“High school, those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.”
–From the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”–
It’s finally happened. My son is beginning high school in just a few days. I don’t know where the time has gone, but this morning, I was suddenly transported back to a time over thirty years ago when I stood in the same registration line with a deer-in-the-headlights expression on my face and wondered, “If I throw up on the principal’s shoes right here and now, will she be mad at me?”
I turned to look at my son who looked like he’d just seen a ghost. “Are you okay?” I asked, “Because I’m really nervous.”
He stared at his shoes and muttered, “Mom, you are not going to high school … I am!”
It was 1978. My hair was as big as my glasses as I stood in a seemingly endless line waiting to receive my high school schedule. I couldn’t see anything that was going on in front of me. The guy in line ahead of me was sporting a giant Afro that completely blocked my view of anything but the back of his head. For all I knew, they were transporting all the incoming sophomore students on a rickety bus to jail where we’d never be seen again.
The upperclassmen glared at me as I shuffled along in the line. I had heard stories about these upperclassmen and worried that eventually one of them would find a way to duct tape me to the wall of the girl’s bathroom late on a Friday afternoon where I surely wouldn’t be found until Monday morning—starving, lonely, and mentally exhausted—but certainly all the wiser about the birds and the bees after reading the bathroom walls all weekend.
“Name please,” the lady said to me as I approached the registration table.
“Vicky Harling,” I replied nervously while pushing my glasses up on my nose. As I flipped my hair out of my face, I could feel the stickiness of the Aqua Net hairspray on my hand. She handed me a piece of paper that would certainly foretell my success or failure in the high school popularity contest. Would I be eating lunch alone or with my friends? My hands shook as I grabbed my schedule and studied it. I sighed. This wasn’t good—not good at all. All my friends had lunch at different times. I would be eating all alone in Loserville, which was right next to Nerdville in the school cafeteria. I was cursed. No doubt about it.
“Mom!” my son said loudly next to me, “I have my schedule and I’m eating lunch with two of my friends!”
“Some people have all the luck,” I grumbled.
“Let’s see if we can find my classrooms,” he said.
Off we went, down hallway after hallway after hallway. I felt like we were in one of those corn mazes. “How did we end up back in the Northeast Hallway again?” I asked my son after passing the same rooms over and over again, “And where is room C492 … in the parking lot?”
I felt my breathing quicken. I grabbed my son’s shoulders and shook him while shouting, “WE’RE NOT GETTING OUT OF HERE, ARE WE?” My eyes darted around the hallway as I frantically searched for upperclassmen holding duct tape.
My son looked horrified. “Mom, quit freaking out. I’ll just wait until the first day of school to find my classrooms.”
I slowly calmed down as I realized that my son, just like me, was going to survive the first day of high school just fine.
To be honest, 1978 really did end up being a pretty good year … that is after I had to use my can of Aqua Net to break out of my locker where an upperclassman had stuffed me when I refused to give him my Salisbury steak at lunch one day.
If I learned one thing in high school, it was ingenuity.