This year is a tough one for the places I went to school. The high school that I loved with all my heart and graduated from is being torn down because the district is combining my school with the other high school in the district to create one mega school. My elementary school which I loved is being torn down, and right next to it, the school I went to for junior high is being torn down. These two are being replaced by a park. It is the junior high building that I’m going to write about here.
It was in this building that I learned the most about life. I moved into this building in the fourth grade, and it’s where I began to learn that standing out in any way could be bad. A couple of my friends and I wrote a play and with our teacher’s permission, performed it for the class. Mistake.
In fifth grade, I had Mr. Hudie (pronounced Huoodeye) and I lost so many of my teeth in his class that he finally just started motioning me out of the room when I would raise my hand at inappropriate times. He also turned bright red and spit when he’d get mad and yell, and boy was he a yeller. It was funny and terrifying all at once.
It was also in fifth grade where I began to learn that sticking up for a friend could cause you a lot of trouble with other kids. It’s where I began to think about myself before thinking of others. It’s where I began to learn that people you’d been friends with all your life couldn’t necessarily be trusted.
Seventh grade was a big deal because we moved to the top floor. In seventh grade I learned that the tall boys always wanted to date the short girls and since girls grew up first, my 5’6″ (at the time) self started looking at older boys. Mistake.
I also learned in this grade that sometimes teachers liked mean kids better than nice kids and they were perfectly capable and willing, to egg on the mean kids. I also learned that making really good grades could get you picked on, but if you let the straight A’s go, the crappy mean kids would leave you alone, at least about that. It’s also where I learned that sometimes when people thought they were insulting you by calling you Farrah when you got your blonde hair cut into feathers, that they were actually comparing you to one of the most beautiful women of all time (remember that red bathing suit poster anyone?) and instead of cringing because of it, I should’ve tossed said blonde hair and laughed at them. Ahhh hindsight. Seventh grade also taught me that genuinely short men, under say 5’6″, hate and despise tall women and will make fun of them and give them shitty nicknames. To that guy I say, dude, you looked like a chubby leprechaun and I hope you’re still short and I hope you got genuinely obese. And bald.
Eighth grade introduced me to lecherous teachers. A nasty, child molesting asshole, who a few years later lost his next job and maybe his teaching license for his disgusting ways. It’s where I learned that there was a big difference between a teenage boy telling you that you looked nice in a pretty dress and a 40 year old teacher pulling you out of music class to tell you that you look nice. It’s where I learned that if you forgot a book in your locker, you should always take your mom into the empty school with you to look for it; because when you go in alone, you might discover that you didn’t forget your book, your pervert science teacher picked up your book when you went to the bathroom in his class and he was standing at the top of the stairs with it in his hand waiting for you. It’s also where I learned that you can back perverts off with a loud voice, a threat of violence, and a hasty retreat sans book. It was on my desk the next day when I went into his room. He never spoke to me again, gave me an effortless A in the class and disappeared to a new school over the summer. It’s when I learned to tell my mother EVERYTHING.
I learned about voting in that school because when I was little my parents voted in the basement. In genuine voting booths with American flags across the opening for privacy. It’s where I won a talent show with my fantastic patriotic tumbling routine when I was little and where I won a couple of Halloween costume contests. It’s where I learned about jealousy, both mine and that directed at me. It’s where I learned that I really loved performing and began to want to be an actress. It’s where I got my first on-stage laughs because I refused to kiss my co-star so we rewrote the script and put in some physical comedy (falling off the back of the couch together and kicking our legs around like we were making out, and going in a closet together, with me coming out with his coal black wig on top of my very blonde head to imply more making out; it was supposed to be his black mustache, but he forgot it) that made the high school principle come up to us after the play and tell us we should consider acting as a profession. It’s where the seeds of the cruelty and bullying that would cause me to change schools, lose my friends and the only life I’d known were sown.
I’m sad about my elementary school and my high school being torn down, but I’m not sad about this school being torn down. I have some good memories there, but the majority of them are unpleasant, heartbreaking, sad, scary, infuriating, and unfair. The things I learned in that place made me cautious, suspicious, and untrusting. In a way though, I guess I wouldn’t trade it, because it made me tough. It gave me an edge that I otherwise would not have. It made me a better person and a ferocious mother. It taught me about human nature and character or lack thereof. It gave me one of the best bullshit detectors known to man, and it’s protected me because I will take no crap. From anyone.
So you beautiful old building full of ghosts, adios. After you’re gone, I’m going to come walk through the park that will replace you and I’ll gather up the little ghostly wisps of myself that are trapped there. I’ll incorporate them back into that little girl still hiding inside of me, and she and I will flip you the bird when we leave. Because that’s who you made us.
Be kind to someone today. It’s a gesture that many are denied.
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