Growing up most of the kids in our neighborhood thought of my parents as the “cool parents”. Not because there weren’t any rules, believe me when both of your parents have served in the military there are rules. They were, and still are, considered cool because they would listen to both my sister and I and any of our friends who came to them with problems. Most of my friends have less than stellar home lives in high school and so my parents and by extension a lot of the rest of my family became anchor points for kids looking for something stable. As it turns out, I know several people who have active drug abuse issues going on through high school. I did not realize this for several years because my friends had enough respect for my parents and their home not to bring those substances around. I know for a fact that for some of my friends my parents acted more like parents to them than their biological mom or dad ever has. This post was inspired because I read a post here that said ” When a teenager says to someonem “your parents are so cool,” it really means, “I don’t realize this now, but later in my adult life, I will look back and judge your cool parents for being so stupidly insecure and permissive.”
I am not saying that some parents that teenagers think are cool aren’t permissive and insecure in their role as parents. I am merely saying that from my experience being known as the “cool parents” doesn’t automatically make you permissive or insecure. Growing up my sister and I were expected to maintain at least a B average in school. We were not punished for getting a C in the subject so long as we had put our best effort forward. Math beyond about seventh grade level in them always has been the bane of my existence no matter what I do therefore a C was acceptable when it happened because they knew I had put every effort into getting the best grades possible. By contrast if I had gotten the same grade in English or History, both subjects which come much easier to me you can bet I heard about it for quite a while. In case my parents do read this and they might because my blog posts are linked to my Facebook, it’s 28 years later, I still think you are the cool parents and I wouldn’t change a thing.
2013 marks the ten year anniversary of my high school graduation a formal occasion during which our principal tried (unsuccessfully) to stop the assembled crowd of well wishers from cheering every single person as they walked across the stage to get their diploma. Before graduation ,I had briefly considered walking to get mine (I can walk short distances with help) but discarded the idea when I realized the only person I thought could keep from face planting should my legs give was a teacher with a history of heart attacks I didn’t want to be the cause of any extra stress. I don’t remember why but since I was fairly certain they wouldn’t let my mom help either the idea was shelved.
Anyway. our ten year class reunion is this year and (assuming I haven’t already) I’ll miss it. After I left school I swore I”d never return except to get my transcripts if I ever needed them. Ten years later gives you a great deal more perspective (if not more certainly a different one) than you had before. In that vein there are some things I’d like to say to the staff and the rest of students .
Naomi Renae Duke:: Until I met you I felt awkward about the fact that I had been home schooled during middle school and knowing you made me feel less alone. You told me later that knowing me helped prepare you for college, knowing you helped get me through high school, thanks.
David “Rusty” Sadler: I’ve been told you don’t use your birth name anymore and the only reason I’m using it here is because I don’t know how to spell the one you use now. Thank you for telling me I was beautiful the day AFTER senior prom, when all I was wearing was jeans and a t-shirt and no makeup at all. If you do go to the reunion and someone gives you hell remember they are probably just jealous because weren’t even half as awesome as you in high school.
Ms. Shelly Watson: The last school aide I had before you tore me down at every turn, you were her polar opposite. You supported me in everything I ever did while in school. You didn’t have to buy a dress, hose , and shoes for me to wear to junior prom but you did. You didn’t have to buy me a cake (from a bakery no less) for my birthday but you did. As awful as my previous aid had been, that was how wonderful you were.
Mikayla: Yes, we have our differences now but, whatever else we’ve ever fought about in high school you had my back.
To all the people who might have gotten to know me better if I had been a little less standoffish I’m sorry. To anybody who ever bullied me, whether it was to my face or behind my back, I hope you grew up. I hope you no longer feel it necessary to make fun of those weaker than you can make yourself appear strong and if my presence in your life has helped you get to that point I am glad.
When I was in high school one of my very best friends was the head of the maintenance department. I am pretty sure that nowhere in his employment contract was there a clause stating that he would be asked to function as an impromptu wheelchair mechanic as needed but in spite of that he did so cheerfully. The repairs were never major, just replacing nuts and bolts when they fell out in the middle of the day and minor adjustments because he always had a full set of Allen wrenches handy, and if all else failed there was always the standby of duct tape to get me through the school day.
I had to catch the bus at 6:45 in the morning, breakfast was not nearly as important as sleep. I did my best to have change for the soda machine so I could stay awake during math class. If I didn’t have any Ray could usually find some. For one of my birthdays he and the ladies who worked in the cafeteria bought me a watch (so I didn’t have to keep asking for the time) and put it around a can of Dr. Pepper. I still have the watch.
When I was in school I thought graduation would never come, now it feels like I blinked and there it was. I won’t say that I was sorry to leave because I wasn’t but the intervening years have lent me some perspective and I realize that, as awful as I thought high school was, it could have been much worse. The ceremony was held on the football field and because of my chair I didn’t have to walk all the way down there from the cafeteria I just went straight there. While I was waiting for everyone to get there a man in a suit walked up. I had to look twice to recognize Ray, who I was used to seeing in jeans or overalls. Saturday was his day off but he had come to see graduate and say goodbye. That was definitely not in the employment contract.
