06 March, 2008

The World That I grew Up In...

We stood around the table in the lobby of the ballet studio chatting - 4 women, 4 different styles, and 4 different ages.  Each of us had vastly different experiences growing up, yet here we sat chatting away all working for the greater cause... ballet and our kids. 
"Feathered hair is coming back."
"Aren't jeans coming back up to the waist?"
"My graduating class was 96 people."
Inner city to rural America, we each had something to share. 
This conversation, my approaching 20 year high school reunion, and the Mark Wills' song "19 something" begged me to take a walk down memory lane.  A journey back in time to stirrup pants, long sweaters, neon colors, and big hair with loads and loads of spray.
I don't remember much about my school days.  I think that is kind of strange.  I have friends that remember so very much and the tiniest of details.  But not me.  Perhaps that says that high school was something I enjoyed (school in general) but that those days were not my "glory days."
I remember teasing a little girl in elementary school because she wore her hair in ringlet piggy tails.  No, I wasn't a nice person. The universe got even with me though as I have a daughter who was teased because she has curly hair.  What goes around comes around I guess. 
I remember giving my first kiss, hanging upside down, and spinning round and round on the merry-go-round.  Not to mention hours doing a lemon twist and spinning or jumping rope.  I remember playing and playing, and playing.  It seemed like we spent so much time outside at recess... which was great.  Our playground was surrounded by a wooded area.  We spent lots of time playing house and chase in those woods.  (Woods meaning lots of tall pine trees so we were easily seen by the teachers)
Elementary school was fun.  It was laughing and playing.  It was learning and exploring so many different things - science fairs, spelling bees, math bees, speed tests, and listening to books read aloud.  It was a mouse named Timothy that lived in the music room (stuffed) who would hide if the class was too noisy. 
I remember deciding, in 6th grade, that good grades just weren't "cool" marking the last time I received a 4.0.  It is strange to have made such a decision at the ripe old age of 11, but I did.  Although I never let my grades get bad, the rest of my academic career was spent not letting them be fabulous either.  (Note to self, that was stupid!)
Our junior high was small, just 7th and 8th grades.  It was also isolated from the rest of the school complex and located about a mile or so from the other buildings.  Those were interesting years, and I remember very little outside people "going together," slumber parties where we played "light as a feather," and the music.  There were also animal dissections and element chart memorizations... and learning to do fun things with slides and dyes and chemicals!
And then there was high school...
Fashion suddenly became important to some and make-up became a must for others... way too much make-up that is.  Girls were playing with their hair color and hormones raged.  Oxfords, sweaters, parachute pants, hairspray and big hair, stirrup pants... each had a role to play.  The popular boys would sit in the halls each morning.  One of my best friends swore that they were looking "at her butt" each time she walked by.
There were pep rallies and basketball games and trips late at night back from other schools.  Afternoons spent cheering for a team that lacked a crowd of any sort.  There were cliques, but not cliques and various groups of different people all trying to find themselves and their way/direction.  Today I hear about bullying, but I don't remember any of that then.     
Despite our tiny rural school, everyone knowing everyone and their family,  and our idealistic environment, we were touched by eating disorders, drugs, alcohol, parties, crimes, and even cancer. 
I have no idea how I survived sometimes.  I have no idea how many high school girls survived.  Sadly, I think that we had it easier than the girls have it today - probably a less challenging experience than some who will read this. 
Before writing this I looked at the group picture that was taken at the 10 year reunion.  I was not in that picture just as I will not be in the one to be taken this summer.  How people changed in the ten years between 88 and 98.  And yet, how they stayed the same. 
For that reunion we each wrote a short bio saying where we were and what we had been doing for the last ten years.  Mine was hard for some to believe.  There is no way a person from a small school in no where rural America could have done all that.  But I did just as so many of us did some really great and interesting things. 
Oh how different my experience was than most.  I was born two days after one of my classmates and graduated from high school with him 17 years later.  Neither of us ever moved - he returned to live there after college.  Actually, about a quarter of my graduating class started kindergarten together and never left.  Our reputations were made before we knew what the word meant or the role it would play in our lives. 
My childhood seems so simple now.  Evenings at the drive-in movies, camping under the stars, late nights, flashlight tag, driving back roads just to talk, riding bikes through the streets, hiking through the forests... all without a care in the world.  We were isolated from city life, from the real world.  Our world had not been touched by so many things when we were little.  How things have changed, for my little town and for its children. 
Although I am not returning to the reunion in person, I will return in thought and a bit in my heart.  I keep in touch with so very few from my school days, but those few are important to me... as is the memory and the experience of my "19 Something."
(My "19 Something" included college too and oh so many other adventures... maybe another post... or maybe not)


Michael C said...

That Mark Wills song is a great one, especially since it so closely parallels the timeline of my growing up.

I had a great childhood and just strive every day to make sure my twins have the same feelings when they get older. Unless of course it means they will end up like me...

Jeni said...

I live in the same house I was born in 63 years ago. When I was a kid, we still had a school here in town -held grades 1-6; we went to a school in a village about 5 miles away for 7-8th grades and then to the township high school for the last four years. I worked in D.C. for a little over 8 years (1964-1972) and then, moved back here to my "hometown." My best friend from childhood grew up two doors from me and today, she lives across the road but two doors down from me. My kids all graduated from the same school as I did, although it was in name only as the building where I attended school was subsquently torn down and a nice big church built on that spot. I walked almost a mile to school the first six years, then walked about 3/4 of a mile to a bus stop the last six years. My kids, now my grandkids, walk about 50 yards from the house to catch the bus that takes them to the school complex about 7 miles away from here. Although our school has since added many new programs, classes, organizations since I graduated, I truly believe I received a much better education than my kids did or that my grandkids are getting here. Or maybe I paid more attention and studied a bit more than they did or do today. I dunno! My 45th class reunion was last June and I think we had 22 classmates out of 45 we graduated with in attendance. Our class has grown closer over the years though compared to other kids' classes that graduated around me.

AaroN said...

How about that. I graduated with 96 people, too.

Why didn't you have your photo taken with the rest of your class?

justrun said...

Ooof. Even though mine was just '98, I see so many of the same things in my memories of high school. They were good times. I don't need to go back (maybe a moment or two) but they were good.

Oh, and this: "A journey back in time to stirrup pants, long sweaters, neon colors, and big hair with loads and loads of spray.
That was me, just at 11 instead of 17." I was such a wannabe.

The Exception said...

MC - The song takes me back as well. I remember where I was and what I was doing (Eating pizza in my cheer uniform before a basketball game) when the space shuttle exploded. The song brings back so many memories.

Jeni - My small town sounds similar to yours. There are people there who have lived there for generations. They love it; it is where they belong and they grow very long and strong roots. Thingns are changing though.

Aaron - I wasn't at the reunion. I was in DC at a job interview! My picture is in the class composite though. UGH! ;)

JR - Wow, you were ahead of your time!! I was into the feathered hair thing though. My cousin had the perfect head of blond, feathered hair!

The Diva will go to school with hundreds of kids. Even though it was kind of weird knowing everyone in the class, it was kind of nice too. There are advantages to small classes!

BeautifulDisaster said...

they WERE staring at my butt!!