Monday, May 15, 2006

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.'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 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?


Blogger Rock said...

I don't want to be the first person to comment on this - but i reminds me of comic Larry Miller's routine (who I love) who says the difference between men an women is:

"Men don't hear what women say, and

Women remenber everything you say".

And I think this proves it.

Some day I'll tell you about second grade Mary Mccolgin - a nice Catholic girl in Baltimore who lived across the street from me. And how she deflocked me - if that's a word.

1:01 AM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Deflocked?? I'm guessing what that means, Rock.

Wordgirl!!! I think this was your best post EVER! Gads, it was like sitcom and I could see every one of these people.

Here's one from my past - Tamera - the 2nd grade girl who pee'd herself while sitting in reading circle. I suddenly noticed a puddle under her chair while she never moved or acted like anything had happened.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

Great post!

I wonder what happened to Josh, who pooped his pants in the first grade, and to Michael, a sweet kid who was inexplicably teased by everyone else despite being nice, friendly, and not funny-looking.

I am not a reunion-goer, but friends tell me that it's the kids from the margins that really shine in later life. The losers stay losers and the mighty fall, but the kids in the margins generally go on to have happy lives.

6:02 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

I'm an underachiever too. Always have been and for the exact same reasons as you. It's not so bad, except I know that if I had applied myself, things would have been so much different. I guess I just don't have the Type-A go-getter gene. And really, I'm mostly okay with that.
Was one of your boys in the ceremony?

7:46 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Yeah...the sophomore. He received the Ann Brannon (local educator) Award for Foreign Language. Both he and the older brother had already received Radio Shack Scholar Awards a few weeks ago...for their 4.0 (or better) GPA. Last night's awards were MAINLY for juniors and seniors on the individual level. Plus the National Merit Finalists and Commended Scholars.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Misfit Hausfrau said...

I loved this post! There are so many people I wonder about from school. What ever happened to Rich Bitch Deborah? And Brainy Ray? And our Class President (and biggest stoner of all time)Mike? I was completely traumatized by my 10th reunion and have vowed to not return. The biggest bummer about the 10th reunion was that NONE of the people I was curious about came. It was a complete waste of time.

8:27 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

Great post. I have often thought about these people in my life: it's hard to know who are stars and who are marginal though. I didn't know many popular kids really. There's all kinds of people who were unforgettable without being outstanding: Like kid who bullied me in fourth grade until I finally stood up to him and punched him in the stomach. I was so nervous the next day at the thought of having to see him, that I threw up. Turns out his family moved away and he never came back to school. Always wondered what happened to him.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

These are great!! I can't believe how detailed you all remember them. I think I might have blocked out the majority. LOL.


The chubby kid from 2nd grade who lived in the apartment down from us. He was color blind and loved cats.

Steven, my first crush in Kindercare. He had HUGE ears. He gave me an opal ring and told me not to lose it. But I did.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

I loved this! How fun. I just had dinner with two friends from high school and we asked ourselves the same question ("I wonder what ever happened to...?") I often wonder about childhood friends, including Dolly, who told me when we were five that I shouldn't worry; my boobs would never grow big and point in different directions like Dolly Parton's did. (Very weird they were both named Dolly.)

You know what? She was right!

2:17 PM  
Blogger Nilbo said...

I went to my (covered mouth mumbling) Reunion a couple of years ago. A bunch of 50 year olds trying to look like we HADN'T underachieved. It was hilarious and there were many choruses of "Getthefuckouttahereyou'renotDEAD!?!?"

Still, some kids didn't show up. I often wonder what happened to certain people - not random boys and girls, but the girls I fell madly, deeply, hopelessly, helplessly in love with.

Janet Wadleigh. We were in Grade Two. I had to beat up Tommy Kil(something ... bury? Patrick? Whatever) to make him stop trying to steal her from me. I moved away that summer. I suppose they're married now.

Candy Kaiser. I actually know what happened to Candy. She married a nice guy and raised a family. She lived next door to Janet Wadleigh and moved at the same time I did (base closed). We ended up on the same base and were best friends through elementary school. I moved again, and she followed again, again to the same base, only larger city and we went to different schools. Didn't see her for five years. Then our school played volleyball against hers and she was a cheerleader. Dated again in high school. Never really came to anything. I still love Candy.

Leslie Byrd. God, if ever there was unrequited love, this was it. She always had a boyfriend (she was gorgeous), and I was the guy she would complain to about how shitty they treated her. She never knew how I felt, I don't think. We were inseparable friends in high school and I have not seen her since the day we graduated. A hole in my heart, that.

(sigh) Yeah, thanks for this.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

This was awesome.

Donald, the creepy kid in seventh grade who referred to every girl's breasts (such as they were) as 'jugs.' Was always being told by teacher that he wasn't living up to his potential. I later wondered whether that was teacher-school feel-good babble or not. Did Donny have potential? My guess is that he's a gas-station attendant somewhere, leering at some poor woman while he wipes her windshield, right about now.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

This dude Paul that EVERY girl in my class had a HUGE crush on who moved away before we found out how he looked as a teenager. Sigh. :P

5:37 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

LOL. I love this post.

