Young Geoffrey (ed_rex) wrote,
Young Geoffrey

For the Record: In Memory of Margery Sundstrom

(The following is a piece I wrote for what the annotation on my hard-copy says was SEED School's 25th anniversary, but what I remember as Margery Sundstrom's public wake.

Marge had been SEED's coordinate (effectively, it's principal) for many years. She was a tall, older woman who fought like a quiet demon — against the Toronto District School Board, against the Ministry of Education, even against parents when necessary — to keep our "free school" as free as possible, under the circumstances. But I digress.

In any event, that night turned out to be the last gasp of my public cowardice. I didn't have the nerve to get up on stage and read my elegy. A friend — who'd never even been a student there — did it for me. But the summer of that year, only a few months later, I performed in a play Caron was producing and I don't think I'll ever suffer stage-fright again.

But I'm sure I will digress again.

I wrote the piece the following in February or March of 1993, but the hard-copy has somehow gone missing between last night and today; if I'm wrong, I'll edit this appropriately when I find it.

So Marge Sundstrom is dead. And here we are.

"In memory of Marge," it said in the ad, and even those of you who never met the woman should know that, without her, SEED would have been a far, far poorer place than that we knew.

I never had dinner with Marge, never got drunk with her; never slept with her. But she did teach a friend of mine how to spell avocado; Vern can spell avocado with the best of them. He also said, "Everything Marge did was invisible."

What many of us owe to Margery Sundstrom has very little to do with practical things like the proper spelling and pronounciation of 'avocado'.

So why did I love her?

I was fourteen years old when I met her, come to Toronto from a small city with no idea what was in store for me. She tried to scare me away then, and when I didn't scare enough, we talked a little science fiction and then she welcomed me home.

And SEED was home to me, for six gloriously unfocused and apparently aimless years. Mostly, I hung around the lounge. Played chess, answered phones, planned parties, and wished like hell I had the courage to talk to Amanda McHugh.

Why do I love her? (Uh, Marge, that is.)

Well. Marge was SEED to me.

And SEED was Freedom. And we planned and we dreamed and we struggled to know ourselves, in that space she built with us, that space she spent all the time I knew her working to keep for us.

I remember her at Albion Hills in 1980, where I met people I know and love to this day; where I felt and saw my aura; and where neophyte history teacher Bob Moore was reduced almost to hysterics 'because forty horny teenagers' were simply not going to go to sleep.

Marge smiled at me at one point, stretched out on a comfortable chair at something like 2 in the morning. And then she went back to her book.

Why do I love Marge?

Vern said, "Everything Marge did was invisible." I love Marge because she believed in us. She believed in the nobility of human beings given a chance to be Free.

And I think she knew just how dangerous was the gift she bestowed upon us. She knew the risks inherent in that Pandora's box we call Freedom: that we might fly too high,k the wax melt, and our bodies be smashed on the rocks below. Marge understood the risk.

David Reville is dead.

Pamela Tadman is dead.

I'm sure there are others.

But I think she knew full well that there are far worse things in this world than dying.

Freedom is as dangerous and as difficult as it is beautiful, and Margery Sundstrom, I think, lived her life in the hope of seeing us — all of us — truly ourselves.

She provided space, and time, and the opportunity for us to embrace the World, or to reject it; to understand that the world is us and that freedom without responsibility is only licence. She wanted us to have the chance to love, and to accept, happily, the fact that we might fall if we dare to strive, that the world might well break us; and that it will certainly kiss us all in the end.

Marge had faith in the dance of life and death. I think she knew the joy that comes from risking all for life and for truth.

And if Marge was here now, I know that I'd say — in the vernacular of my youth — "Thanks, man."

And that's about it, I guess.
Tags: marge sundstrom, seed

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