Monday, January 11, 2010

I made contact with an old high school friend through Now lots of emotions are stirring. I believe high school years should be filled with happy memories but I remember little of those times. Those were not happy years for me. I was fearful and not liked much, ridiculed and ignored. I only remember being invited to one party and it was by a girl in the grade behind mine.

After all these years, can I put some semblance and closure on this? Oh, hey, they all talk about putting closure on things, but is it possible? I seldom talk about my high and junior high years. They run together because that is when I went to the Exeter schools from my small town of Kensington. I was never in the top group of classes but in the second… always second… but those two groups were mostly made up of the more popular, higher classed, more intelligent… though popular I was not.
The first year I was bussed to Exeter, the junior and senior high students were in one building. The old, original building was where most of the seventh and eighth graders had their classes while the high school kids were in the newer rooms. The grades were divided into smaller classes. If I remember correctly, I was in 7E with 7F holding the highest level and most popular. I was never popular, not even popular enough for the rest of the 7E kids. Looking back, I now say I was quite intelligent but socially backward.

What do I remember?

The rooms were darker due to the oldness and architecture style. I remember the boy behind me in English class, Bobby Spoerl, constantly kicking the back of my chair to be mean. Miss Karst finally moved me. I would take an F (E or 0 however they were grading at the time) rather than stand up in front of the class and be ridiculed. One time, though, I remember doing the poem “For a Dead Kitten.” Wait a minute, maybe that was art class because I drew a picture.

The math department was in the newer section of the school and the shorter route from the art class was across the courtyard. One day I wore a shirt that buttoned down the back and a couple of buttons came undone. I could hear the kids laughing behind my back all the way to math class. Finally one girl told me what they were all laughing about and she helped me with my shirt.

Beth Michaud and Theresa Connor befriended me early on. I was still wearing knee socks and they taught me about nylons and make up. My parents brought me to stay over at Beth’s in Newfields and we walked to Theresa’s. Theresa’s family owned Connor Bottling Works. I can’t remember when or why the friendships dissolved.
A new girl moved to Kensington. Vicky Iliffe and I became friends and as she took a different bus, would wait for me in the locker room. Oh yeah, the seventh grade locker room was in the basement while the lockers of the upper classes were along the halls. One day, Vicky wasn’t there and I waited until I was almost late for home room. Later I found her with a bunch of other girls. She didn’t want to be my friend any more. What was wrong with me?

In one class, I think it was geography, we were supposed to read newspaper stories and report the next day. My family did not get a newspaper. It was horrifying to stand up in class not knowing the news. I don’t remember what came of that.
In spite of everything, I made the honor roll every term, (good thing they didn’t count socialization.) The only time I missed was in eighth grade when I failed cooking. It wasn’t that I could not cook, it was not knowing the purpose of yeast or the why of this component, etc.

We were at the new Exeter Area Junior High School down the street. Again, I was in the second to the top class. I vaguely remember art class and studying Manet when others were doing Monet. I suppose that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing. I went to a couple of school dances and the only boys who would dance with me were the “bad” boys of the lower classes. A slow dance would be mostly rocking in place with little movement until it felt like my legs were going to cramp up.

Home Ec was a must for girls while boys got shop. Outside of the cooking failure in eighth grade, there was sewing. My mother did not sew and it was a challenge to pick out material and supplies but I was able to make my first dress--- not a raving accomplishment. There was a fashion show afterwards which I hated because it involved being up in front of others and the chance to be laughed at. I tried to knit a hat but that was a total failure. The teacher tried to help me turn it into a pillow. That failed. I demonstrated making a gum wrapper chain which was my best effort of that class. (In thinking back now, I wonder if I had had the friendship of other girls if my trials at girly things would’ve had better results.)

Ninth grade and we were back to the older building with most of these years, what little I remember, all run together. Art class was foremost although I was never as good as some of the others. One time I actually had the nerve to argue with the teacher, Mrs. Sanborn, over a grade. I believed I deserved an A. For once, I really liked what I did.