I wonder what happened to everyone in my fourth grade class. Everyone. I've seen some of them here and there and none of them looked like they were too happy with their lives. They were such an odd bunch of kids. I wonder about them all often.

6:27 PM  
Blogger The June Cleaver Diaries said...

Jared from kindergarden: I was at his house for a playdate, and he asked me if I wanted to see something cool. Thinking he was going to take out his lizard, he took put his penis instead and showed me how he could "turn it inside out." Nifty. I immediatly had his mom call my dad, and home I went.

Craig from high school: Farted load and proud on a plastic chair in a silent classroom. We all knew it was him because he was the only one still furiously studying his textbook, his face four shades of purple. Good looking and brilliant, he never had a date after being labeled "Fartknocker."

7:13 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Who said it? The marginal ones? Every single last one of 'em. I've gone to 8 different schools and there are too many to enumerate. During slow times in my previous life/career I googled almost all of them without success. I wonder if I'm on someone's list somewhere...

I ran into a 'popular girl' at TJ Maxx about 9 years after graduation and she gushed about her and some other 'popular dude' that had returned to our high school to student teach and all the kids were constantly asking them if they were going out and it was, like, so funny, because, like they were kinda going out and stuff. That's what I think of when I think of reunions.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous lildb said...

this girl, Sandy, and another, Pamela, who were treated cruelly by everyone. and I do mean everyone. although I don't recall doing anything directly to either girl, by not actively defending them, I became a silent accessory (and not the good kind, either, like a nice brooch).

it still depresses me. I'm ashamed. I hope I get the chance to apologize for being an asshole at some point.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Maybe, a few years from now, you will make a similiar list for us.


7:34 AM  
Blogger Lianne said...

Wow, I think I'd like to meet the whale/camel girl. Sounds very freaky.

Congratulations on your achievements, you smarty-pants you.

I wonder about Tom Pani, the first boy I ever had a crush on. He was very nice to me, and we would laugh a lot. I bet he becamse a computer guru or something.

I also wonder about Jeanne Jacobson. Her entire wardrobe was from the Sears catalog. I was so jealous. Her real name was Stephanie, but she went by Jeanne. What's up with that?

8:08 AM  
Blogger Half-a-Beaner said...

Eric Johnson. I think he must have had a genius IQ but he was the slowest kid in the class when it came to social situations. In the fifth grade I was so desperate during a test that I whispered to him "Pssst! Hey! Eric! What's seven times eight?" He gazed back at me with a confused look, leaned towards me and then said in the world's loudest fake whisper, "What? I can't hear you!". I was so panicked and mortified that we would be caught that I buried my nose in my desk and didn't dare look up to see if the teacher saw us. Now that I think about this, I wonder if Eric didn't do it on purpose. Maybe he didn't want to tell me I was being a cheater outright and this was his clever way of letting me know that he wasn't going to be my accomplice. Either way,I never even tried to cheat in school ever again.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Laura Bora from Bufadora said...

Another underacheiver here with a kid being tested to go into the "Gifted and Talented Program".

Here's who I wonder about:

Patrick -- the boy who loved me in 1st grade. He was PePe Le Pew, I was the cat desperate to get out of his clutches. I liked this other boy who didn't know I was alive. It was announced in class that we had to partner up for a field trip and Patrick stood and grabbed my hand in a vise grip and didn't let go until we were back at school. He squeezed it so tight that when we got back to school my finger tips were dark red and the rest of my hand was white and numb. I hated him. He moved away. Nobody has ever loved me so fiercely since.

Jon pooped his pants in third grade and didn't say anything and the smell permeated the classroom. When the teacher called him up to the desk we could see a huge stain on the back of his pants. He kept denying everything. His mom came and got him out of school.

Samantha -- in 8th grade, she had stayed back a year and smoked cigarettes and ran around the gym locker room naked and totally un-selfconscious. She brought a copy of Judy Blume's "Forever" which we all took turns reading under our desk.

Missy -- She never said anything. EVER. She had huge bushy hair and the boys called her Sasquatch.

6:36 AM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

My aunt had that book. I spent hours reading it. What a little perv I was.

So entertaining! I should do this too. I remember entirely too much about way too many people who have long since forgotten my name, but I still wonder about them.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

I came here via Jess Riley's blog and I LOVE it! I'm going to live here. Anyway, I still think about Joey Kish from kindergarten: He fell in the toilet during potty time and our horrible kindergarten teacher (who is probably dead now) made him STAY in those wet clothes (and he had strings hanging off of him although I realize now it was probably pieces of toilet paper) for the rest of the afternoon. And she made him sit OUTSIDE the SONG CIRCLE!! God, I hope she's dead now.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Lucky Lum said...

Oh yes, I wonder about those people too...
Jim Adelman still pops up in my dreams regularly. the first boy to steal my heart...does he dream about me too?

8:04 AM  

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