I would have slapped me. In fact, I wish someone would invent a time machine already so I could travel back in time and slap some sense into myself that year. (But mom, if you're reading this, thanks for not slapping me.)
I was also getting into lots of trouble at school. Here are just two samples of my bad behavior from that year:
1) My friends and I regularly tossed our classmate, Nikki B., into the school dumpster during noon recess. For fun, I guess, though I doubt Nikki enjoyed it much. Skinny and rich enough to have a pink, ruffled canopy bed and all the Barry Manilow tapes, she made an easy target. (Nikki, wherever you are, I apologize for being such a jerk.)
2) My teacher, Mrs. Bradford, caught me pointing to my special girl area during a spelling test in a vain attempt to make my friend Melanie laugh. The spelling word was “hose.” I think you can figure out what I was getting at, loosely. (Wasn’t I terrible?) I had to push my desk into the hallway and shamefully confess my meaning behind the pointing. Actually, I didn’t confess; Melanie told on me. (Sidenote: is it me, or is the word "hose" kind of easy for a third grade reading test?)
CCD wasn’t getting through to me, probably because the nuns were more than a thousand years old and I wasn’t down with the whole confessional booth thing. Plus I was still singed from a mortifying church incident: when charged with merely doing the first reading during mass for all of the K-8 classes, I didn't know when to stop and kept right on reading, all the way through the gospel. My teacher (Sister Shameonyou) stood up and thundered, "NO!!!"
So despite money being tight, my parents shelled out the bucks for the complete set of ValueTales books in an effort to get me back on the right track.
Did anyone else have the ValueTales books when they were a kid? They’re still on my old bookshelf at my parents’ house, their sun-faded spines advertising the lesson each book aimed to instill: responsibility, fairness, honesty, determination, courage…
I think I had almost all of the books, save for “The Value of Laughter: The Story of Lucille Ball” and “The Value of Conviction: The Story of Cesar Chavez.”
Here we have Canadian amputee Terry Fox, who taught me the value of facing a challenge. Years later I would employ the skills I developed from this book when facing a particularly arduous challenge called “dating.”
Though Nikki never exacted revenge for my torments, not to worry. Junior high did. And payback was indeed a bitch. But that’s a post for another day.
A portrait of the artist as a young a-hole, at right.