The anti-club by
25
(38 Stories)

Prompted By Cliques and Clubs

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Get together a year or two after high school

The last two years of high school were hard for me.  New kid in school, moved from East Lansing Michigan to Bethesda Maryland.  I was ready for a change though, mentally and emotionally done with US Midwestern high school and its culture, where I had only ever marginally fit in.  My older sister was graduating and heading to college, my boyfriend ditto, my girlfriend was left behind.  Surely now I would also fledge and fly off into real life.  But when September arrived, I despaired at finding myself back in familiar school routines, feeling physically ill passing the crowds in the halls, morose in the classes.  There were over 600 people in my grade, and I knew none of them.

It was lonely.  I suppose it was just adolescent agonizing over the search for independence and existential meaning, while simultaneously longing for acceptance and inclusion from kids my age. You know, the usual.

It was lonely.  I suppose it was just adolescent agonizing over the search for independence and existential meaning, while simultaneously longing for acceptance and inclusion from kids my age. You know, the usual.

One afternoon, while taking a short cut walking home from school, a tall and friendly fellow with straight hair, bangs cut in a slant, caught up with me.  We chatted noncommittally.  Our path wound through some weeds in a ditch behind some houses, and a modernistic building with glass on one side partially hidden by the trees.  What was that?  Come, I’ll show you.  It was a beautiful place full of light, a Unitarian Church.  There was a youth group; he was the president.  I wasn’t religious. You don’t have to believe in god to come. Why not check it out?  I did.

The name, LRY (Liberal Religious Youth), was really a misnomer.  It was a glorious collection of brainy misfits and artists, collected from different schools and high school classes.  Very loosely sponsored by adults, the group sounded deceptively benign.  We would gather regularly, and I recall assorted fragments:  hiking up Old Rag mountain, listening to someone playing guitar and singing “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen, hanging around the meeting room idly chatting, socials where everyone danced to their own muse and no one had a date, giving rides to and from in the old Dodge family car, trips to Assateague Island, building shower platforms for the Poor People’s March on Washington, fixing up a house on the outskirts of town, going down to Georgetown head shops to peruse buttons, conferences at Triangle camp or the national in Santa Fe, someone smoking dope, someone singing “times they are a-changin’”.  There were no pre-requisites, no requirements, no dogma, no exclusions.  It wasn’t high school, and it was our own semi-chaotic world.  It was 1966, 1967, 1968.

For me, it was a place to connect, where you didn’t have to belong to belong.

 

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry


Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Wonderful story Khati, so glad you found your tribe in that wonderful church youth group.

    I was from a non-religious Jewish family, my folks were not temple members but they sent me to the local Bronx, NY synagogue for Sunday youth groups where we went on day trips to interesting places in and near the city, and most memorable, put on wonderful plays. That was the start of my life-long passion for theatre!

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Good description of the tribe. Good to hear you also made some great connections in your youth group that resonated down the years. Our group was very loosely in the Judeo-christian tradition (what’s not to like in a doxology with words changed to include reverence for “all creatures that on earth do dwell” and replace references to god?)and there were quite a few non-religious Jewish kids in our group as well; we all wanted to find something meaningful. Some of the kids actually put out an LP record of various folks singing or playing guitar, and I think that was the first place I heard Jewish prayer sung.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Meeting this guy sounds really fortuitous, Khati. I’ve known many affiliated with the Unitarian Church, all very good people. The right place at the right time for you as well.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Yes, I was lucky in so many ways. We may have been in the same home room (my name ended with H, his with K), the church was on the way home, and he reached out. You never know what good things may come of what seem like small gestures—be kind and pass it forward.

  3. Good story, Khati, and I absolutely love the concept of the last line. Perfect.

  4. Marian says:

    What a blessing, Khati, that you found this group, or the group found you. I had the same experience moving to the Bay Area and feeling normal after 18 years as a complete misfit in New Jersey. Both of us are thankful, I’m sure.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Perfect story, Khati. And it really resonates with me, as you can imagine. The perfect club for me (and for Groucho) would also be the anti-club, as oxymoronic as that sounds.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    What a perfect club, Khati. love the idea of a perfect place connect where you didn’t have to belong. Wish I had found something like that in my very average midwest high school, or even in college. It took until adulthood when I understood that connecting was the most important part of belonging.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      I realize now how lucky I was to have had that connection, more than I realized when I was still a miserable teen. As an introvert, it is a lesson I have learned more deeply over the years, and still have to remind myself how important it is, and how to make the effort to reach out. And it is not just the connection to each other, but to the rest of the earth that is critical now. With all the environmental self-destruction going on, it is our caring and connectedness that is the key to whether we will use our smarts to respond as we must.

  7. Suzy says:

    Wonderful story, Khati, of finding a place to fit in, by the merest happenstance. If you had not taken that shortcut home from school, or the friendly fellow hadn’t been walking that path at the same time, you might never have found this group. And how great for you that you did! I also love seeing you at that age in the featured image. That must have been how you looked when I met you in college.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Serendipity indeed! And yes, those were the days—I have VERY FEW pictures of college days, or even high school, but that is one. I think it was a year or two out of HS when we had a mini-reunion over some holiday.

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