Boarding school? That’s so Back East

Mar 5, 2013 by

We were in bare legs and shirt sleeves, drinking white wine on the patio at Lucques in West Hollywood — in February. But nearly everyone I spoke to was waxing nostalgic for snowy New England.

The occasion was the alumni reception last week for St. Paul’s School in rural Concord, N.H., one of America’s most prestigious boarding schools and a bastion of WASP values.

I’d been hearing a lot about California kids going back East for boarding school. For many Californians, who grew up going to public school, it’s a weird idea. Why would anybody want to leave their family? Or forsake our great city for the hidebound East Coast?

At the reception, Majandra Delfino, an actress, said some of her Hollywood friends are “kind of horrified” at the idea of sending their kids away before college.

“They think it’s a punishment,” said Delfino, whose husband, David Walton, was in the St. Paul’s class of ’97. “They think it was because he was bad or something. It’s a culture clash.”

I was equally horrified when my daughter, age 14, asked if she could go to boarding school.

At $50,000 a year to send her away, there was no point in even discussing this for one second. I didn’t even ask her why, I just said no.

I was a little angry she didn’t want to be with me through her high school years. Were mean girls picking on her at her Catholic school five miles from my home? Had I done something wrong that she wanted to flee?

Years later, long after the idea passed out of her head, I found out part of the real reason — Hogwarts.

She had a romantic vision of walking the ancient hallways infused with knowledge with Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron. There could be great adventure in those hushed classrooms. What mysteries lay in the dusty libraries of boarding school?

L.A. and Immaculate Heart High just didn’t cut it.

In fact, Robert A. Barr, St. Paul’s director of gift planning, who was at the reception, told me the Harry Potter books come up all the time. St. Paul’s main dining hall, with its vaulting barrel ceilings and high-backed wooden chairs, looks like Dumbledore might walk in any minute.

“I take kids in there and tell them, ‘There’s where we keep our sorting hats, and they’re like, ‘Wow,’ ” Barr said.

Standing in Lucques as the crowd of St. Paul’s alumni sampled mushroom canapes and bacon-wrapped dates, I realized there were several forces at play. Even in a world city like L.A., kids naturally yearn for something grander than the punk clothing stores of Hollywood & Highland Center or the orange sodium glow on Sunset.

via Boarding school? That’s so Back East –

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