Small Town is Relative

Actual Pep Club T-Shirt! At a ballgame!

Actual Pep Club T-Shirt! At a ballgame!

Recently, a friend shared with me a blog post called 10 Ridiculous Things that Happen at Small Town High Schools. I read it, and while there were several things that resonated, in other cases, I thought, “that’s not a small town, that’s a big town!” I graduated with 14 other students (and one exchange student), and ours was not the smallest class in the region. I had a friend who was one of five graduating that year. To be clear, that wasn’t just the number of kids graduating, and the hundred or so who didn’t graduate aren’t included – that was the number of kids who spent senior year with their peers. The number who actually had a signed diploma, we weren’t informed.

So, here I give you the points made on the blog post, and my responses.

1. You graduate with the exact same people you met on the first day of kindergarten. Small towns tend to be insular places, which means–at the risk of sounding dramatic–few new people come in, and no one ever leaves. Your class roster doesn’t change much in 12 years (which is why the arrival of a “new kid” is such a momentous event), and it’s not uncommon to go to prom with the kid who barfed on you in second grade.

This is more-or-less true. Early in senior year, the yearbook staff takes a photo called “13 years together.” This, obviously, is of the kids who started at school in kindergarten, and were still there. Committed parents, obvs. In my case, we had to take a test before kindergarten, and if we already knew our ABCs and how to count to 10, we were out. The kindergarten at my school was paid for by a grant which was more-or-less ESL – it was intended to teach migrant children things they’d need to know to succeed in America. So, my mom and another mom took turns driving me and two boys to a private kindergarten in a nearby town. Technically, I graduated with two people I went to kindergarten with. If you go by first grade, there were a number of people who moved in, then moved out over the years, but there was one core group of students, until some crazy gold rush in Colorado, which stole half of the boys in my class, since their parents decided to move and try to take advantage. We finished with five boys and 11 girls; one of whom was an exchange student. And we rocked. Image

2. Half the people in your class have the same last name. And at least three-quarters of the class are cousins. In fact, the yearbook might be more accurately titled “the family tree.”

Nope. None of us had the same last name, and none of us was related. We were the in-between class, because the one before us and the one after us totally fit that description. We, however, were beyond your incestuous accusations. Beginning the year after I graduated, and for several years thereafter, when I called the school and said, “Hi, Aunt Irma, can I talk to Mom?” – that’s pretty irrelevant. We were talking about the graduating class, not the staff.

3. The FFA wields an impressive amount of power and popularity. Whether or not your family actually lived anywhere near a farm, it was a smart move to join the Future Farmers of America.yearbook2

Yeah. The FFA. I think I was a senior when they started letting girls in, and those girls ruled the world. The boys, though? Meh. The person who wrote this post is likely at least five years younger than I am.

4. Eighth grade promotion is as lavish as many college graduations. I will never forget the time my friend Laila and I were discussing the details of our 8th grade promotion dresses and hairstyles in front of our friend Lydia, who went to a big school in the city. “What is 8th grade promotion?” she asked, and we were both stunned. “It’s when you graduate from middle school and you buy an expensive gown and get your hair done and walk down the aisle and get a diploma,” we explained. Lydia was totally perplexed. “Who cares about 8th grade?” she asked. People in small towns, that’s who. I got rid of my college graduation gown, but you betcha my promotion dress is still hanging in my closet.

There was no 8th grade promotion ceremony (for me, or for my daughter, at the same school, 22 years later). We had a “dance,” which was one of three middle school dances, where the chips and cookies were not plentiful, and chairs were set up on the west side of the cafeteria for the girls, and the east side for the boys. Never the twain shall meet.

Image5. “The woods” is a perfectly normal location for a party. Want to get drunk and shoot guns and make out? So does everyone else! Meet us in the forest half a mile off the highway–take a left at the big rock.

The woods. That’s cute. How about the rattlesnake-infested, desert hills. I assume that’s where the parties were held. I wasn’t invited. If they were in the woods, I doubt kids would have made it back for school the next day, since it took us about three hours to get to anything remotely like “woods.”

6. Line dancing is part of the Physical Education curriculum. Forget yoga and archery, when it’s time for PE, you put on your crusty uniform and line up in the gym to do the grapevine to the “Watermelon Crawl.” And trust me: when you’re 26 and go on a road trip and find yourself in a rural dive bar with a juke box, these skills will come in handy.

Line dancing, no. Square dancing, yes. Also, there’s a story in there about how I put my head through the windshield of a VW Beetle during a square dancing class, but this may not be the time and/or place. Plus, what’s the “Watermelon Crawl?”

