Category Archives: middle school

Memory Lane. With Shadows.

“Memory,” as the Barenaked Ladies sing, “is a strange thing.” In the last 24 hours I’ve found that to be very true, indeed.

Like millions of other people, I’m on Facebook. I’ve enjoyed catching up with old friends, sharing stories, sharing memories, and looking at photos, both old and new.

One of my friends recently posted some photos from our high school days on Facebook. I remarked that somewhere around this house, I had a box with similar photos. I vowed to dig it up and scan the images for the world to see.

Last night was that night. I checked all the places I thought the box would be: the spare room closet, under the bed, the dark recesses of the upper reaches of my own closet. But the box wasn’t there. Eventually, after much digging, I found it in the basement, buried under a mass of other boxes. It was old, and dusty, and it made me sneeze.

My son watched with curiosity as I opened the box and pulled out items: A Senior Memory book, corsages from homecomings and prom, old autograph books from 5th through 8th grade, certificates and test results and lots and lots of old photos.

The autograph books were a sight to behold. I didn’t even know I still had them. I didn’t remember EVER having had them. But here they are, solid, proof.

“Never kiss at the garden gate. Love is blind but neighbors ain’t.” Noelle wrote that at the end of 5th grade. What’s all this about kissing? I wondered as I read it. Kissing in 5th grade? It wasn’t until 6th or 7th grade when my friends secretly passed around Judy Blume’s book Forever, that I learned much about kissing. I read those passages with wide eyes. Kisses indeed!

Kathy, my best friend, whom I’ve kept in touch with all these years wrote simply, “Have a nice summer. It was nice nowing (sic) ya!” As if our friendship was over. Ha!

I don’t remember what Ermis did to me, but he wrote, “To Belle, The person I got good on her birthday.”

Alyson simply told me to have a fun summer and “don’t drown while swimming.” I must have taken her advice. I’m still here.

Susan told me to “Stay Cool and Stay High.” If I recall correctly, she had a slew of older sisters. This was the late 70s. I bet they smoked pot.

Shawn wrote: “I really enjoyed being your friend this year. I will always remember you. You have been a close friend and I don’t care what other people say, but I say you’re the best.” What DID other people say about me? I had no idea. The way I remember things with Shawn, well, we rode the bus together, and we had the same 5th grade teacher. One day Shawn had a necklace. It was imitation gold with crystals glued into it to look like diamonds. He was going to give it to his mother for mother’s day, or perhaps her birthday. Somehow, I convinced Shawn to give that necklace to ME instead. Maybe other people thought I was manipulative. How horrible was I? Oh my God, Shawn, I am so sorry. I’m glad you still thought of me as a friend, and for what it’s worth now, some 30 years later, I STILL HAVE THAT NECKLACE! It’s in mint condition, as I could never really bring myself to wear it. That’s how guilty I felt about talking you into giving it to me.

A turn through the pages of my autograph book from my middle school years left my husband asking “What did you DO to those kids?!” Sadly, this is where my memory begins to fail. “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t remember.”

But maybe it gives me a glimpse into what THEY thought of ME.

Somebody who signed their name as “Tuna Fish” wrote “I don’t mean to be mean but you need Listerine, not a sip not a swallow, but the whole damn bottle.”

Andy said I was NOT a goodie goodie. And then he wrote that Damon said I had a big butt. Somebody, be it Andy, or Damon, or perhaps I myself, scratched that last part out with pen, but not so well that I couldn’t make it out.

Mark always thought I was mean. Melissa thought I was weird. Jon thought I was all right, and that must have been what kept me going after more autographs.

Eric “The Great”, David, and Jon, were all in love it with me. “It’s true, honest” someone wrote.

Shelley must have read Forever before me. She wrote “Two in a car, two little kisses, one second later, Mr. and Mrs.”

Linda offered “May your life be as long as Dolly Parton’s bra strap.”

Laura said I had a lumpy head!

