Teachers: Mr. Braughler, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Morris, Miss Oh, Mr. Sturgill
(It seems like it would be good to finish this series in the year I started it. Don’t worry, I won’t be attacking my college years any time soon.)
It’s stranger to think back to my senior year than almost any other year. Remembering the year makes me remember the feeling of being on the verge of “growing up.” I realize now, of course, that going from being a senior in high school to a freshman in college isn’t really growing up, but at the time it seemed huge. My classmates were talking about moving away and going off to school somewhere and it seemed strange to me. I visited a college in Florida my junior year, but I had pretty much figured out by this point I was going to go to college where I was going to high school, close to home and familiar. Still, at the time, senior year seemed huge. We were on top of the heap, and even if the heap was small (less than 100 kids in the high school), it was still a heap – “big fish in a little pond” and all that.
Since I attended a parochial school, our class officer list included the position of chaplain. My senior year I was elected chaplain, a surprising turn of events that still makes me shake my head in disbelief all these years later. I was expected to give a short challenge in our monthly class meetings, and it was good practice for me – organizing, studying, speaking in front of others. I don’t know how I did, but I did it.
I made the decision to not play football my senior year. I had started playing as a way to get out of piano lessons (a decision I’ve rued more than once since), and I continued to go out because it was the thing to do. There was a form of peer pressure going on that wasn’t necessarily spoken aloud, it was just assumed that if you went out for football before, you’d do it again. I was starting to figure out that I wanted to be who I wanted to be and not do things because “everyone else was doing them.” I don’t recall my decision causing too many waves. I wasn’t such an integral part of the team that they felt they needed me. I don’t remember getting any impassioned pleas from the coach or other team members, and the team went onto have a 5-2 season without me. I was never much of a competitor and never really bought into the gameday mindset that other people took to so easily. I wasn’t missed and I went to games as a spectator as I was able.
The basketball team had a new coach this year, and he had his own person he wanted for taking stats. I moved into videotaping the games for them to watch later, but it was kind of boring, as I couldn’t cheer for my friends like I wanted to, so I did things like fiddle with the settings and turn the camera on its side while taping. It got some chuckles from my friends in review sessions, but I realize now it must have been pretty irritating. I think the coach was pretty happy when I said I couldn’t help out the second half of the season because I joined the wrestling team.
The wrestling team had a few empty weight classes and that meant in tournaments they’d just give up those points. After talking to Phil P. and some others, I joined up with the team to at least keep them from losing points automatically. Now, granted, they still lost points because I wasn’t winning matches, but they weren’t losing as many. I didn’t get pinned much, and I seem to remember that a team member losing on points wasn’t as big a hit to team points as just giving up the slot. I helped a little, which is my forte. The highlight of my wrestling career was the one pin I got… which may have actually happened my Sophomore year, I’m not sure. It fades together. I did come in second in the Conference tournament and got a nice medal for it even. In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I ought to mention that there were only two of us in the weight class for that tournament, but I only lost by a point, so that seems to diminish the “accomplishment.”
The Thursday before Nationals a Canadian girl in our class received a care package from her parents and brought all manner of oddly-flavored potato chips to class, one package for each of the 32 of us. There was salt-and-vinegar, dill, ketchup, and one other flavor I don’t remember. I opted for ketchup, as it seemed the least weird. The first one or two were okay, as I recall, but all of a sudden I got really, really sick to my stomach. I can’t really describe how awful I started feeling. There was this overwhelming aftertaste that was so sickening I could barely move. I spent the next class period spitting (discreetly!) into an emptied milk carton. I spent the class after that on the floor next to the trash can, fully expecting to … uh… hurl, and kind of hoping to. It was Physics class and there were only four of us in the class, so it wasn’t as overwhelmingly distracting as it might have been in a larger class. After that class, my friend Eric N. took me down to the health center, where I spent the rest of the day with my head hanging over the edge of the bed, trash can at the ready. After school he drove me home, and I spent the evening feeling as awful as I ever have, the aftertaste still present. When I woke up the next day, I felt fine. I don’t remember how I got to school, but I was able to participate in the wrestling tournament and get beaten by the requisite number of opponents – still only losing on points, though. The end of my wrestling career left me with a 1-11 record. The end of the ketchup chips debacle left me with a difficulty to even tell the story. Even as I’ve typed this the memory has come back and I can start to taste the taste and I’m starting to feel ill. While I can eat ketchup on fries and a few other things, I can’t eat pickles because the pickle aftertaste is too similar to the ketchup chips aftertaste.