7. Getting stuck behind a tractor is a perfectly good excuse for being tardy. Driving a tractor to school is an even better excuse (“I tried to get here in time for the test, but my combine tops out at 26 MPH.”)

Completely true. Also, if you have a gun in your truck (for hunting after school), please park in the church parking lot across the street, because guns aren’t allowed on campus. The “stuck behind a tractor” excuse also works if you’re late for work, as does, “got behind a school bus.”yearbook

8. The football coach is also your history teacher and the librarian is also the lunch lady. Teachers at small schools have to wear many hats. Some of those hats are not necessarily supposed to be worn simultaneously, but whatever.

True. Also, you’re probably related to one or both (hi, Mom!) But, when you go to another school, the history teacher and lunch lady will be the softball umpires. Their experience at softball is, well, they’ve heard of it.

9. If you have older siblings, your reputations begins wherever theirs left off. Here’s how it works: on the first day of class, the teacher is doing roll call and they get to your last name and pause. They look up and say, “Any relation to (older sibling’s name)?,” you say yes, and then the teacher will either inform you that your sibling is a perfect human specimen you can never live up to, or sigh dramatically and mutter, “Oh good, another one.” Upperclassmen will also make sure you inherit any of your sibling’s nicknames.

Ugh. This should read “siblings or cousins.” In 8th grade, I had a teacher who called me “Reg-Kath-Jul-Angie.” Unfortunately, Reg and Kath were valedictorians. Fortunately, Jul was a huge troublemaker, so I seemed like an innocent bystander in comparison (hey, Julie!). Also, the teacher doesn’t pause to ask if you’re related. S/he knows exactly who you are and who you’re related to. I like to think my awesomeness worked in my younger brothers’ behalf. The nickname thing? Also works on teachers. One teacher, faced with her fifth Sillonis, called my sister (one year older) “Sillonis,” and me, “Little Sillonis.” Others were more creative. Salamihead comes to mind.

10. Senior pranks often involve farm animals and/or manure. Both are so plentiful, it just makes good sense to utilize them, you know?

No such thing as a senior prank, or a senior skip day. Things went bad a few years ago, so anyone who participates in such things gets to spend the week after graduation sitting in a classroom. And really, those things are so common. Do you have no imagination? Regular, non-senior pranks have to be far more creative than that. What are we, FFA members?

Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember

I don’t often participate in the writing challenges, but this week’s looked like fun.

Freestyle memory. Write I remember at the top of your post, hit start on the timer, and write about the first memory that comes to mind. Ten minutes. Don’t stop.

Of course, I ran out of time – I still had a few things I wanted to add, but them’s the rules, so this is what we’ve got. I went through it once for typos, but other than that, it’s 10 minutes worth of freestyle writing. Should I apologize now, or once you’re done reading?

I remember …

It was a Thursday night in March, and our family’s watching of the yearly basketball tournament was put on hold in favor of a trip to the hospital. We arrived, my mother and I, and discussed what was happening with the nurses.

Two days old, four generations.

Two days old, four generations.

They didn’t seem convinced that we needed to be there. A nurse phoned my doctor, who was at a black-tie dinner.

“Put her on a monitor,” the doctor instructed. He didn’t believe me, either. The contractions were five minutes apart by then, and lasting almost two minutes apiece. I was pretty sure I’d come to the right place, but because the labor pains were all in my back, and not in my abdomen, nobody believed me. After a couple hours of rubbing my back to help ease the pain, my mother believed me.

One week old.

One week old.

The maternity unit was full that night, so I had to share a room with another laboring mother. She must have been on some good drugs, because she slept, snoring loudly, the entire time we were together. Upon settling, I asked my mother to turn on the room’s TV so we could watch the game.

UNLV vs. Arizona in the Sweet 16. Tark the Shark vs. Lute Olsen. I was not missing this. Soon, a nurse came in and checked the monitor. “You’re in labor!” she announces. No kidding. Thanks for the update. She then walked to the TV, announced,

“You don’t want to watch this!” and changed it to some nature show. I waited until she left, then looked meaningfully at my mother. Mom walked to the TV and changed it back to the game. Soon, my aunt came in. She decided she needed to be

Happy baby.

Happy baby.

with us every step of the way, including the delivery. I didn’t want to be Momzilla, so I remained calm and figured one more family member in the room would only make the event more joyful. Then my aunt thought she’d help me out by slapping a wet washcloth on my forehead. Again, a meaningful look to my mom, and she immediately and gracefully removed the washcloth. Ah, the nurse is back. No, really, we do want to watch … OK, Mom? And she waits till the nurse leaves and puts the game back on the TV where it belongs.

