17 February, 2013

Meaningful Coincidences

 They say there two types of people: Freudian or Jungian. I’m a Jungian type of gal. Ever since I heard his thoughts on “meaningful coincidences”, he had me hooked. My understanding of what Jung was saying is, “Hey, you there. The universe is aligning its stars and there is going to be a series of events you will find freakishly random, but that isn’t to say they aren’t of great importance. So pay close attention!”  As a teenager, I experienced such a series of freakish events. They propelled me kicking-and-screaming directly into a friendship with a ghostly nemesis called Nerida.

In 1970, when I was thirteen years old, I transferred from a large suburban public high school to a small private girls boarding school in the center of Montreal. The only reason I enrolled in the school was because I needed to live downtown, so I could attend ballet lessons for several hours every afternoon and on Saturdays. Boarding school seemed a pragmatic solution for overcoming commuting hassles. What I wasn’t prepared for was the strict Anglo-Saxon school regime they enforced. Hogwarts hadn’t been invented yet. I found school uniforms, houses, prefects, matrons, demerit points, detention, and bad school food difficult to adjust to.

The teachers and matrons quickly became exasperated by my rebellious behavior. They could not comprehend why I found their Anglo-Saxon ways so restrictive. Particularly because they had had a boarder the previous year from Newfoundland, who was also a dance student, and she’d caused them no difficulty whatsoever. Her name was Nerida. What a dear child. So sweet-natured. So obedient. Such lovely angelic curly hair. Did I know her?

Right then and there I decided I hated Nerida even though I had never met her. Not because she was obviously a wimp, but mainly for her lovely angelic curly hair.

Nerida’s perfect behavior was held against me at every twist and turn. Then another freakish event happened. I had to get braces and it was an excruciatingly painful procedure. Every month I would go and get my braces tightened. The orthodontist would hover above with his instruments of torture and sternly reprimand me for having not worn the elastic bands he prescribed.

As luck would have it, he had had a patient who was also a dance student and she ALWAYS wore her elastics. Did I know her? Her name was Nerida.

Fast-forward two years … I moved from Montreal to Cannes, France as a student of the Rosella Hightower’s International School of Dance. I was ecstatic having blissfully escaped the restrictions of the boarding school regime. What a carefree existence; the type a sixteen-year-old lives when completely free of parental care or adult supervision.

A few months after I moved to Cannes, I received a letter from my mother back in Montreal. She wrote about how she’d gone into the city for a dentist appointment and decided to stay in town and eat lunch before heading back to the suburbs. The maitre d' of the restaurant she chose approached her and asked her if she wouldn’t mind sharing her table with someone. She said yes, and a charming elder Torontonian businessman came and sat at her table.

“You won’t believe it. He’s originally from Newfoundland and one of his daughters is also studying dance in Cannes. Her name is Nerida. Have you met her?”

Sure enough, a few days later, Nerida came into the girls’ changing room and searched me out. Her father had written her about this Canadian girl who attended Trafalgar (the boarding school in Montreal) and was now in Cannes.

In bursts this bubbly, curly-haired girl and runs over to me and says, “Hi. Did you go to Trafalgar?” My response, “You must be fucking Nerida.”

After note: this all happened over forty years ago.  Nerida and I became best of friends and our friendship remains deep and loving and riddled with meaningful coincidences.


  1. this is a wonderful story. I was actually the person growing up whose friends' parents would say...why can't you be more like Courtney? They often resented me for it and then I resented their parents and felt teribly self-conscious - I think parents often said this because I was (and still am) rather meek and don't talk back and had manners drilled into me by very powerful anglo saxon grandmothers! To this day people still see this need to please meekness in me when really, I just mostly prefer to be left alone!

  2. I find this so charming. I too was sent away to a boarding school built on the anglo saxon model. I was a true failure, but I sure did love not being at home.

  3. I just have to add, I hate those Captcha things as it always takes me two or three tries to make it work.