Thomas Wolfe once famously said, “You can’t go home again,” and while I know you actually can go home again, it’s not always recommended. I discovered that truism when I spent a week in my hometown helping my sister out following her hip replacement surgery. Thankfully, the surgery went smoothly. And while my sister was in the hospital I found myself with a rare thing on my hands: time. No husband, kids, house, dog, cats, work, friends … nothing but me alone in my old bedroom in the house where I grew up. Well, not exactly alone. There were about 10 million memories in the bedroom, so things got a little crowded.
One of the memories I stumbled across was a postcard of the junior high I attended. A few seconds of gazing at the postcard gave me an instant urge to crawl into bed, tug the covers up over my head and tell my mother I was too sick to go to school. Unfortunately, my mom has been gone for several years so that wasn’t an option so I decided to muscle through at least a few of my dark junior high memories.
Junior high was difficult in so many ways, especially the new and mysterious social situations that cropped up, such as the Fortnightly Dance held every other Friday in the basement of a local church. The lights were dim, the refreshments Hawaiian Punch and pretzels, and the music provided by a not very adept high school band playing “Stairway to Heaven.” At Fortnightly, the cool girls danced with the cool boys while the rest of us hid in the bathrooms. Those cool girls seemed to have caught on to growing up and wore eye shadow with aplomb while my best friend and I were still secretly playing with our Barbies.
Junior high teachers were tougher too. Our grade school teachers hadn’t held our hands, but they had held us up. That stopped in junior high. Instead we were expected to figure things out on our own. While I can see now that the general you’re-on-your-own attitude helped us in the long run since at some point we were going to have to develop a few problem-solving skills, at the time it wasn’t fun at all.
Gym class was the worst with the 600-yard dash, the rope climb and endless physical education “units,” all requiring the wearing of a one-piece polyester uniform that never quite fit. It didn’t matter what kind of note you had from your mother (and I had an entire locker full of them), if you were well enough to be in school, you were well enough to participate in gymnastics.
Oh, there were a few good junior high memories, such as the cooking class where Mrs. Townsend taught us how to make pizza on English muffins as well as how to scour a sink. I also remember Mrs. Townsend fondly for rescuing me before the Eighth Grade Spring Fashion Show when my creation — a blue and white gingham pinafore that looked like it had been whipped together in the dark by someone with bad taste and zero sewing skills — kept falling off my skinny junior high frame during the fashion show’s dress rehearsal. (I never did figure out how to put a zipper in.) Mrs. Townsend dried my eyes before strategically pinning me into my dress, thus saving me from the years of psychic scarring that undoubtedly would have occurred if my dress fell off on stage.
The two years of junior high felt like two hundred and I doubt anyone was happier on graduation day than yours truly. I can still remember thinking on that June evening that nothing in life could be as tough as junior high and, lo and behold, I was right. Nothing has been as dreary as seventh and eighth grades and hopefully nothing ever will be since I’m not planning on being incarcerated any time soon.
Naturally, as soon as I found the postcard I took a picture of it and put it on Facebook, expecting to hear at least a few groans from former classmates about those ugly gym suits. Didn’t happen. Apparently everyone else enjoyed junior high, which was evidenced by comments such as “Wonderful memories!” “Wish we could go back!” “Where does time go?”
I don’t get it. There was nothing about junior high I’d like to experience again — other than maybe having a skinny junior high figure that would once more fit into a test tube. Oh, and maybe another English muffin pizza.