As I mentioned, our Physics class had four students: Eric N., Josh W., Phil P. and me. I was drawn to the class because I liked math well enough and the presence of three of my best friends in the class sealed the deal for me. Everyone else in our class took Speech that hour. Pretty quickly into the semester I realized I had made a grievous error. I didn’t “get” physics at all. It was outside of my sphere of understanding, and the only reason I passed it was that Miss Oh was incredibly easy to talk into walking a person through problems step-by-step, even during tests. There are few classes I’ve taken in my career that I feel were worthless for me to take and sadly Physics was one such class. I should have taken Speech.
Up to this point, of course, I didn’t know speech was something I liked doing. I’d only had a little experience with it, with seventh grade speech being just about my only stab at it. This year was my first year trying out for the school play, even. I didn’t end up being cast. The director, who happened to be our senior English teacher, wanted me to run the ticket sales for the play. Whether that was her way of not casting me or something she really thought I’d be good at I’ll never know. I was pretty bummed at the time, but I threw myself into the ticket sales as best I could. I don’t know that our committee’s efforts made any appreciable difference in sales from the previous year’s, but we did what we could and people showed up, so I guess that’s something. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I’d be cast in a play, and after that I found fairly steady work in that arena.
Our English teacher, Mrs. Morris, was fresh from college and we were her first class. To this day I feel bad for her, though she seems to have turned out fairly well. Some of the stuff we pulled I have to blame on her, though. She had a reputation for being… well, dingy. One time she told us about a teacher she’d had in high school that was so “out of touch” that during class one day they passed a roll of toilet paper from person to person, wrapping the chair legs and she never noticed. When they got up and left the room after class, the teacher was so surprised. Mrs. Morris made the mistake of saying, “I can’t believe she never saw us! That could never happen to me!” If there are any future teachers reading this let me just point out that these are exactly the sorts of things you should never say to your class. Sure enough, we decided to try it soon thereafter. And, sure enough, we pulled it off. When we got up and left after class and she saw the chairs all wrapped, she exclaimed rather loudly, and then I’m pretty sure she laughed. I think it would have been pretty hard for her to be mad at us for something she pretty much dared us to do.
I sang bass in the concert choir and tenor in the smaller Academy Singers this year. I couldn’t really do either well, but I was placed so I did as best I could. During the Spring Concert Mr. Braughler asked me to sing the solo on the second verse of “The Navy Hymn.” “Asked” is the wrong word, really. “Convinced” is a better word and “forced” would be too strong. During the concert my throat constricted, I got through maybe the first line and then was unable to continue. When the song was done and we left the stage, I headed outside behind the gym, embarrassed like I hadn’t been in a long time. Even though I don’t remember his exact words, I’ll never forget the gist of what Mr. Braughler said to me. As soon as he was able to leave the concert, he came looking for me. Someone told him where I was and when he found me he said to me, “Don’t ever turn down the chance to sing. Don’t let this determine your decisions in the future.” While I can’t say I’ve heeded his advice completely, I do think about it often.
I have other little snippets of memories here and there, but these that I’ve told you are the clearest. Here are some of the snippets:
- having a crush on a Canadian girl (a different one than the one that brought the ketchup chips!)
- getting a pitcher of root beer spilled on me by Phil P.
- seeing The Princess Bride for the first time
- beginning what would be a two-year dating relationship
- finding out my cat Shadow had diabetes
- going to Washington D.C. on our Senior Trip (it’s odd I don’t remember more about this)
- Gas was $1.07 a gallon. I didn’t actually remember this. I have this written in my senior yearbook.
And I also remember that I looked like this:
Me in 1989