Eventually, we move on to the delivery room, a surgical suite, with windows on the doors. My delivery nurse is a woman who grew up a few miles from me. Her father was my elementary school principal and her mother was my first 4-H leader. The doctor is the same man who delivered me and my siblings. Peeking through the window is another nurse, who I knew from 4-H. In time, a bouncing, 7 pound 6 ounce girl was born, and there was much rejoicing. Took a bit to get her to cry, and I was worried, but the doctor assured me she was

Merry Christmas! Age 21 months.

Merry Christmas! Age 21 months.

perfect. My mom took pictures of each of us with the baby, and my aunt took pictures of my mom with the baby.

We went to my new room (without a snoring roomie), and my mom and aunt went home to get some sleep. It was 4 a.m. Around 10, Mom came back, this time with my dad and brothers. Flowers arrived. More pictures are taken. Teenage uncles with their new niece. Grandpa holding his first grandchild. It wasn’t until two days later my mom realized there was no film in the camera.

Daily Prompt: Buffalo Nickel

Several days ago, WordPress posted a prompt for bloggers that looked something like this:

Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

Seriously, a dime? My 40+ year old eyes are supposed to read the very tiny inscription telling us the date a dime was made? Hmm, let me hold it really far away … is that a 1, 9, 8 … 2 maybe? 7? Do I dare step across the hall to the 20-something and ask him what year this dime was made? Admitting that I can’t make out those tiny numbers would be admitting defeat, which will never do. So I squint. The real problem here is that the last number is worn down – there’s almost no impression left on the coin.

See? It's not just my old eyes. You don't know what that number is, either.

See? It’s not just my old eyes. You don’t know what that number is, either.

I’m pretty sure the top of the last digit is curved, which rules out the 7. Besides, this is my blog, so I can pick whichever year I like best, right? I thought so. Though both were fun – when 1982 began, I was a freshman in high school, and when it ended, I was a sophomore. Progress! When 1987 began, I was a sophomore in college, and when it ended, I had moved across the state to live with a cousin and taken a boring job for very little pay. So as you can see, they are both stories worth telling. And in both cases, some things are best left unsaid.

So, 1982. It was an innocent time. I hadn’t yet begun wearing neon, backcombing and Aqua Netting my bangs so they’d stand up by themselves or wearing different (very large) earrings on either ear. I had just begun learning to talk a little bit Valley Girl (ohmahgawd, like, so awesome for a small town, Eastern Oregon girl). I was awesome at Ms. Pac Man, and less so at Q*Bert. I had two sets of Deely Boppers, and wore them. A lot. Actually, because I liked to be different, I had the ones with pinwheels on them, instead of the foam balls that looked like antennae. Like, seriously awesome.

Yearbook photos: Embarrassing Americans since 1952.

Yearbook photos: Embarrassing Americans since 1952.

Mostly, I was an average high school kid, getting good grades, obeying my parents, teachers and coaches, participating in volleyball, basketball, softball, Girls Athletic Association (because girls weren’t allowed in the Letterman’s Club until my senior year), Pep Club, FHA, band and choir at my high school, and terrorizing my siblings whenever possible (they started it). I drank Tab because it was the only diet soda that was made. Sometimes, I kicked the Tab up a notch and dropped Lemon Heads in it, again, because it was, like, awesome to the max. School dances were in the cafeteria, and consisted mostly of sitting around chatting with my friends. Also, punch and chips. Possibly rolling my eyes at my sister and her latest boyfriend doing whatever it is that high school kids do at dances when they’re a couple.

I wore my Pep Club t-shirt to all the games to cheer on my schoolmates. You

Actual Pep Club T-Shirt! At a ballgame!

Actual Pep Club T-Shirt! At a ballgame!

know the one. White shirt with green trim around the neck, and long green sleeves with “85” on the left arm, and “Ang” on the back. Instead of calling me “Anj,” which is what I believed the back of my shirt read, my family began calling me “Ang,” with a soft g. Not funny, Family!

My sophomore year, I made my own prom dress, and attended the dance with a senior. Because breaking out of my shell meant doing things others might see as outrageous, my prom “date” was a girl. She didn’t have a date, we were friends, we went to the prom and hung out. It was fun. Especially when we left early to get Baskin Robbins.

1982 was the year I first traveled alone, and the first time I flew in an airplane. Coincidentally, it was also the first time I got very bored in a conference, and wished I could be outside shopping, or pretty much anything other than sitting in that room with several hundred high school sophomores.

It was a year of growth and change, with some self-discovery thrown in. It was a very good year.