Faye said I was conceited, and a few pages later Vivian backs her up with “To Belle, an ugly stupid, dumb, conceited pig!!! Just Kidding!! Your lovely, beautiful great, talented, sweet, friendly, friend. I’ve had a wonderful year with you. (I lie). Vivian.” And still, she wrote down her phone number and asked me to call her.

Andrea said she’s really sorry she met me, and Shannon said I was a wonderful person then wrote “signed, A Just Kidding Person. Shannon.” She’s on Facebook too. Hi Shannon!

By the end of our 8th grade year, Jon wrote that I should “Drop Dead”, and Ted simply wrote: “Fuck You!” (Thanks, Ted, I loved you too!)

But it wasn’t ALL bad. There were plenty of nice things written about me too. In fact, Sandy, whom I’m sad to say I don’t remember AT.ALL. wrote that I was her BEST FRIEND EVER. And my teachers all had good impressions of me. They wrote glowing statements telling me I was “one of the good folks”; one of the “best students ever”; “smart and intelligent”; their “favorite student”.

I found an envelope with my test results from the California Achievement Test from 11th grade to back up the smart and intelligent statements. Unfortunately, it also seems to refute Andy’s claim that I wasn’t a goody goody. The summary of pupil’s scores states: THIS STUDENTS ACHIEVEMENT IN BASIC SKILLS MAY BEST BE SUMMARIZED BY LOOKING AT THE TOTAL SCORES. IT CAN BE SEEN THAT HER TOTAL SCORES ARE BETTER THAN APPROXIMATELY 98 PERCENT OF THE NATION’S 11TH GRADERS IN READING, 99 PERCENT IN LANGUAGE, 83 PERCENT IN MATHEMATICS, AND 96 PERCENT IN TOTAL BATTERY. SHE HAS STRENGTHS IN CAPITALIZING I/PROPER NOUNS, TITLES, USING END MARKS, COLONS, AND SEMICOLONS, USING COMMAS, USING QUOTATION MARKS.

But I wasn’t perfect, not so perfect as to elicit such mean comments in my autograph book. The statement goes on to say: SHE MAY NEED TO REVIEW SPELLING CONSONANT SOUNDS, SPELLING ALL SOUNDS IN A WORD, SPELLING VOWEL SOUNDS, USING PRONOUNS. Personally, I think the CAT needed to review the use of CAPITILZATION.  And THANK GOD for spell check.

As I scanned photos into the computer to post on Facebook, I marveled at the things I’d glued into my Senior Year Memory book. Ticket stubs from concerts I don’t remember attending: Chicago, Adam Ant, BARRY MANILOW???!!!; from dances I don’t remember dancing at; playbills from school plays I don’t recall, yearbook seminar’s I hardly remember.

Gas was 89 cents a gallon when I graduated from High School in May of 1986. Movie tickets cost $4.50, unless you went to a matinee for $2.00.

I kept a list of the guys I dated (Why?!), and when and how long I dated them. The lengths of time seem off, much shorter than how I remember those days. Marty, 9th grade, 2 months. Brian, 10th grade, 6 months. Mike and Darryl, in turn, 2 months and 3 months respectively in the 11th grade. Lee, 2 months in 12th grade. I remember those days, those guys. But then I come to another name, Steve. Someone I supposedly dated the summer before and through the beginning of my senior year in high school. And I don’t remember him. AT.ALL. A face comes fuzzily to my mind, if I search hard enough. But is it Steve’s face, or is it simply someone I saw on a television commercial? I have no idea. The guys I list after Steve, I remember them. But Steve escapes me. Who was he? Where did we meet? What happened to us?

Memory. It’s a strange thing.

My brother has a great memory. He was able to confirm for me that yes, he remembers that I went to a Chicago concert. And Adam Ant concert. The name Steve, he says, is familiar, but no, he doesn’t remember him.

I had a story published in a magazine.  I didn’t remember this.  I opened the magazine wondering why I had kept it.  I flipped the pages and read poems and stories from other classmates, and then I saw my name.  The story I wrote.  When did I write it?  And who submitted it to the school magazine?