You are probably the smartest person anyone in your school knows that probably why most of them don’t talk to you. Ignore those who call you a know it all and say mean things behind your back. I know you’re jealous that Morgans plays hockey and you can’t but Ipromise you that Chris, your sister’s teammate who also is also in choirwith you will make the bullies regret picking on you, trust me. Speaking of choir eventually the school will try to tell you that you cannot stay after school to practice for the Christmas show even though it is part of your grade. They will assure you that they will not let the teacher penalize you for not being there, refused to except it. You’ll be better off if you stay after school, you might even become more than just passing acquaintances with most of your classmates. Talk to Paul Holloway more, his time is shorter than anyone thinks and not knowing him better will be one of the biggest regrets after high school. Keep in touch with Damien he has a good friend. Don’t begrudge your mom the time spread talking on the phone to Nathan about sheep, she needs the advice and he will not let you be forgotten I promise. Sometimes it may seem hopeless, hang in there better days are coming.. You’ll find a man and woman who love you for your self. Write your book, it is going to take far longer than anybody including you want to think about so start now. Above all don’t give up, in the next 13 years your life will strange so drastically that you almost will recognize your self at 27 as even remotely resembling the person you are now and most of the changes will be positive.
I’m not actually talking about the act of singing, although that is definitely good for you. I’m actually referring to the song Sing. If someone had told me when I was in high school.I would like bands like My Chemical Romance I would have probably laughed in their face, that was more my sister’s thing. It’s amazing how people can change between high school and college. In the current world where it is easy to think that one voice doesn’t matter the song reminds people that revolutions can and do start with a single voice struggling to be heard above the mass of popular opinion. One voice can change the world. When did we forget that?
Believe it or not this is actually a positive post so nobody need feel obligated to try and cheer me up I’m fine. Loser like me is actually a song off of the TV show Glee (I am a choir geek remember) but it isn’t a cover of someone else’s work it’s actually an original piece written for the show. I’m sure you could probably find it on Pandora if Glee songs regularly show up in one of your channel. The absolute highest praise I can give is that I wish this song had been around when I was in high school I would’ve been singing it every day and to heck with people who said I was off key, though back in the day that didn’t happen as much as it does now.
I may have mentioned (a lot) that my high school experience was not all that I wished it had been.One of the things I really liked both of my junior and senior proms I had a boyfriend who I did not deserve and it was due in large part to him that both of those events are good memories. This story is not about him though. In my senior year there was a young man who I’ve shared several classes with and who unlike everyone else usually said hi to me every morning and smiled at me. We were by no means good friends but because he was in show choir and the general chorus and show choir always did one show together at Christmas we were on friendly speaking terms. The evening, while memorable for the decorations and lights was equally memorable for its awkwardness. That night I discovered how goldfish must feel in a fishbowl. The rest of the kids there seem to think that the fact that my boyfriend and I (who was also in a wheelchair) were there was something of a novel oddity. I think I heard at least one person term the way in which we danced “cute” I had to restrain the urge to punch that person.
In one of the lulls when we decided to sit down and snack I heard someone call my name and turned around to find the guy who I shared economics class and sometimes the stage with holding a camera, other than my boyfriend I think he was the only person who called me beautiful that night. He took our picture and even complimented me the next morning despite the fact that I was no longer wearing makeup and a gown and gloves. Several people talked to me the night of our prom and even more talked about me, but very few talked to me the next Monday when I was back in jeans and a T-shirt.
Fast-forward (almost) 10 years. Good authority has it that he has become she in the intervening years, no this does not surprise me it was fairly obvious which side of the fence he was on in high school. I have made the decision to attend my ten-year high school reunion if at all possible, a thing that I swore I would never do the second I walked offstage with my diploma. I will go because she deserves all the support I can give her if she decides to show up. I would like to think my classmates and I are grown-up enough not to harass someone for lifestyle choices but honestly I’m not sure, we are talking about the South after all. All I know is that if the situation hits the fan I will be there to defend her in any way I have to. I owe her for the moral support I got from him in high school. The song Just The Way You Are is now in my head, in a way it fits. One of the things I learned in school, choir kids stick together no matter what.
I was not remotely popular in high school, most people paid about as much attention to me as they did a piece of furniture. The one thing I could do was sing. It was what made me get up every day for three years in spite of the fact that the rest of my experience sucked royal. My school had two levels of choir, general,which anyone could take as an elective, and show choir , which you had to try out for. I never got in to show choir though I think that was because trying to work the choreography around my wheelchair would have been interesting to say the least. Even though we weren’t show choir level my class was just as eclectic. There was a guy who played street hockey on the same team as my younger sister. I think we actually had a couple football players too, if they weren’t on the team they could have been. The best first soprano we had was actually a guy who was developmentally disabled. He could get high enough to break glass if he wanted to and he was still on key. There was a girl with Down’s syndrome who couldn’t hold a note in a bucket but I believe she had us all beat in the enthusiasm department
When the TV show Glee showed up I was ecstatic. Finally a show that reflected pieces of my high school experience. I never got hit in the face with a slushy but then again my school didn’t have slushy machines. I do know that the show choir teacher who reminds me very much of Mr. Schuster physically picked up some kids who were making fun of me and throw them out of his class. I wasn’t actually in his class and he still took it that personal. The boy who played street hockey with my sister actually put several bruises on some guys who were badmouthing me, I think he may have even stuffed them into a locker. I commend the writers for giving a voice to the marginalized portions of high school society. It occurs to me that our class president came out of show choir so maybe the L that everybody assumes stands for loser actually stands for leaders.
