OK Foley, you asked for it.
I graduated from high school 25 years ago this month. I was always thankful that my mother sent me to prep school. I was a bully magnet in public schools and the torture abated a good bit once I went to private school.
Something my classmate, a golf prodigy, said to me once has stayed with me. He noted that he and I were the school’s token Portagies. He was there because he could play golf, I was there because I was the neighborhood kid with a highest entrance exam score. Not the prototypical New England prep school boys.
I was never a good fit at school but it allowed me a lot more freedom, and safety than the urban/suburban East Providence school system.
Last month my phone rang and a heavily Middle Eastern accented voice asked for me. I almost hung up, expecting it to be another outsourced worker offering large savings on my mortgage. But I waited. “This is Mohammed,” he said.
“Mohammed F____i?” I asked.
Wow. Mo was an exchange student my senior year. A Muslim from Tunisia he was placed with a prominent Jewish family from the school. They did a great job and were very supportive but it was not the easiest year.
Mo is a physician now and was in the US for a conference. While here he went by the school to look up old friends. I was the first he found.
He also found Maj. Preston and Fredo. Two Sunday nights ago the Major called. HE is retiring form the military and moving back to Rhode Island. A week or so later Fredo emailed. Mo had started the ball of nostalgia rolling. We were all misfits that managed to flourish in the strict prep school environment. We were not the cool kids, or jocks but were good students allowed to, for the most part, get along fairly happily.
Fredo was my best friend for years. The closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had. I missed Fredo and his family very much. Time got in the way and we lost touch years ago. Fredo has a second wife and a new baby now. I am meeting up with him for the first time in over 10 years on Saturday. I am nervous. What if we just don’t like each other any more?
Bike content, Fredo and I were on the school’s cycling team together. It was a prep school where the whole bike thing started. It was old school. Wool jerseys. Double pacelines. Getting yelled at for screwing up. I loved it. I loved working hard. I loved racing as team, (it was scored like cross country or collegiate racing). I loved being better than awful at a sport. Something new for me.
My experience on the cycling team is what I cherish most form my high school experience. It gave me something I still have. A place.
I credit cycling and the people I have met riding for saving my life on a number of occasions. That is not hyperbole. My bike has saved me from myself for 25 years.
The bike team disappeared in the 90s but driven by this recent pang of nostalgia I have agreed to organize a bike ride for my reunion / homecoming day. The school has hunted down 40 alumna/e that were members of the bike team and there is interest among the new athletics regime for a recreational cycling program. I hope it happens.
See ya on the road,