Everything You Always Wanted to Know
Tonight I attended a ceremony for academic achievement and among those honored were 20 of the graduating seniors receiving the Principal's Award for academic achievement and community service. Among those 20 were seniors bound for University of Chicago, Northwestern, Rice, Brown, Washington University and MIT. Fresh-faced and eager to face the world of higher education. Idealistic. Full of plans. Exhausted from the rigors of graduating with distinction from a high school with a reputation as an academic powerhouse.
Me? I was a late bloomer in everything I ever did and I did not blaze any trails as an award-winner. A voracious reader and writer, I've had the unhappy misfortune to discover my life's purpose about 20 minutes before I exited any given institution. I didn't believe in myself until right before I got out of high school. I did fine but nothing spectacular. I didn't have to try very hard to be a A/B student...and so I didn't. I missed belonging to the National Honor Society...not because of my grades, but because I didn't belong to enough clubs to qualify for the requisite number of service points. Mr. Half graduated 6th in a class of 600 and later, he graduated cum laude from the same university where I graduated thank ya lawdy. Except for the hours I've spent tutoring, reviewing, and otherwise assisting my kids with every report, test or project they've ever been assigned, any inability on their part to to achieve academic stardom is something I'll have to blame on my lame genetics. I say this knowing my kids have already outshone me time and time again in that arena. Watching these kids take their turn on the academic stage was like having to listen to the one-thousandth refrain of the Underachiever's Anthem...the one that plays over and over in my head. But I digress.
There were three girls named Stacy throughout my school career. Stacy Smith (she of the enormous breasts), Stacy Jones (short and freckled and a bad student) and me...the girl who would have been entirely forgettable had I not had a hard-to-pronounce last name that had 13 letters in it. Both of the others have dropped from sight. Neither of those two Stacys were around for the last big high school reunion and it makes me wonder about other people I used to know. People with whom I never had a real relationship but who stick in my mind for one small thing that they did.
So...it's not the stars or the losers I wonder about tonight. It's the marginal folks. The people who stay in my memory because I saw them do one thing that made them memory-worthy. Whatever happened to:
Diane Black: The girl who threw up orange all over the desk behind me in 3rd grade. I don't remember another blessed thing about her.
Rodney: The guy who taped black candy suckers to the Valentine cards (back when you had to give one to everyone in the class) of the kids he didn't like. You got a red one if he liked you. I got a black one. Surprised?
Sue Jacobs: A dedicated paste eater all during 1st grade. Mrs. Castleberry told her it was made out of cows and horses and she'd turn into one if she kept it up. Later, when I started the evening shift at a Six Flags gift shop one summer, Sue was my manager. She had given up the paste.
Deborah Kleinman: The girl who told me her mother was a whale and her dad was a camel. Later became the fashion model in Paris. Or so she said. She was pretty gorgeous. But that was at the ten year reunion...when none of us looked too bad. Yet.
Brian: The one kid who cried on the first day of 1st grade. Cried for his mother. Okay...he wailed. And she kept looking at him through the window in the classroom door. He'd see her and then he'd start crying again. He became a psychiatrist and moved to Florida. But I haven't seen him in many years.
Les: The bell rang on the last class of the last day of school (Mrs. Castleberry's class again) and he jumped out of the window, instead of using the door like everyone else.
Rhonda: The girl who never used normal-sized pencils but--instead--used those really ginormous pencils that they sell at the circus. You know...clown pencils with the big tassels that hang off of the erasers.
Greg: Jumped off of the swingset and broke his leg during Kindergarten recess. I remember the fuss they made...it was like a scene from E.R. He was a weird kid, but not as weird as his brother, who was the first date I ever had. Snuck me into an R-Rated movie that I wasn't supposed to see and then, because I hadn't perfected my lying skills, I immediately ratted myself out to my mother when she asked me what movie I had seen. My punishment wasn't nearly as bad as the kiss I received from Greg's brother...a guy who obviously suffered mightily from an excess of saliva and who didn't mind licking my face in the process of trying to extricate my wisdom teeth with his tongue. No, Doug...I don't really care what happened to you . I heard you became a doctor like your dad....probably a gynocologist. Greg's probably a pin setter at the local bowling alley...but he's probably not a jerk.
Dan - You moved here from New York and we were lab partners Physical Science during our freshman year. You told me you were born in a taxi. I thought that was so cool. Where did you go after graduation?
Sharon Forbes- You brought your parents' copy of "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex" to school in 8th grade. You wrapped it in aluminum foil and the teacher thought we were studying our Spanish in class. We were studying allright.
That's good for a start. What people stick out in your mind?