Looking Back in the Weeks Before 8th Grade Graduation

I volunteered to interview our school’s 8th graders for a Middle School Graduation video, and jotted down some of the things they shared. I asked a lot of different questions, but what I expected them to remember and talk about wasn’t always important to them. Only a few could come up with a story from Lower School, while I can tell you numerous memories from my own early years. First grade. Third grade, certainly. And Fourth.

Only a handful could remember anything that happened in the news, yet here too, I could talk for hours about how I perceived or even participated in historic events of the 1970s and 80s. And oddly to me, quite a number of “best field trip” moments took place on the bus rides there. The only bus ride memory I have took place in fifth grade, when one of the boys told me I was “gullible,” which I was, but I thought it meant “huggable”, and it made my day.

Funny story:

“We were seeing how many of those little orange slices you can stuff in your mouth. We were backstage, and I was on the floor laughing so hard that I started to spit them out just when an admission tour group came through. I’m guessing none of thosekids are coming here.”

Wisdom you might share with your second grade buddy:

“Don’t stress out. It gets harder every year, but when it does, you’re ready for it. And it’s not that hard, because the teachers help you.”

“Spend as much time with your friends as you can.”

“Be yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because most of them are nice.”

Best part of the Washington DC trip:

“It was on the bus ride, and he was sleeping, and his brother and I were throwing cashews at him. And then he woke up, and yawned, and I threw one perfectly into his mouth. He was soooo surprised.”

“Well, one story, I can’t tell you.”

Best day at school:

“My very first day here in sixth grade. I came here and I realized I could be myself. I didn’t have to be crazy or anything for people to like me.”

“They were going to tear the old Lower School building down, and so on the last day of first grade, they let us write on the walls. I remember we were drawing on the bathroom walls. Everywhere. But then we started drawing on the carpets, and apparently, they were planning to re-use the carpeting. So, our teacher got really mad. That was the best day.”

Middle School Dances:

“The dances are pretty ‘cringy’, because there are like two slow dances, and there’s like three couples who dance together, and everybody starts freaking out because they’re dancing.”

“Everybody only has six dance moves, and they just do them over and over.”

“Most importantly, you get candy.”

Something that happened in the world during your time at the school:

“The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots winning the Super Bowl.” “The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots…”

“I will always remember the day in December 2012, when the world was supposed to end, and we were all standing out on the field looking up at the sky waiting. And then it didn’t.”

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Flasback: Winter, 1982-ish

On this 15-degree morning, when I dropped my boys off at school, I ordered our seventh grader to pull on his coat. He had chosen to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and was not planning to wear a coat until I marched him back inside to get it. As his mother, I told him, his poor judgment would reflect badly on me.

“You’re putting that coat on before you get out of the car.”

Driving away, amused by the common middle school boy rejection of long pants, a memory came to me of one winter day a long time ago. My friend wasn’t feeling well during our school day, and I had the honor of walking her to the nurse’s office. Mrs. Queen’s office was in another building, so it offered a change of scenery, a break from class, and public recognition that I was a good enough friend to the ailing student to be the one selected to accompany her.

I never got to know Mrs. Queen as well as some of my friends, though, because I was never sick. I just escorted the sick people to her, and I found her intimidating. I guess that’s why this winter memory stands out.

We walked into her office and announced our reason for being there. It smelled like antiseptic and band-aids.

Rather than address my ailing friend, Mrs. Queen peered down at me.

“Zip up that coat, young lady. Are you trying to get sick?!”

My friend ended up being sent home with a fever, and I, perfectly healthy, zipped my coat and returned to class, unaware that this would be a memory that shaped how I parent my seventh grade son.

 

Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees!

Back in the day when kids barely had any after-school activities, we danced our afternoons away….literally.

We’d come home from school, go straight to the kitchen for snack, then head to the living room and turn on the stereo. Our favorite dance music came from ABBA, the Fame soundtrack, the Grease soundtrack, and of course, the Monkees.

So when I opened my Yahoo homepage today to learn that Monkees’ singer Davy Jones has passed away, I naturally wanted to go home to my old living room (which no longer exists) and have a dance contest with my sisters and best friend. Remember “Last Train to Clarksville”? We acted that one out.

Back in the day, we were Daydream Believers. We pretended we were Solid Gold dancers, doing our late 70s and early 80s dance moves, hoping the boys in our neighborhood didn’t happen to look toward our window as they passed by on their way home. They would have seen us jumping around, spinning, singing at the top of our lungs… looking a little bit like, well, monkeys.

We each had our favorite. I remember my sister liked Mickey because he had a big head, and I liked the one with the hat because he was a goofball. Everyone else we knew loved Davy.

If my sisters and best friend were here, I know what we’d do this afternoon after school…

We’d dance.