I knew the value of being in junior high school. I think most of the kids who lived on my street were the same as me, taking it as one of the many changes in life that inevitable. I was aware that junior high school didn’t mean I was becoming an adult. I was grounded in the reality of still being a kid despite the small changes happening to my body.
Yet, there were some challenges that I had to come to terms with. There was the walk to school, which was longer (1 ½ miles) and required crossing a major six-lane boulevard with turn lanes at each large intersection. For the first time, I was given homework that took more that fifteen minutes to complete. There weren’t multiple subjects per teacher. Each instructor had his/her own specialty in subjects. This meant that taking seven classes each day required seven different teachers.
My first year at Merrill Junior High School is still a blur. I did all right in my classes, but I was in a constant state of confusion that year. Other things were going on in my life at home that were equally turbulent.
Although the turmoil got worse at home, life in junior high school became enjoyable by the eighth grade. There seemed to be a private joke running around in my head as I would walk down the halls to my next class, sauntered around on the blacktop during the lunch hour (Some hour; it was a whole big twenty minutes.) or stood in line to take my shower after gym class. Everyone was talking about the opposite sex. The terms used were vulgar, of course. Do young teenagers know anything else? I, often, doubt it. I had my ‘telephone boyfriend’ so I found these conversation silly and a little narcissistic. Luckily, I was smart enough to know not to say anything. No doubt about it, I would have lost friendships if I had.
By the time I was in the ninth grade, junior high school was ‘old hat’. I was comfortable with my classes, that is except for one, science, which I will address at another time. I felt that most of the kids in school liked me or, at least, didn’t dislike me. That year was a jolt in self-esteem and confidence. It was the year when I found myself auditioning for a spot in the yearly show of the school.
Are you thinking I played my flute? I could have. I had been in a couple of ‘All City’ bands by the time I hit the age of fourteen. However, this was during the late 1960s, the height of the ‘hippy era’. To be cool, you had to play the guitar. I had gotten an acoustic classical guitar for Christmas the previous year and had taken a few lessons from Mr. Gary, my flute teacher. I found guitar books filled with popular music scores at The Music Box, a store just three miles from my home.
One of the friends I had acquired within the previous two years, Debbie, had a soft melodic voice. I asked her to go in with me on my plan to sing in the yearly show, The Shindig. Once she understood that I’d be sing harmony and she would have the lead with the melody, she graciously accepted my offer.
Debbie wanted to play an instrument too. I really couldn’t blame her. I had my guitar to hide behind when on stage. She would be standing there with nothing to protect her from her fears. She didn’t know how to play any instrument, which limited our search to percussion only. She wanted to play the tambourine. The only problem was the song we had picked to perform, ‘House of the Rising Sun’. It’s a sad tale of a man’s life. The last thing it ever would need is a lively beat. I had to talk her out of the notion of banging on tin. She ended up standing on the stage with her fears feeling exposed.
Our little act was third on the list of performances. We were there to keep the audience entertained as prompts were being put up and arranged behind the curtain. Yes, we were a minor act. Should I have tried for something more? No, I don’t think so. My heart just wasn’t going in that direction.
The experience did teach me that I was capable of almost anything that I wanted to do. It built a hope in me that I still carry today.