Sharon Belanger was a good friend and we shared an English class. (I don’t remember her in any of my other classes.) Mrs. Scaletti handed out “Weekly Readers.” Sharon turned around to ask the date and when I replied, I got in trouble and points were taken away from the mid-term. A “Weekly Reader” was our mid-term? Evidently Sharon and I were talking when Mrs. Scaletti informed us of that. Later, Sharon wanted to go apologize to the teacher. I remember standing outside the door and having Mrs. Scaletti come out… is that right? Ah, faulty memory after all these years. That had to be 1968? Maybe.

The following year, we wanted to sign up for woodworking, which only boys took. I chickened out.

I remember history class and David Millette (who in after school years, with his wife, hung out with Bill and I.) I remember the room. Mr. McKinley was the teacher… I think. I’m not sure why this sticks in my mind but I think there were some good times in this class.

I only wrote one term paper in all those years. History, Mr. Willey. I got a D. I was so disappointed because I’d never worked on anything so hard. School work normally came very easy to me. I’d read something and I’d either know it or didn’t. To this day I don’t know why I got a D.

I studied Latin for three years. I did very well because it was not a spoken language. A two year stint with Spanish wasn’t as successful because other classmates practiced with each other and no one would talk to me.

One highlight was that one year there was an experiment to allow students to leave school grounds during study periods. I signed up for geometry then wanted to drop it after two weeks. The teacher wanted the reason as I was getting A’s on all the tests. I didn’t know why I was getting the correct answers plus I wanted a free period which I used to go down the street to work with handicap children.

I also remember playing cards during study hall in the cafeteria, but that was not with anyone in my classes. Guess I got along better with kids in the “lower” classes.

I remember taking extra gym classes with another girl, Donna George. Donna’s father and mine were good friends so I’d known her forever. I remember doing hand springs and back bends. I did not like the balance beam. We were both small. The only sport I tried to do after school was intramural basketball. I got discouraged because other girls reached over my head to grab the ball but when I did it to them, I’d get called for a foul. Sometimes even the teachers sided against me. As it turned out, I could not do after school events anyway as there wasn’t a way to get home unless I walked--- which I did a few times.

Perhaps this all goes with the “What came first, the chicken or the egg” question. Was I so very insecure before high school or did high school make me hate myself? I think high school simply exacerbated the problem and even with guidance counseling, the situation never resolved. I became an adult believing that I didn’t know how to be a friend, that no one would ever like me, and unfortunately I ended up in marriages that supported that belief. My second husband went so far to tell me that no one would ever love me.

It’s sad that I look back and find few happy memories and yet, I don’t think I had a bad childhood. I was different, I guess. I didn’t want to do things that the popular girls participated in and I fully regret the one time, in eighth grade, I joined in and helped torment a girl in the locker room just because everyone else was doing it. Her name was Cheryl and she came from a… well, let’s just say she had less than… and she wasn’t clean and there was an odor, so girls would leave her bars of soap or throw things. I’m sorry and shamed to have been part of that especially after the ridicule I often received. It certainly didn’t make those other girls like me any more than before.

I got pregnant the summer after my junior year and did not go to school that year. My husband quit school the year before and told me he didn’t want a wife smarter than him. (Too late.) Of course if I had known that a number of other girls got pregnant that same summer, I might have gone back. I didn’t graduate with my class but I did go back the following year. Enough credits were accumulated so I was able to end my studies in January and received my diploma in June. I didn’t attend ceremonies. The class of ‘73 was not my class, though I got along better with them than with those of the previous year. Looking back, it’s ironic that the kids most accepting of me were in the class before mine, ’71 and the class after, ’73.

Yes, there is sadness. I wish I could look back on those years with joy and remembrances of happy events. Sometimes I wish I could return to roam the halls once more but I’d be as invisible now as I was then. Both my children graduated from Exeter High. The teacher who gave me that D on my term paper was principal by then.

In the writing of this article, I dared to return. I feel like a ghost, though. If anyone remembers anything of me, I’m sure it’s just a shadow. With the site, there were a couple of initial contacts but little results. One woman and I keep in touch but she was from a different class. I am hoping that Sharon and I will be friends again. The last time I saw her was on my 18th birthday. I don’t know what happened… maybe I’ll find out. One thing is sure and that is I am in a better place inside myself now. I see each day as a joy and an adventure.

Perhaps this is the first step in remembering more. Who knows, good might come of this. If anything, it will help me better understand who and what I am. No regrets. Move forward. Do the best you can.

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