Last summer I went to visit my brother who lives in Switzerland.
I have a soft spot for Switzerland. I went to boarding school at the American School in Switzerland in Lugano. It was an amazing time in a beautiful place. We traveled all over Europe, hiked up mountains, skied, figured out train schedules, learned to drink beer, and generally had a great education. In 2000, I went back to the school for the founding Director’s 90th birthday party.
Mrs Flemming (we always called her Mamma Flemming) started the school in 1956 with 12 children, three were her own. When I graduated in the 70’s there were 200 of us. And now there are several schools around the world and many more students.
The birthday party in 2000 was a lot of fun because some of my dear friends were there. Two old roommates and an old boyfriend. We hiked up to see Herman Hesse’s house. There was a lovely garden at the bottom of the steps where people would hang out and smoke cigarettes and make out. Now they have a small museum next door dedicated to him. We looked around for our old stomping grounds and found that the “hole in the wall” where Serafina served us wine and beer out of her own kitchen was now closed up. But the main restaurant in the small village of Montagnola was still there. We spent a pleasant afternoon sipping grappa that the owner had made himself. He even sold us several bottles.
Now I was back in Switzerland with my teenage son. Mamma Flemming died at the age of 98 and is buried in the cemetery just down the mountain from the school. The same cemetery where Herman Hesse can be found.
In the 11 years between this and my last visit, the place had changed dramatically. Lugano was still as beautiful as ever although much more built up and congested. The piazza was there full of tourists and the pizza was still good. The local department store where we had purchased my son his Action Man toy in 2000 was still there but had a new name and was under new ownership.
And I almost didn’t recognize the school. There were so many new buildings! It has become a formal school with students in uniforms and actual rules. When we went there it was very much a family atmosphere and we all were encouraged to strike out on our own and explore our surroundings. Now TASIS is all grown up.
While I was wandering around the campus, I ran into an old friend in the lobby of the main building. Angelo, the guy who owned the local sandwich shop was now working in the business office of the school. He pretended to remember me but I don’t know if he really did.