,” recalls Carolyn.

Indeed, as self-important budding intellectuals, my friends and I were avidly anti-jock. I extend much-belated apologies to all those we must have offended by our assiduous avoidance of school spirit and all things athletic. But in our defense, the football team didn’t exactly applaud the Matrackers, either. And the Athletic Department didn’t provide costumes for Matracker cheerleaders.

Matracking began in the gym, where wrestling mats (which were used only by the boys), were stored on large metal racks on wheels. Remove the mats, hang a half dozen Nerds from the top bar, race across the gym floor, and there you have it: Matracking. I have a vague recollection of someone maneuvering the matracks out of the gym and into the hallway. Carolyn recalls the “team” coasting across the stage during an assembly, or perhaps in the finale of Macbeth: the Musical, another fine example of budding intellectual prowess.

If Marilyn had not designed this logo and stored it faithfully for the past 54 years, it’s entirely possible that Matracking would have been lost to posterity. Thank you, Marilyn, for preserving this piece of history! I invite any former matrackers to share their memories as well!

After last week’s nostalgic romp, I asked Marilyn what she was going to do with all this stuff. “I wish I knew,” she replied.

Which may be the subject of a future post. Because we’ve all got that stuff.



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5 Responses to Update and a Nostalgic Romp

  1. Bill Mohrman says:

    So happy that Jack is doing well! And I certainly know that recovery can take a bit longer for us (we?) aging children.
    Nice to learn that Paula’s playful spirit pre-dated her time at Grinnell.

  2. John Marsh says:

    Paula, Good to hear about Jack whom I met through your book. On old stuff, I just came across our Senior High School activity card that cost $ 5.00 and my card to use the library then on College Ave, Maybe it is time to dispose of this stuff, then maybe not.

  3. Glad to hear yer both alive n kicken. Come back soon!

  4. carolynrmiller says:

    Even though “Smith” wasn’t alliterative with “Miller” and “Cooper,” it was similar in its working-class origins. The three of us called ourselves the plebians. But I do wonder now why Paula was campaigning in algebra class to stamp out last names.

  5. J. Lynn Campbell says:

    Thanks Paula for the blog update. Good to know the positive result(s). As for your family surname Smith, it is a common name, maybe too common for your liking at that time. Although, your story reveals a funny bit of school girl history…
    Best regards to you both. Lynn

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