I remember bits and pieces of 6th grade (the first time); some of this might be distorted by the years but some of these memories are very firmly etched in my mind. My 6th grade class was in an elementary school so I had one room, one teacher (except for music and gym), and recess. I remember what my teacher looked like, but not what her name was. The OTHER 6th grade class was taught by Mr. Dunn – I remember his name because the kids used to say his name to the tune of the Dragnet song: “Dunnnnn, Dunn-Dunn-Dunn, Duuuuunnnnnn”. I remember the exact layout of the room, and where my desk was. That year, all the cool kids wore their jeans tight-rolled at the bottom; I could never get the hang of this and had to settle for rolling them up the usual way. This was not cool, but it was the best I could do; I’ve never really gotten the hang of fashion. Regrettably, mullets were also in fashion that year; several kids in my school had mullets – I may or may not have been one of them. That year the Twins won the World Series; I have never really cared about sports, but even I knew that was a big deal. That year we read two of my favorite books: “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and “The Westing Game”. One of our assignments that year was to research the public figure of our choice and present our findings to the class in the form of an interview, where we were the subject. My idol at the time was James Herriot, the veterinarian/writer, so naturally I chose him as my subject. It didn’t even occur to me that there would be anything wrong with me dressing up as a veterinarian for this assignment. Other kids in my class were more than happy to point out how weird it was for my to dress up as a MALE veterinarian. We decorated valentine boxes in February and gave valentines to our classmates; mine contained half as many as most of the other girls in my class. There was a decorating contest too; I don’t remember what my box had looked like, but I remember that I did not win. That spring my friend Laurie and I sang a duet to audition for the talent show: “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, by Starship. Again, it did not occur to me that there would be anything wrong with singing a song I liked with a friend of mine. I don’t remember if we got into the talent show or not, but I do remember that when I said what we were doing for the talent show, other kids were more than happy to point out how weird it is for a girl to sing a love song with ANOTHER GIRL. That was the year my parents finally got me the dog I had always wanted, but it was also the year my Grandpa Buck died of a heart attack while wintering in Arizona. Looking back, it seems I remember a lot more of the negative experiences than the positive ones. I don’t remember being miserable at that age; it wasn’t until I got to junior high that I would realize what a hopeless nerd I was. I wouldn’t learn to embrace this until well into adulthood.
My first day as a 6th grader (again) began with a brief orientation. As usual when I am nervous about something, I had trouble falling asleep last night and woke up insanely early this morning. Also typical of something which makes me nervous, I arrived ridiculously early to school. I was supposed to be there for orientation at 8:10 am; I was there at 7:35. I was the first one there, in fact. I went to the room where we were supposed to convene, and was pleased to find they had provided coffee. I was going to be needing a lot of that. A quick glance around the room confirmed that I was not going to be the only parent participating in this even (PHWEW!), as there were about 2 dozen name tags in addition to my own. As the other parents started to trickle in, I caught myself wondering what their first school experiences had been like – how many of them were nerds like me, and how many were the popular kids? Did their kids hold the same social status now as they had when they were in school? I also realized that I didn’t really want to know the answer to that question. I preferred to go through my day thinking it was just as traumatic for them as it was for me; this made it much easier for me to relate to them.