I attended public school for most of my compulsory education. I also had the dubious fortune of riding what was commonly known as “the short bus.” For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this piece of slang, the short bus is a mildly derogatory name for the bus that the special needs students use, it is most often shorter than a regular bus because they’re not as many seats in it because of the need to carry a wheelchair lift and provide space for a wheelchair itself. If someone asks you if you rode the short bus this morning it is most likely because you just did something really dumb,a reference to the fact that many of the students who use the short bus are mentally disabled. My short bus story isn’t funny and I wish with all my heart that it had never happened. In the fall semester of my senior year I discovered that a friend of mine had died over the summer and not a one of my classmates had thought that I should know.I wasn’t shocked that my friend died, he had a congenital heart defect so I was kind of expecting it. The thing that shocked me the most was that he didn’t die from his heart defect like we all expected, a semi truck ran him off the road in the rain killing him and his younger brother on the way home from their dads.A teacher that we’ve both had for a previous class told me the story. I cried sporadically for the rest of the day. Like a lot of schools mine had vending machines and at the end of the day I decided to get myself a Dr Pepper. I think I would’ve actually preferred a shot of whiskey but considering I was underage at the time I took the best substitute I could find. It was against the rules to bring soda on to the school bus but that day I couldn’t care less, fortunately for me my teacher’s aide informed the bus driver and her helper what had happened and so they never said a word about it. However I was not lucky enough to have everyone keep their mouths shut. There was one boy who got on my last nerve almost every day. He had ADHD and used that as an excuse to annoy the daylights out of most everybody, think Dennis the Menace in middle school and on Ritalin. He knew about the no soda rule and kept threatening to tell in this very annoying singsong voice. I was doing my very best to ignore a, because considering my state of mind I wasn’t sure if I started hitting him I would quit. Also on the bus were a couple of boys who had severe anger management issues and could be very scary if they wanted to be. Next thing I know both of them had turned around and told the little past quite calmly and evenly to shut up and leave me alone they then turned to me and apologized for his behavior and also that my friend died. I guess you can imagine that “Dennis” almost swallowed his tongue and left me alone for the rest of the trip. I think I even laughed, but in spite of that I would still trade the whole experience to have Paul around.
I have decided to tell you something I should’ve said a long time ago. I despise you. I know that you didn’t like having to help me in the fifth grade. Guess what? I didn’t particularly like needing your help either, trust me it’s not fun having a teachers aide following you around the whole year like some sort of subtly malevolent paid shadow. Yes, you did your job, you help me write assignments and assisted me in the bathroom but you made me feel awful about myself at the same time. You told me I shouldn’t wear jeans because you found them inconvenient. You got frustrated with my lack of understanding in math and made sure that I understood that the times we stayed in at recess to practice you considered it the punishment because I was obviously lazy. I don’t remember playing at recess at all in fifth grade come to think of it, because I was either struggling with math or you did not want to push my chair through the wood shavings on the playground, therefore I was relegated to reading on the sidewalk beside the teachers bench. I don’t mind reading but all I wanted to be was the same as my classmates. It wasn’t like I was asking you to take me out of my chair and put me on the swingset or anything, I wasn’t, I learned long ago that there are other things I can get people to do with me that are just as fun. The problem was because you insisted that I remain separated from everyone else just because you didn’t want to run the risk of getting wood chips in your shoes the rest of my classmates thought I was standoffish. Believe it or not they still thought that in high school which made it almost as bad as elementary school. I don’t say anything about middle school because I was homeschooled for it, largely because your poisonous attitude ruined my self-esteem.I don’t care that your job description was atypical of a teachers aid one of the implicit directives within that job description is to help and encourage students. You failed me miserably in that department. I really believed that I was a daily and constant burden to you,a pebble in your shoe which you only bothered with because it meant a pay check.
You may be interested to know that I went back to mainstream school for high school. Fortunately for me the teacher’s aide I got then was absolutely nothing like you and while my high school experience was far less than stellar at least by the time I graduated (with a 3.0 GPA in spite of my problems with math thank you) I believed she was proud of me and in some way loved me. So I leave you with this final thought, I hope that when you have to go into a nursing home because you can no longer take care of your self the nurses who take care of you are nothing like you were to me. If they are I hope you remember every day how awful you were to me and realize that what ever it is you’re going through you deserve every bit of it.