I may have written about this already, but again, this Sunday I was listening to the repeat on “This American Life” and thought about all the changes during those three years.
The day started out as normal. Get up at daybreak, check social media then go back to sleep until ten. Drink a bottle of water, stare at the computer screen, shake the cobwebs and enjoy the radio program. Then like every day, squeeze the Crest tube to get the last drop (my mother’s son), rinse out last night’s drool, strap on the jeans that should be washed but it is not time yet, pull on the old orange hoodie with the bullet hole in the arm and the mustard stains and step outside. There are plenty of things I could do today, but I’m not going to kid myself. I’m not going to do them.
It is warm and sunny, especially for this time of year. Probably the last warm day until spring arrives. The leaves are falling and getting crunchy so I can hear the critters scurry around, even if I cannot see them. The sound of a generator on the corner tells me that the construction guys never rest, even on the Lord’s Day. The ride to the store under a shower of orange, red and yellow is uneventful as it is every day. A few leftover cups from yesterday’s runners, folks in shorts walking their dogs or babies and a lone bicyclist are the only ones on the streets. The hawk flies over leaving his shadow. Even the store is uneventful. No seems to recognize I’m a year older. The big decision for today of “what’s for lunch?” will be less extreme than that ice cream cake I ate yesterday.
And all the time I was thinking about “middle school”. It was called Junior High School back in the day. I was growing up during Middle School and did not realize how much happened during those years.
And a lot of stuff happened during those three years.
Before Middle School most of time was spent at school or church. During Middle School a flood of new experiences entered my life.
Since my brother had already gone to college I got my own room that included my own 8” black and white television to watch old monster movies and westerns, a president get assassinated, and the civil rights movement and a stereo record player to listen to folk music and the first Beatles album. I’d still have to go on vacation with mom and dad to their old hometown and still had to go downtown and get fitted for clothing, but I had my own room. A sense of independence was coming.
After a friend of mine drowned, I made sure I knew how to swim, and swim properly. I joined the country club swim team and even worked as a lifeguard.
Also learned how to play golf and was pretty good at it, between caddying for our parents to earn some cash. I gave up the game when a friend of mine didn’t like his play and threw his clubs into a lake. Even learned how to play tennis.
I was sent to overnight camp in Carolina for a few weeks each summer. Maybe it was the proper thing to do for young men to be sent off to network with the rich kids or possibility just to get me out of the house, I did learn how to sail, shoot a 22 caliber bolt action rifle, become proficient with a bow and arrow, and learn the art of short sheeting. It was the first time of being away from home…. Alone.
During the second year of living out of a trunk, I realized I had to be a counselor to get away from the “childish” behavior I had seen the year before. Besides the counselors cabin was where the ice-cold beer was stored.
Another thing camp taught me was how to dance. The camp director gathered all us boys into the indoor feeding facility, moved all the tables and brought in this woman in tights. All us lads hung close to the wall as she gyrated around the floor to the beat of a portable record player. After she took each of us and showed us the box step and some cha-cha steps, the girls’ camp from across the sound was delivered on school buses. The girls lined up on one wall and the guys on the opposite wall. The counselors started dancing first then they started pairing us up. Between the heat and the music and the softness of the young ladies it was the first experience of holding someone close who wasn’t family… and I LIKED it.
During the Middle School years I transferred my dancing experience into cotillions where I could dress to the nines and escort young ladies at their “coming out” parties while our parents sat in the country club bar and drank. It was very formal but not much fun.
Summer was also a time when the parents would dump me with relatives at the beach. While I wasn’t close to these people, I was exposed to activities I would have never experienced at home. My cousin was a bit of a wild spirit when left alone so I hung out with him. He taught me how to surf in a relaxed group of townies. We’d sweep out bars or put away boxes or whatever was needed during the day to earn some cash to buy some food for the night’s bonfire. It was a time for my first sexual experience.
He also showed me how to scuba dive and parachute but not under the best circumstances.
Middle school also taught me shop or woodworking or whatever they call it with a lesbian as a teacher. I enjoyed it but didn’t have the backup knowledge at home to further my curiosity. Also took art classes. Art classes in school and art classes at the museum. So when they did a survey to figure out your classes in High School or “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, I said “artist”.
Between learning I didn’t like basketball with that entire running thing, a president being assassinated, combat and monster movies every Sunday, scouts, and a turtle who turned green and died and a hamster who had babies then ate them and died; I heard music for the first time.
Perhaps the dancing got me listening or my brother’s “Kingston Trio” records, but I wanted to be apart of the music scene. I didn’t want to “study” music because it would be too much like school and since I could not see the blackboard until I got glasses, I didn’t like school.
One Christmas I got a set of paper skin drums which I pounded on without any instructions but they had no real sound. I opted for the guitar but didn’t have much money so I purchased a banjo ukulele, then a baritone ukulele, then a tenor guitar and then I found electric rock & roll.
The summer between Middle School and High School I purchased an electric guitar and joined a band. Life would never be the same.
So while “Middle School” may seem like a transition from being a kid to being a teen, a lot of things can happen between 1962 and 1964.