My parents moved to a different part of town after we moved out of my cousin’s apartment. They rented a house with gray siding. I can’t remember much about the house’s interior but I do remember that the front lawn had no grass in it at all. Instead, it was covered in a lush green carpet of clover. I don’t know if this groundcover was intentional by the owner of the house or if he simply gave up and let the clover take over the yard. I liked it and after we moved in, I would sit and look for a four-leaf clover…to no avail. It was sure messy for my dad to mow however.
In the backyard I would play on my slip-n-slide during the summer. The neighbor’s yappy dogs would bark at me and eventually manage to get in our yard. I would have to go next door and tell the neighbor lady that her dog was in our yard again.
I also liked to make spears out of the cane which grew in the yard. My dad would even sharpen it to a point for me. No, I never speared the neighbor’s dogs. Other than the cane and the grass, there was not much else in the yard. I don’t remember any trees there at all.
My aunt, uncle, and two cousins who lived in Bloomfield would come to visit us every Saturday. I was older than both of my male cousins. My youngest cousin loved to play with my Barbies. I didn’t play with my Barbies anymore but I didn’t want him playing with them either and so I would try to hide them. He usually found them anyway. I remember that it irritated me to no end. Both of my cousins irritated me to no end.
I went to McKinley Elementary my sixth grade year. I didn’t have trouble with any of the kids there and the whole atmosphere was much freer and relaxed. Recess was recess and we could have free play. I didn’t like my social studies teacher very much because he actually expected me to read that boring textbook and answer questions about it. Other than that things went fairly smooth. My homeroom teacher did yell at me in class one day but other than that she was always nice.
The lunchroom smelled just as bad as any other public school lunchroom. I still brought my lunch. The kids at McKinley loved to experiment with the mess that was served up as food each day. The macaroni and cheese was an experiment in the resiliency of glutinous substances. A fork or spoon was inserted directly into the mass whereupon it would stand fixed into place until it was removed. The beef-a-roni was re-named barf-a-roni and so forth.
Toward the end of the year we were treated to a tour of Tibbets Junior High which would be our institution for the next three years. We were all pretty excited about junior high. The band teacher, Mr. Ashley, came to our school and displayed all the different instruments to us. He told us to pick out which instrument we wanted to play and write it with our names on a piece of paper. I did not understand this to be an option at the time. I picked out the flute and dutifully wrote my name on a piece of paper which was returned to him. At some point my parents were notified of my wish to be in junior high band and we soon made a trip to the music store to purchase a flute. And just like that, I became a member of the band.
Junior High was a new world, mostly because there would no longer be any recess. The cafeteria food still smelled the same and still carried my lunch from home. Well, I did try eating the cafeteria food for a while. The moldy oranges were one thing, but when I found a cafeteria worker’s hair in my food I went back to bringing my lunch from home.
I enjoyed my English/Grammar class that year, especially when we read Beowulf. Social Studies was as boring as ever. There were two Social Studies teachers; one was my cousin and so the powers that be put me in the other class. Did they think my cousin would favor me if I was in her class? I don’t know if she would have or not. My science teacher was boring and the textbook was boring. I cannot remember my math class although I’m sure I had a math class or some semblance of one at any rate.
I took a speech and drama class that year and I enjoyed it immensely. We made our own commercials which were filmed by our teacher. We wrote our own plays and the teacher told me to send mine to a publisher and gave me some publishers’ addresses. He didn’t do this with every student which communicated to me that he liked my writing. The publishers however did not, but the rejection letters were polite and encouraging nonetheless. I was also in a play and I helped build a set for the major play production for the school that year. That was definitely my favorite class; there were no boring lectures or boring textbooks.
My least favorite class was P.E., although science and social studies were a close second and third. My teacher took a disliking to me from the start and I had the displeasure of being in her class for all three years.
Toward the end of the year I began to take a liking to boys. I think this was mostly due to peer pressure. I briefly had a “boyfriend”. His name was Dale and he was a fellow flutist in band class. I don’t know how long Dale had liked me, but apparently he got up his nerve to talk to me and profess his love for me on the Friday before he moved to Colorado. We talked on the phone all Saturday while his mother packed the moving van. Once he arrived in Colorado he sent me love letters which I reciprocated for a while. I was heartbroken that he had moved so far away.
Eventually the first pangs of love gave way to milder feelings. His best friend Wayne approached me one day after lunch to say Dale had lost my address and would I please give it to Wayne so that he could write me again. Wayne made the mistake of making this request in front of my friends who immediately began teasing Wayne by saying that it wasn’t Dale who really wanted my address but him instead. Wayne said no, that Dale really did want it. My friends continued to tease and I refused to give Wayne my address. Thus my long distance romance with Dale came to an end. I’m pretty sure I had Dale’s address and could have written to him with my address, but I guess I had tired of the long distance relationship.
I went through an awkward phase toward the end of seventh grade. My teeth were a little crooked at the beginning of seventh grade, but by the end of the year they had become even more crooked. I wore thick glasses which seemed to get thicker with every eye doctor visit. But perhaps worst of all my hair went insane. The slightest breeze would send it into a wild tumult and that was back in the days when that hairstyle was not the latest rage.
One particularly humiliating day occurred toward the end of the school year when we had to go swimming for P.E. class. Lunch followed P.E. My hair was dripping wet by lunchtime for the next two to three weeks of school. I didn’t have time to dry it and eat lunch. I tried putting it in a ponytail while it was wet.
My friend Amy, who had P.E. class with me, was not going through an awkward phase. She was one of those blessed pre-teens whose body and looks matured early. At least I thought they were blessed, maybe they got wrinkles earlier. Who knows? Amy was friends with Eric, a junior high heart-throb whose body and looks had matured early too. She decided to flirt with him one day after lunch. I tagged along hoping he would notice me perhaps by some wild chance. He didn’t pay attention to me, maybe he was purposely averting his eyes from my direction because he saw something I had not yet seen. I guess Amy and I went to the girls bathroom before our next class because I next remember looking at myself in the mirror. My unruly hair had come undone from the ponytail and it snaked wildly all over my head like the great evil it had become. I looked frightful! No wonder Eric wouldn’t look at me!
Thus a great battle began within me that would last the next two years of school. The battle would spill out of me in the form of malice and anger toward the beautiful people in junior high as I tried in vain to gain their acceptance.