Monday, April 14, 2008


Eighth Grade

What can be said about this year?

It was a year that brought me face to face with so many things. Some good, some that no child should have to know.

I was in my first wedding that year. My mom’s best friend’s daughter was marrying and she asked for me to be her flower girl. Yeah, at 13 years old. Well, I felt lovely (though not beautiful) in that long pink gown. I can remember the pictures of my standing next to Sean, the ring bearer. He too was 13 years old and a member of our youth group. I’m sure that he was only in the wedding because his mother made him be in it. That made for great pictures, let me tell you…

In school, we began the process of having multiple classes with other students. Though the classes were assigned, I remember the thrill of walking down the halls to attend with different friends. Danny remained in my music and English class. It was in this English class where I learned, really learned, the value of a good debate. (Oh how I wish I could remember the teacher’s name! He was a huge man who looked exactly like a gorilla and he had the condescending way of looking at his students over his glasses.) It was in his class that I sparred verbally for my earned A in the class. He was tough, intelligent, but not unbendable. I do believe I received my A, not only because of my work, but because I was willing to challenge him on a intellectual level rather than whining.

Fortunately Mandy and I still had three classes together, one of which was Social Studies with Mr. Cumming. That man was a hoot! He definitely brought out the ornery in me. Mandy and I were often trying to pull some sort of mischievous deed on him.

Unfortunately, it was also in Mr. Cumming’s class that I received my first migraine. As I was sitting in class, my sight slowly started to fade into white spots. Eventually, I became scared enough that I poked Mandy in the back and pleaded with her to ask Mr. Cumming if she could take me to the office to call my mom. I must have looked the part of scared well; she didn’t even question me. She went straight up to make the request. To which he told her to sit down and for me to quit starting trouble. I think I was able to sit five more minutes before I had Mandy take me up to Mr. Cumming. I recall with clarity the calmness that I had while describing what I could and couldn’t see. And then I broke out into tears. He then let Mandy take me to the office. I think he figured out I wasn’t fooling at that time.

Next up to convince: my mother. I don’t mean to say that I cried wolf a lot. I didn’t. But I’m sure it will come as a huge surprise to you that I was a drama queen. (I can hear the gasp from here!) When I got Mandy to call her, I started bawling about not being able to see and my head hurting and could she please come and get me. She came and got me and we went straight to the naval hospital. There I was told that I had to stay up all night with nothing in but water and then come in the following morning for an EKG or an EEG or something with a G. That was another fun night let me tell you. My parents took shifts to make sure that I stayed away. Can I just share with you how much there wasn’t on tv at zero dark thirty in the morning?

Cut to the quick: The guy put all this plaster around my head, stuck some wires to my noggin and turned on a machine. I still don’t know what it was all about, really. All I know is that I remember wanting to fall asleep each time I closed my eyes, but the guy didn’t say that I could or couldn’t so I jerking my eyes open. Guy pulls wires from my head, eventually someone comes to tell my mom that I have optical migraines, but no worries! Mine are triggered by a combination of types of food (lots of junk) and lack of sleep. Ta da! And then he sent us on our merry way to get that plaster our of my very, very long hair.

What’s the first thing we do? We eat at El Toro Taco, the best hole-in-the-wall place that served Toro Burgers, which is basically taco meat in a hot dog bun, served with the secret sauce and cheese. Yum! It was heavenly after that fasting. However, getting all the plaster out of my hair wasn’t. It took 3 washings to remove it. My poor mom, I'm sure she was transported back to the time when I was three and full of sand...

Fast forward to Pep Rallies, school games and “dances” (You know – the times when music was played, but no one would get out there to dance because no one would ask the other to dance. Instead there was lots of talking above the music and head-bobbing all around.) Cheerleaders and players. Yelling for your team and laughing with your friends. Comforting someone who ran to the bathroom in tears because her boyfriend of two weeks broke up with her and now she’s destined to thwart love forever! (Not me by the way. My time came when I was much more mature – like in 10th grade.) These were the moments that made up 8th grade.

Sleepovers and playtimes. Makeup and daydreams. Wanting to grow up, yet still enjoying being a kid. Getting to go to a movie without a parent. Eating cold pizza and guzzling a good portion of the 3-litre of Coke. These were exciting times in the life of a 13 year old. Things were changing, and we were just along for the ride.

But not all change was good. Jenny A., a sweet, likable girl who seemed to have it all – a nice jock-boyfriend, a position on the cheerleading team, the latest in clothes, she took her life one day – shot herself without fully thinking of the ramifications of what it would mean to those left behind. Though I was not bosom buddies with her, I remember crying and being stunned, over the loss, over the sadness, over her hopelessness. I still don’t to this day know why she did it. I do remember thinking that if she had just held on a little longer, things might have been different for her…

Why did life have to be so confusing and unstable? We were just kids!

But thank you God for short-term memories. Life resumed at its normal pace, and the thrill of living returned soon enough. School and its work did not stop. Church activities still blossomed, creating more and more endearing relationships with those in the same group. Life as a middle schooler continued with a determined hope that things would never be bad enough that it couldn’t be handled in the here and now. I’d rather live and cry than to die and to miss out on the things to come – whatever those things happened to be.

Summer came and with it came thoughts of my biggest challenge yet – high school. I wouldn’t be a fish in the pond any more. I would be a little minnow in a sea of faces. 1 in 1,600 because we had a large high school… but I was ready for it. I had energy and hope to spare and the friends to help with all the fun to come.

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