Monday, August 07, 2006

Shaking The Dust ...

When I was growing up, I looked forward to one special Sunday in August every year. On that one day, the entire school year was mapped out ... as the homeroom lists were taped to the gym doors at Blessed Sacrament.

I remember the thrill of running over after mass to find out which homeroom I'd be in ... and which teacher I'd be strapped with. Mrs. Mosley was a great draw, by the way. Sometimes you were thrilled to see your best friend on your list ... and sometimes you were bummed to find out they would be spending the next year across the hall.

Location was everything at Blessed Sacrament ... and I remember the mixture of nervousness and excitement as I climbed those stairs for the first time. Moving from the "kiddie floor" to my 5th grade homeroom meant so many things ... skirts instead of jumpers ... actually changing rooms for different classes ... and the loss of recess.

Puberty is inevitable ... even for Catholic kids ... and I remember the buzz that went through our class when we heard the boys had been taken to the gym to watch ... "the movie." Shortly after that, we were herded into the gym for our own screening. They gave us the opportunity to ask questions afterwards ... but, common, who has the nerve to raise their hand up to ask a nun about sex? I've always wondered if they showed both groups the same filmstrip ...

Everyone waited for 7th grade ... because that meant you got to attend the "sock hop." Yes ... we had a sock hop. And for Catholic kids that was a huge thing. I danced with a boy for the first time that year ... his name was Robbie and the song was Christopher Cross' Sailing. Even now, I love that song ... because it runs four minutes and 15 seconds ... which doesn't seem like a lot of time now ... but in 7th grade it felt like hours.

By 8th grade we felt like such big fish ... and I remember the awe I felt as I walked up another flight of stairs to the teachers area. Our class won sodas ... and back then they came in glass bottles that we pulled out of a cooler. That was such an amazing year ... working hard to earn service hours before confirmation ... making plans for which high school you'll attend ... and the whole time trying desperately to churn out this god-forsaken "constitution book" which was basically a scrapbook assignment from the bowels of hell itself.

I've got a thousand good memories like those. I've also got a thousand sad memories that still hurt ... even today. Like the time I begged my mom to buy me barrettes like Shelley wore ... only to wear them to school and have her friend say, "Well, guess we won't be wearing those anymore." I took them home and cried as I hid them in the back of a drawer ... too embarrassed to tell my mom why I wouldn't wear them.

Fast forward to this weekend. Mom's friend asked me if our BSS class had ever organized a reunion. I literally cringed at the thought. I have fantastic memories of the school and of the teachers. I have good thoughts about Sr. Anne ... Miss Amrhein ... Sr. Marie ... and a dozen more teachers whose names I can't remember. In fact, I still see Mrs. Mosely at the library now and then ... and she always takes time to talk with me.

But would I go back and visit my classmates? Not for all the money in the world. I have no desire to see the little girl who made me ashamed to wear the beautiful barrettes my mother bought. I have no fond memories of the girls who teased me because I was lousy at kick ball.

It's odd that I remember the faces of all the wonderful BSS teachers ... but not their names. Conversely I can't remember what most of my classmates looked like ... but I can tell you the first and last name of the girl who wore a different colored Izod shirt to gym class each day ... and taunted me because I didn't own a single one.

God, wouldn't it be great if everyone grew up and became better people? I want to believe those girls matured into kind human beings who feel bad about how they treated those of us with less means ... but I have a hunch that, just like Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion, they're the same people ... only with bigger toys.

I'm thirtysomething ... and I make it a point to only associate with people who treat me with kindness and respect. Over twenty years have passed since I walked those halls. I wish my classmates ... and even those particular girls ... the best that life has to offer. That is the closest I will ever come to contact with them ... because quite frankly ... that's more kindness than they ever extended to me. Bitter? God, I hope not ... but hopefully wise enough to not re-live experiences that weren't pleasant the first go-round.

It's my own design
It's my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most
Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world.

Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World


  1. I think we all have similar memories of grade school, or at least mine are similar to yours. Enjoying school, but maybe feeling intimidated by the "cool" kids.

    I went to public school but attended PSR or CCD (depended on what parish you went to), the after school religion class. I remember the "video."

    I remember that it talked more about puberty and zits than sex, and it had really crappy illustrations. And I think the boys and girls watched different videos.

    What an awkward moment at an awkward time.

  2. TW-Bummer that you feel that way. My experience is different from the Northside (God's country right?)

    My St. Joe's class has gotten together for the big ones 15, 20, 25 and now this year 30. I too recall those peeps who bullied me etc. but they are not around and those who may have treated me badly at the time, have certainly changed in 30 years--if not I *hang* with those I want to catch-up with...I look forward to seeing these peeps every year. I try to get people to meet at the fair...but not many have shown. Hope they come out for 30.

  3. TW,

    I’m a 1974 grad of BSS. All my sisters graduated from there too (1977, 1978 & 1982). I just saw Mrs. Mosely Saturday at my mother’s funeral (they were friends).

    Even though I was far, far from being the most popular kid in the class I, a) don’t care, b) have found many of my antagonizers actually grew up to be decent human beings, and c) I’m a guy meaning my same sex peers weren’t as mean as teh girls. I’ve even wanted to start a BSS Class of ’74 blog but have had no time to do so.

    The Eleventh Hour

  4. I graduated shortly after your youngest sister, Dave ... but we're all in the same ballpark. So you remember Father Cassidy? I loved him ... he took good care of my family.

    Isn't Mrs. Mosley great? After all these years, she still stops and talks to me ... in fact, she recognized me first.

    Anyway ... I didn't mean to make it sound like my school experience was a John Hughes film ...

    I always thought that when I had children we would send them to BSS ... like I said the school and the teachers were amazing. But like you mentioned, Dave ... girls are mean.

    I had friends ... and wonderful times at Blessed Sacrament. I could write a book about all the good memories I have ...

    It's just that ... well ... I don't know if all classes were like this ... but in our class, we had kids whose parents were doctors and lawyers. So ... you put those kids next to families like mine ... and there was a clash of cultures.

    It's not like we were destitute! LOL But having a collection of Nike shoes whose swishes matched the color of my Izod shirts? Nope ... we were no where near that ballpark.

    I'm glad to hear you've found many of the schoolyard jerks grew into decent human beings. But see, I got this call once ... wait ... you know ... I should just write a post ... this is getting too long.

    Anyway ... please don't take it that I was criticizing Blessed Sacrament. I really miss that church ... the whole community actually.

  5. Thirty-

    You always do such a good job of illustrating your points. I came away from this story really standing in your shoes. You're a wonderful person, and it shows in the thoughtfulness you present the world every day in this blog (and other areas, I'm sure. I just don't know them.)

    I know this isn't really true, but I think being a certain amount poor can make you a better, stronger, more fundamentally sound person when you grow up. My family was pretty poor when I was growing up, and I hated it. But now looking back, I realize that my values really hinge not upon money or things, but on people and ideas. To me, that was priceless.

    Thanks for helping me start my day with this.

  6. Anonymous7:03 AM

    I have read this entire blog and found each entry, and their comments, most interesting. I'll come back to it now that I know it's here. Thanks for a pleasant half hour this Friday morning.

    Call me SeventyWhat?