Teachers: Mr. Braughler, Mr. Flaming, Mrs. Litke,
I almost hesitate to dive back into this series, my school memories posts tend to not garner many comments, so it’s easy to think that no one’s enjoying them. But I intended to finish it, so I shall – consider it a character-building exercise, I guess. I have actual documentation from my high school years (yearbooks and friends who actually went through it with me), so there’s the danger these entries could be longer. I also have actual pictures of me from these sources, and it remains to be seen if I’ll include them with these posts.
It’s easy to look back at the beginning of my high school days and see that big changes were afoot, but I don’t think I noticed while I was living them. I wonder if anyone ever does…
Our high school was small, really small. Our class was one of the biggest they’d seen, and I count 27 of us in the yearbook. There were less than 100 students in the whole high school. Considering I now work at a high school that has over 1,500 students and I know of even larger ones, well, I guess ours was smaller than small. Tiny, maybe.
My absolutely first memory from high school was my friend Jamie M. seeing me on the first day of school and saying, “Mark! You grew!” In eighth grade, as is the norm, most of the girls were taller than most of the guys. I did some growing in the summer, I guess. That’s another thing you don’t necessarily notice while it’s happening.
I made a few life-changing decisions early on in my high school career:
- Stop bringing my lunch in a lunch box. “The Fall Guy” might have been cool in elementary school, but it will get you laughed at in high school. Brown paper bag lunches became the norm pretty quickly – most likely the first week of school.
- Get new friends. More specifically, “get out of old friendships.” High school seemed so much bigger and so different, but I still had a small circle of friends whose idea of being friends was to hit each other and snicker. I remember thinking it seemed so childish, which is funny to think about now. I somehow got into a different group that included Josh, Phil, and Malia (pronounced mah-LEE-uh), and that shaped my next four years and beyond.
- Get rid of my quick temper. I got into a couple of actual fights with Paul Z. early on in my Freshman year, mostly because he was a jerk and I had an instant temper. One day in PE he was tripping me from behind while we ran laps, and when we got to the end, I laid into him. Coach Terrill pulled me off him and kneeled on my chest (he was heavy and it hurt!) and yelled at me (he hadn’t seen the tripping, of course – not that it made my actions right). I’d like to say that’s what caused me to make my decision, but it was really because I figured out somehow that girls wouldn’t like me if I had a bad temper. So. I decided to not have one any more, and I didn’t. Sure, I’ve my temper since then, but never so instantly. As a side note, this decision is what sticks out to me when I have trouble doing any other life alterations: if I can just decide to not have a temper and then not have one, I should be able to decide and do all the other stuff. When it doesn’t work, I blame myself for being weak.
- Go out for football. There were two reasons I did this:
-It was sort of expected. All the freshman guys were doing it and my brother had played for two years already.
– To get out of piano practice. I’d had lessons for four years, and I hated practicing. Going out for football meant my after-school time was taken up and I couldn’t take lessons anymore. Looking back, I think this is one of my biggest regrets. While I enjoyed football to a certain extent and have some good memories from my years of playing, I wish that I could play the piano now.
Playing football is actually why you’re at MadMup.com today, actually. One day I walked into the locker room for practice and Todd T., a senior, said, “Hey, Muppet.” Someone else asked, “What’d you call him?” “Muppet.” “Why?” “Because he looks like one.” And there it was: my new nickname. It morphed into “Mup” over time, and when I started playing games online years later, I morphed it into “MadMup” in an attempt to give it an ironic, pseudo-tough edge. I think I was supposed to be embarrassed about looking like a Muppet, but truth be told I liked having a recognizable identity. I was a weird-looking odd kid, so anything helped. People that might not ever have talked to me before would say “Hey, Muppet” in the halls occasionally now. My brother still calls me “Mup” to this day, and there’ve been at least two occasions when he’s referred to me that way in Sunday dinner prayers.
My first three classes every day my Freshman year were taught by the same teacher: Mr. Flaming (pronounced like “flamming,” not like “flaming”). History, Science, and Bible (or maybe Science, History, and Bible, I’m not sure). Mr. Flaming was not the most exciting teacher in the world, and having a first-hour class with him would have been bad enough. Three in a row was killer. He never really liked me that much, which I can appreciate – I wasn’t the easiest student to have in class – and one day for science class he had me come up to the front for a demonstration. He put the science textbook on my head and then hit the book with a hammer. I think he was trying to show “transference of energy” or some such, but the upshot is that he got to hit me in the head with a hammer and call it “teaching.”
I was sitting in the front row of English class one day holding a finger to my lips and puffing my cheeks out (for what reason, I do not know – perhaps to see how far out they’d go) when Mr. Braughler stopped talking mid-sentence, looked at me with incredulous eyes, proclaimed, “Rubberface!” and went back to teaching. It was a little surreal. To this day, though, I still make faces while I’m doing other things. People often think I’m younger than I actually am, and I wonder if it’s because making faces is like a face workout or something. Of course, nobody wants to look this young:
Me in 1986
My Freshman year seems like a transition year in retrospect. My Sophomore year was more like the beginning of high school in my memory.