And so I’m left sorting through the stuff that fills this old box in front of me, turning the pages of a memory book. Left feeling like I’m sorting through the memories of someone else’s life. Trying to remember who the hell Steve was. And how the hell did I get to that Adam Ant concert?

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Filed under life, memories, middle school, nostalgia, old times, Steve

Blue Denim

Thank you, Mom.  Thank you for buying me my first pair of Levi’s when I was in the 5th grade.  My friend Ann had a pair, my friend Valerie had a pair, and even my friend Kathy had a pair, I think.  I didn’t know what Levi’s were exactly, but I knew one thing:  those pants, they wrinkled behind the knees!  I guess they got all wrinkled when you sat down and your legs were bent; like when sitting in class behind a desk all day.  But the best part was, when you stood up, the wrinkles stayed there and that was cool!  Very cool.  At least to me.  My pants, not so much.  Because you see, Toughskins from Sears were not cool.  I don’t think they even qualified as jeans.  Or at least they didn’t in 1978. Certainly they were not blue denim.  They were all large and roomy and funny colored (burnt umber?) and funny patterned (paisley tweed?) and they were made of some kind of strange material that wouldn’t wrinkle behind the knees even if you sewed them into little “behind the knee pleats”.  They may be different now.  I don’t know.   I haven’t checked Sears lately because of that whole thing when I was in the 6th grade and store security thought I stole I bottle of nail polish, only I hadn’t, and I was scarred for life from the accusation and the meeting with the lawyers and all that, so I avoid the store like I avoid the plague, whenever and wherever I can. 

I am pretty sure though, given the school cliques and fashion fads of the late 70s and early 80s that if you hadn’t bought me that pair of Levi’s, I’d have been shunned forever once I hit middle school.  I’d have been one of the nerdy kids without friends who dressed poorly not because they were poor but because their parents didn’t realize fashion was becoming the judge and jury of their kid’s lives.  As it was, I stared at my friend’s backsides the entire Spring of 5th grade, both at and below their waists, desperately trying to figure out just what exactly, they were wearing.  I didn’t understand that Levi’s were properly categorized as blue jeans.  I didn’t understand that Levi’s was a brand.  I didn’t know about brands.  I knew about pants.  Some pants wrinkled behind the knees and some (mine) did not.  It took me a while to understand the word was Levi’s.  I described it to you as a word on a brown square on the back of the jeans above the pocket and that the jeans wrinkled behind the knees and OMG!  I had to have a pair.  Please? Please? Please?!  And eventually I worked up the nerve to ask a friend where she got them and she told me, and I told you, and you took me there and angels sang the Halleluiah because now my pants would wrinkle behind the knees too! 

And from there I was pretty much set.  I came to understood the power of  brands just as they became important.  I learned about things like Izod and Calvin Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt and Sassoon Jeans and Docksiders and Vans and O.P. (who the hell thought corduroy shorts would be a good idea?) and I had just enough of these fashion essentials to get by.  Just enough to fit in.

But that first pair of Levi’s.  I wore them out!  I wore them until they were two sizes too small and threadbare and even then I couldn’t bear to part with them.  I cut the legs off and wore them as shorts for just one more summer and then eventually, I sewed up the bottom leg holes and stuffed them with old rags and clothes that didn’t fit and sewed up the waist and I made a pillow out of those Levi’s.  It was the heaviest pillow in the world, considering I’d stuffed it full of my old Toughskins, but it was mine.  A cool pillow that looked like a pair of Levi’s denim shorts.  My Levi’s. Thanks, Mom. 

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Author’s note:  This essay is an entry in July’s group writing project over at MommaBlogga.  This month’s theme is “Thanks, Mom.” and participants were asked to write about something they are grateful to their mothers for.  A winner will be picked at random to recieve a $30 Amazon gift card.  Go ahead and participate.  You can win!  I know it’s possible because last month, I was the lucky winner!  Yes, Really!  Look here.  So you see?  All you have to do is enter and this month, the winner could be you!  But, uh, I hope it’s me again 😉

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Filed under blue jeans, cliques, fads, fashion, group writing project, Levi's, life, middle school, mom, Sears, thanks, Toughskins