In my new horror novel, which I am shopping out to agents under the working title, Wax Works, a boarding school has gone irretrievably, elementally wrong, even after closing its business doors to the world. When it reopens with a new commercial face, that ‘wrongness’ has plummeted down to a spiritual level, by which I mean the establishment exerts a psychological and physical power over people it wants to control, manipulate and, in some cases, punish.
The boarding school in my novel is named Château Mont Rose. This boarding school was growing a negative presence before it closed down. It may well be that the negativity took root and swelled through simple existence. Although many people have great memories of boarding school, the flip side are those who don’t, or those who remember why they were sent to one.
That reason is often negative. I hate to be a real downer, yet for the purposes of my “horror” novel, I have to insist that many children are sent away for negative reasons starting with the most simple: parents want them gone. How do I know?
I went to to a boarding school.
My brother went to a boarding school.
My mother went to a boarding school.
Some of my best friends at boarding school went to a . . . . you get the idea.
Parents sometimes want to get rid of children, for various reasons. Since the parents may want to see the children again someday, like at Christmas, a boarding school is a good option. Parents may pay a lot of money for this option, or they may take the money for the experience from the child’s trust fund (oh, incredibly lucky child, to have money others can spend on him or her to get him away from the homestead!).
Who pays for the boarding school is practically another subject. Show me a trust fund child now grown adult and struggling economically, and I will show you a person who wishes to God that the money was spent on buying a condominium in southern, northern, even central Valley California (you have my permission to switch the name of the state/province/country).
I went to Swiss boarding school as a teen. As it happened, I badly wanted to learn French. My brother, Steven, had been sent to a military academy in California, from which the poor soul could only come home on holidays. He was desperately unhappy there. I have to ask him the name of the school, fearful I will get it wrong. When he came back, I went away.
By amazing circumstance, my mother remarried right before my brother, Steven, left. Steven and I thought it was Mom’s third marriage, but in fact it was the fourth. Today we both have the uncomfortable feeling that she believed the chances for happiness in her new marriage would be better if we were out of her hair.
She would know, of course. Her parents sent her off to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, a convent school—the same place that Joan Crawford’s daughter, Christina (author of Mommie Dearest), was sent. I loved my mother to bits, but she was a bad girl before I came around. She needed straightening out.
This article begins the first of a series of ruminations on the boarding school. No matter how many friends the boarding school child retains from boarding school, the experience leaves an interesting, and often painful mark.
In Wax Works, the mark is on both the students and the school. (Buildings are not supposed to be alive, but many of us know one that is.)
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