If there’s anyone who liked middle school, I’ve yet to meet them. Middle school is such a good name for the school years between elementary school and high school. You’re stuck in between two worlds. You are technically a teenager (13 or 14) but you haven’t yet reached the level of independence associated with being a teenager and you’re not a kid anymore either. You’re not really sure who you are – I know I wasn’t.
You’re also likely to be at that awkward stage of growth where you are transitioning from a child to an adult and it’s not pretty. Add to that the perception that EVERYONE is watching EVERY move you make, mix in a healthy dose of insecurity and you’ve got the makings for a perfectly miserable year or two or three.
Because it was so awful and because I do not like reading about being miserable, nor reliving unhappy times in my life, this will be a short post. Without pictures ( it helps set the mood for the stark reality that life can be cruel.)
In the fall of 1968 I started Thompson Middle School. I was back with the affluent kids – the ones I had been with for fourth and part of fifth grade when I was at Southampton Elementary. I guess my parents decided that at 13, I was old enough to stay home alone in the afternoons.
It didn’t take long for me to find out – nobody liked me. I mean – NOBODY. I didn’t know anyone and I was a goody two shoes; a teachers’ pet at a time when it was cool to be rude and disruptive. We had the kind of desks where you stacked your books under your seat and the boy behind me took great pleasure in pushing his feet up against my books and knocking them onto the floor. Great pleasure as in – did it almost every day which prompted a chorus of laughter from the other “cool” kids around him. Sometimes, just to make sure I understood how much everyone disliked me, he (or maybe one of his cohorts) would dump the contents of my purse on the floor in addition to my books. Yep – this really happened.
I got absolutely no sympathy at home – I would be in tears about how horrible everyone was to me at school and my mother would say something like – “well, I’m sure they wouldn’t tease you if they didn’t like you.” She did not understand – they “teased”me because they didn’t like me. I was different, I didn’t fit in and let’s face it – middle school kids can be cruel. Maybe that’s just how some people cope with their own feelings of insecurity.
It was during middle school that Daddy’s drinking began to be more ON than OFF. These were the years of frequent hospitalizations for him to “get sober,” only to come home and start drinking again. These were the years of bottles of alcohol hidden around the house – it didn’t matter how many my mother and I found and poured down the drain, there were always more hidden somewhere else. These were the years of lots of yelling, lots of crying, lots of broken promises.
Bowling and church were my salvation. I had friends at bowling that I had known for years and I was able just to be myself and be accepted for it. I had status as a good bowler and I “fit in.” At the bowling alley – I was the cool kid.
Church was something new – as I mentioned before, my parents did not go to church but somehow I usually found someone (a neighbor or friend) who invited me to church and I often went. In middle school it was another “uncool kid,” the minister’s daughter (Jean Nunnelly), who invited me to join her at Bon Air Baptist Church.
When I was 14 – I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I was baptized one Sunday morning in the elevated baptismal font; full body immersion in front of the whole congregation. I thought that if I accepted Christ as my Savior, he could somehow make Daddy stop drinking. Maybe he could even stop all those kids in middle school from being so mean to me. I was wrong on both counts but I did gain some inner strength and I began to believe that I could be loved even if I wasn’t perfect.
So my adjective for my 14th year is imperfect.