The Gallatin News
Life through the eyes of an 8th grader
If you ever want to take an interesting look into your past, spend a little time with your 8th grade yearbook and you might learn a few things about yourself.
Working on our Back to School special section for this week’s paper put me in the proper mood for retrospection and chatting with old school friends on Facebook must have sent me over the edge.
As I turned the pages of the yearbook, it didn’t seem like it’s been 40 years since I first held it in my hands as a proud owner. But the proof is right there on the cover where the year 1972 stands out among the artsy, flower-childish design that was still popular at the time.
The journey back reminded me of how awkward 8th grade was. Boy-girl parties were still a relatively new thing for us. Girls were learning the art of flirting and guys were figuring out how to react to the flirting. We weren’t little kids anymore but not really even young adults yet. 8th graders are sort of stuck in the middle. In the old junior high configuration of grades 7-9, we were right in the middle. And we were treated like a middle child, not quite as cute as the newcomers but not on top like the mighty 9th graders.
It was pretty evident when I looked for my picture in the school chorus. I found the picture of the 9th grade chorus and the one of the 7th grade chorus, but no picture of the 8th grade singers. Lost in the crowd, I suppose.
By reading the messages from my classmates, I learned that 8th graders have trouble expressing themselves, especially when compared to the relative prose written in my 9th grade yearbook. Apparently I was a “nice” guy ‘cause most of the girls said so. They were quick to throw-in a “Love ya” because it really didn’t mean much. I did see a couple invites to visit some of them over the summer (which I had forgotten) but that never happened. Some urged me to never change but, come on, I was an 8th grader, I had to change.
I was reminded of the struggle of 8th grade guys to no longer be boys but men. One girl wrote “To a crazy ‘boy.’ Sorry about slapping you in English.” I can’t remember the slapping part but the emphasis on ‘boy’ indicated an on-going tease of some sort. Another girl wrote “To a sweet boy, sorry, man…” No wonder 8th graders have such identity problems; no one knows what to call them.
The guys, it seems, were worse at it than the girls. “To a cool dude,” or “To a real tuff man,” or “To a cool cat,” seemed to be popular greetings of the time. One classmate must have not been too sure about me saying I “wasn’t a bad guy.” Thanks for the ringing endorsement. One called me a “nutty guy” and the shortest kid in school said “To a fine basketball player from a better one (not really).” Nope, the guys really didn’t know what to write.
A couple of strange greetings had me scratching my head. “To a green bean” brings back no memories and neither does “To Randy, the Underwear Bandit, ha ha.” I have no clue what that’s about and I’m not going to try to find out. Just like the girl who wrote “Remember the library,” I’m sure it was a single incident that made us laugh at the moment but has now drifted away. I was smart enough to print a last name beside any message that didn’t include one so I would remember which Debbie wrote what.
I found a spot where I had written “Reserved” above the picture of a certain female teacher who was younger, blonder and prettier than the average junior high school English teacher. I wanted to save the space for her to write in my book (I was a “real pleasure to have in class,” by the way). I paid great attention to her every word and I never tried any harder to diagram a sentence than I did for her.
I also found numbers, 1-10, that I had placed at the bottom of ten pictures of by buddies; I suppose I put them there to remind me who my closest friends were that year. Some of the numbers surprised me because, by the end of our high school days, I’d never have them in my ‘Top Ten.’ The list might have foreshadowed a future of many lists for me, one of my quirks.
I wasn’t surprised by when I found number one. A good friend who really helped me get through a tough year. His inscription was thoughtful and heartfelt. He concluded with “You’re a real true friend, one of the few I’ve had.” That made me smile. I hope I wrote something sincere in his yearbook and didn’t call him a groovy dude.
A lot has changed in 40 years but it was a fun trip back through the pages of time.
See you next week.