“This above all: to thine own self be true.” William Shakespeare
I’ve begun clearing out my dad’s house, a house my parents lived in for 54 years. They collected art, artefacts and souvenirs from their travels and in and amongst all of these things they also kept their children’s home economics projects, arts and crafts sculptures and hand-made cards. Their pride in their children was endless.
Then I came upon an envelope kept deep in one of the dresser drawers, underneath shirts encased in a drycleaner’s plastic wrapping. The label on the envelope read: To The Parents of Stella Leventoyannis. The return address was my former high school, Crescent Heights. Oh, oh. Had I been in trouble? What had I done? I couldn’t imagine. Memory has a way of working this way. You remember your perfect self, not the slightly delinquent one. Had I been a delinquent?
Gingerly I unpacked the contents. Newspapers. To be specific, school newspapers (the Xenurus) and a couple of clippings from the Calgary Herald.
I had been our school newspaper’s editor.
I read some of my editorials and laughed. This was not the stuff of high school news. Tears came too. The kind of balm I need at the moment.
Is a prison really a place of the help we are led to believe, or a grave that holds a number of human corpses that have been dug under by society’s unjust shovel?” This line is from one of the editorials I wrote after visiting a prison as a volunteer with the John Howard Society. Who knew that years later I would run one of those places that was the subject of my desk-pounding teenage ire.
In another editorial, Drugs can be legalized in this country if adequate steps are taken to ensure that true education in this field will accompany it. Only complete and accurate knowledge of drugs and their effects will solve the problem of addiction. All this said like the naïve teenager I was railing at the problem of addiction among youth. Later as a social worker I would learn the complications behind this disease.
Isn’t it funny how after a crime is committed we’re the first ones to scream “gallows, gallows”, instead of asking the person why they committed the crime. Instead of putting the blame on them, maybe we should ask ourselves where we let them down. At the time these words were part of a larger article about family planning and abortion. What prisons and family planning had to do with each other, I can’t figure out, but I must have seen the connection then. This editorial was labelled the Attic Revolutionary.
In April 1974, my editorial was about the energy crisis and western separatism. Strange how things change yet stay the same. In that article, there was the following introductory line: During the events of the past few months when the world was caught in the tight clutches of the energy crisis, due to the Arab-Israeli conflict, oil companies, the biggest profiteers, and western politicians manipulated the situation to make us believe that the only bad guys were the Federal government. I ended my article with a question: Who is the real crook, Lougheed or Trudeau? Goodness I had opinions. Or as my mother often put it, “you have such a mouth.”
I don’t remember the 16-year-old who wrote all those editorials. But I now recall that my parents loved reading the articles, asked the school for them when I forgot to bring them home, later discussing them and showing them off to their friends. And while I’m now steeped in the grief of their loss, my father, a month ago and my mother eight years ago, finding this envelope reminded me again of who I am, why I do what I do and who put these ideas and thoughts in my head in the first place: the two who with their unconditional love were ridiculously proud of me.
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