My aunt was at the piano, old familiar songs flowed from her fingers, family young and old scattered around the room, voices young and old picking up the tunes. There was a theme to her choices, each song having meaning for someone gathered there. During a pause I asked what song she would play for me. “That’s easy”, she said as her hands skimmed the keyboard and I recognized “Qué sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, qué sera, sera”.
My mind clambers back
to the flower power, flower children, make love not war, hippy, long-haired, draft-dodging, protest-marching, drug-induced 1960s. I remember the struggle of adolescence more than the fun, the loneliness almost as much as the friendships. There was a person stuck inside me that didn’t know how to get out.
At 12 I was six feet tall, which did nothing for my desire to fit in.
By 16, I was overweight. My very blond, very straight, very fine hair darkened and turned into a frizzy mass at puberty. Being the early/mid sixties, the ‘mod’ look was in – very straight, long hair, bangs sitting on the eyelids … ‘afro’ wasn’t a style yet. But there I was, my head of hair in plain view a foot above everybody else’s, frizzled if there was even a hint of humidity.
I played volleyball, but wasn’t very good; I was on the basketball team – a mascot of sorts, if you will.
Sixteen was my graduation year from high school. Suddenly, it seemed, a decade in the classroom was ending – it was June and exams were almost upon me. Determined not to fail, determined to escape, I declared to my mother that I was not going to go to the last three weeks of classes, but rather, I would stay home and CRAM. Every day for three weeks I rose at 7.00 a.m., skipped breakfast and studied until lunch. After lunch, I studied until supper. After supper I studied until bedtime. I went through every chapter of the history book, I reviewed all the required readings for English, I worked through examples of every geometric puzzle and algebraic equation, I memorized the periodic tables for chemistry. And I passed it all. It was over. I was out of there.
Today, while some historical dates can be called up easily, I still don’t understand Shakespeare; my sum total of geometry recall is the word “hypotenuse” and how to figure out square or cubic feet; I don’t have a clue how to approach solving the simplest of algebraic equations; and I couldn’t even remember the term “periodic tables”, I had to look it up on the internet. What I do remember is I lost 25 lbs during those three weeks of studying.
For years I had regular nightmares; I still have them occasionally … wandering the hallways, lost, knowing the bell is about to ring but not knowing which class is next. I have no schedule. I can’t find my locker to get my schedule. I can’t remember the combination to open my locker. Exams are starting and I realize I haven’t even opened a text-book the entire year. I haven’t read any of the required readings …
In the vernacular – Sweet 16? Not so much.
Images from Free Digital Photos