Retroactive Reunion

Saturday night was my high school reunion.  I was prepared to go.  I got dressed, even put on makeup, and was driving down Harlem Rd.  I came to the 33, and instead of going straight as planned, I hooked a right and went elsewhere.  I blew it off.

Many moons ago, my friend Chelsea and I made a pact to attend this reunion, our 20 year…well, 21, given Covid.  However, Chels was out of town.  I messaged Jaime, and neither of us seemed to know if we were going until it was time to go.  I’m still not sure if she did.  I do know that I did not.

First of all, most of my friends from high school are scattered now, and people that I would like to see are out of state or country.  Sure, I’d be happy to see other girls from school, but my core group of friends really wasn’t going to be represented.  Secondly, while the school held an all-class bash that I also did not attend, the reunion itself was at a bar and I wasn’t in the mood.  I would have preferred something at the school, or perhaps outdoors.  I don’t really drink, and I’m not about to spend a ridiculous amount of money on food or something, and I generally do not enjoy a bar atmosphere anymore.  So, the whole idea of going just seemed oppressive.

Still, I wanted to, which I why I got ready and started driving.  But then, my anxiety woke up.

It already wasn’t a stellar day, but when my chest tightened as I drove down Harlem, I knew a mistake was being made.  See, high school was no high point for me, and traumatic memories came flooding back as I drove, making me feel like I am not as healed as I thought I was.  So, I turned right, got on the 90, and headed towards Carey’s house. 

Evening found me sitting on her porch overlooking the Niagara River with my husband and friends, and feeling happy.  Much happier, and much more myself, than I would have felt at that reunion.

Save my close friends, those girls don’t know me.  Many of them barely tried when I was right in front of their face, so why should anyone try now?  I used to worry about reunions because of my lack of successes.  My graduating class is something of a powerhouse, and I have always felt subpar in comparison to them.  But then I became an author, and that stopped mattering.  Now, apparently, the only thing keeping me from reuniting is bad memories. 

Anyway, I think I’m going to ask Chelsea and Jaime if they want to get dinner sometime soon, and perhaps a couple of the other girls that I do wish to see, because I did have good friends that I miss.  Still, it is hard for me to separate the good part of my high school experience from the bad part.  Perhaps I need another 20 years.

Weak and Flat

So, the other day I stumbled upon this tweet, and it got me thinking.  Specifically, about high school.

@brttnyblm

See, as a kid, I was fawned over by my English teachers.  I was hailed as a reading and writing prodigy.  I was told by my mother that I was deserving of awards.  When you tell a child things like that, they will believe it, because they have yet to meet the people of the world that will tell them otherwise.  Then, one day…they do.

Now, high school was no highlight of my lifetime.  I was an unmedicated mentally ill diabetic and I did not have control over my own mind or body by the time I was 16 and a Junior.  It was the worst year of my young life and I don’t like to talk about it much but I am today because something good did come out of that year, and that is spite, as a motivator. 

It started on parent-teacher night when my mother, a kind woman who finds the good in everyone, almost went apeshit on my 11th grade English teacher.  Said teacher pretty much told my mother that I had no talent and that my writing was weak.  She said my work was subpar and she didn’t think me capable of better and was curious why she had heard such good reviews from previous teachers.  Mind you, I had a blood sugar level of maybe 400 at the time, so no, I wasn’t turning out my best work…but as my mother rationalized, if you heard I did well before, wouldn’t you assume something was wrong?  All my other teachers were telling them something was wrong.  This teacher was just telling them I sucked.  My mother will probably go to her grave not liking my 11th grade English teacher and that’s just fine.  But that’s not the whole story.

Adding insult to injury, this teacher was also the drama club moderator, the only other thing I cared about in high school.  I tried out for the school play that year and she called my acting “flat.”  Here’s another thing everyone has always told me I was good at except for the person whose actual approval mattered at the time, who thought I was trash.  Ok.  Let’s regroup.

Teacher told us in the springtime that there would be a one-act play festival, and that anyone could submit a play for it.  So…I wrote a GD play.  It was called For My Mother but it should have been called For My 11th Grade English Teacher because that’s what it was really about, now that I’m grown and confident and no longer being graded on American Lit. 

And reader…she picked my play.  I cast it and directed it and it was performed for the festival.  And I did it while directing another professional show, and pulling up my abysmal Junior year grades.  I then took my little play, marched my C+ butt over the 12th grade English teacher, and begged to be let into her elective classes for the following year.  No, I didn’t have the grades, but I had my play, and I had improvement, and I was going to get into those classes, damnit!  Creative Writing and Drama!  I mean…c’mon!

And I did it.  She was impressed.  I’m sure she spoke to my other teacher and lord knows what she had to say about me, but in the end I got into the classes I wanted to and I passed the classes I was failing and so help me god I would never be weak or flat again.

Many years later I was at the Artie Awards, which is like the Tony’s but for Buffalo theater.  We’d just won something or other and we’re getting our drink on when they announced the “newcomers” to the stage, people who had performed in their first professional role that year. I, of course, did a spit take with my red bull and vodka when they announced “11th Grade English Teacher.”  She wasn’t there, I don’t think, but it was enough to call my evening to a close.  It’s not like I hold any ill will towards her; she was just doing her job.  Do I think she could have done it a little better?  Maybe, but whatever. The end result was pretty decent.  I got good English grades Senior year, enjoyed my electives…she even cast me in the Senior play.  She was a lot better to work with as a director than a teacher, I feel, and I’m glad she found a spot in theater because I kind of sensed her heart was more in performance.  Of course, I could be wrong and you should never make assumptions, but that’s not too bad of one to make. 

Truth is, I was at a terrible point in my life back then and if this teacher hadn’t of slapped me upside the head, maybe I would have given up.  Instead, I got mad, and I got motivated, and I wrote my heart out and have been doing so ever since. 

So, there you have it.  Spite as a motivator.

Gold Wallpaper

I have spent the last week teaching myself to type, sans pinky.  So, here we go.

The other day, I was talking to my cousin and she said that they were learning the short story The Yellow Wallpaper in AP English.  I commented that I loved that story; it was my favorite.  I recall sitting on the couch outside my school library, reading it one sunny and quiet afternoon.  I thought it a little peculiar that I recalled reading this in 11th or 12th grade, while she was reading it in AP.  But then, my school was different than others; tougher.  My C’s would have been B’s at the public school, at least.  When I got to college, I was downright BORED.  It’s not why I left, but it’s one of many reasons.

Anyway, I asked Sahar when she read it.  She’s was an English major, so y’know…she had to have read it.  Except she did not know what I was talking about.  Ok…well, I’ll ask some friends from high school.  Two, from my English level, recall no such thing.  One from the Honors level, again, did not read it.  Now, I alone of my friends took Creative Writing in high school, so it must’ve been that class, right?

At this point it’s been over two days that I have been thinking about this story that I THOUGHT was required reading for everybody.  I figured I would go to the source.  I messaged my high school English teacher, Ms. Maloney.

Everybody has those teachers that make an impact on you in one way or another, and Ms. Maloney is one of those.  She took a chance on me.  See, my grades when I was a Junior suffered terribly because I came down with a whopping case of diabetes.  So, when it came time to chose Senior electives, I didn’t really qualify for the class she taught that I wanted to be in.  Fortunately, that year I had somehow, amidst the chaos, also written and directed a one-act play, and I used this “extracurricular” in hopes she would see that Creative Writing and Drama (the electives I was after) were important to me.  Anyway, at the end of the day, she gave me a shot.  My grades never fully recovered, but I learned so much in that class and got to pursue my two passions, and I am forever grateful.  So surely, I must’ve read it in her class.

NOPE.

She told me there was a teacher that taught it, but wasn’t sure which.  By now it is day three and I am consumed.  Did I check it out of the library?  Did I read ahead in a textbook?  Did I borrow from a friend?  All likely, I suppose. 

I suppose this mystery will never be solved.

So now, I sit in my office and stare at my wallpaper.  It has always reminded me of this story, with all its golden twists and turns and blooms.  I have no idea when I read this story.  Just an image in my head of myself, sitting on a sofa in a long hallway with a stained-glass window at the end, wearing a white blouse and a gray skirt, and reading a story that captivated me.  I don’t know who told me to read it.  I’m certainly glad that they did,

I did it!  I wrote a blog with nine fingers!!  ::runs off to ice hand::