Oh my!! Where do I start things off in the old blog today? After posting a picture like that I could just pack up my keyboard, park my brain and let you all run with it this week. There is just so much damn material floating around in that class photo.
So yes, that is me up there in the top center. I mean, if you got a kid looking that ridiculous you have to make them the focal point of photo, right? So there I am I am in all my glory, the biggest dorkiest doofus in my early 1970s fourth grade class. Living proof to all those much younger than me that kids really did wear clothes like in old the Brady Bunch reruns. And check out the hair. I had hair!! Not as much as Lee Root over there on the top left but it was past my shoulders.
Look at all those fresh faces, old enough to think they understood the world and naive enough to not have a clue of the magnitude of life’s pressures that still awaited them. The photo preserves forever those awkward hormone infused days as we really were just starting the journey to discover ‘who we are’.
Well except for grumpy old Mrs. Hunt over there on the left. Her best was behind her and her bitterness showed daily. She likely had taken over 40 of those pictures and the decades of disruptive non-interested students had sucked out any joy or enthusiasm for her job. I wonder how many of those bright-eyed kids in that picture are currently experiencing the same thing as older adults now?
I have no clue what Mrs. Hunt was like outside of the classroom but to us she was a sour mean woman that spit a little bit when she talked and even more so when she yelled… which was quite frequently. She disliked me, so I usually got a daily shower of spittle in my face. As is obvious in the photo, I was the biggest and loudest kid in class so if a group of us was acting up, I was the one that stood out. And I was the one she always made an example of.
Things did not start out bad at the beginning of the year; I was just treated like any other obnoxious attention-seeking brat. Till one day David Browning, the kid in the fuchsia tie next to me, threw a wadded-up piece of paper at the back of Mrs. Hunt’s head. The class roared. Mrs. Hunt went ballistic. “Who did it… WHO DID IT!!!” she screamed in a shrill voice that could peel the institutional pale puke colored paint off the dingy classroom walls. David pointed at me and said “Lewww-belllll did it, Lewwwww-belllllll did it”
Mrs. Hunt bolted towards me faster than any of us thought she could move. She stood over my desk and hollered at me till my clothes were practically soaked through with her saliva. I pleaded innocent but refused to throw David under the bus and counter-blame him. Now, it was not because of a guy-code of honor that I did not point my finger at David. When Mrs. Hunt angrily questioned “if I did not throw the paper, just who did?” I did not say David Browning’s name simply because I was afraid of him.
I was not afraid of him because of the color of his skin but because he could kill me. Quite frankly, I was equally afraid of lots of kids regardless of their race, religion, creed, color, height or weight. I was simply an oversized winpy wus but at least I was an equal opportunity non-racist wimpy wus. And might I also add in case you have any doubts about the race thing, Kevin English, the kid in the groovy dark velour jacket standing next to David, was by far my absolute best school friend through 4th, 5th and 6th grade.
I took the blame that day because of fear and paid for it all year. Fear ruled a lot of my behavior in elementary school. By the time that photo was taken I had already become very interested in girls but had absolutely no clue what to do about it. I had zero game and was completely afraid of saying anything to them besides a bad joke.
Look at me up there in the picture. It’s not like I was going to win them over with my looks, hygiene or fashion sense. I would have had to worked it completely on personality and that sure as hell was not going to succeed for Mr. Clueless. I made Urkel look suave.
Most of the other boys were crazy hot for Elyssa Cohen, the black haired girl in the loud print dress right in front of David. She lived over in CO-OP City, a series of apartment buildings that some of the other kids also were from. They drooled and fawned over her the whole bus ride to school, all through class and then all the way back home. She never gave me the time of day, which was okay with me. Let the other guys fight over her; she wasn’t my type.
No my super-secret mega crush was on Stacey Hoffman. That’s her sitting in the front row third from the left in the peach slacks. I never told anyone, certainly not her. But boy did I daydream about Stacey Hoffman.
She was popular but not too popular to seem unobtainable, she was always nice to me but she was nice to everybody and, oh yeah… she developed relatively ample breasts pretty early. As an adult, I know that the attention received from being an early developer can be uncomfortable but in my googley-eyed, pining from a-far, Dork-a-saurus-Rex 4th grade boy brain, that was not an understood concept. Not that she would have had any idea I liked her; I was paralyzed by that irrational fear of saying anything.
When I moved out of New York in 8th grade I lost track of everybody in that class photo. It was not a big loss for me. A clean slate in Miami helped me. Getting past all my fears did too. But I wonder sometimes what happened to all those kids? Who became successful doctors and lawyers? Who became the sensitive artists and actors? Who became the factory worker and sewer cleaner? Who fell through the cracks of society overdosing too young on drugs or drink? Who would still be in my life if I never moved?
The same way I fantasized during Mrs. Hunt’s class about being in situations that Stacy suddenly would discover how amazing I was, years and years later my ever-so slightly better developed brain wonders what became of her. Where is she today, what does she look like, would I have still been attracted to her in her 20s, 30s, 40s, now…? Has she ever nostalgically looked at the exact same picture and wondered what happened to that obnoxious doofus in the center of the upper row?
Some dreams are better left alone. I think it’s best to leave Stacey in my imagination as that little preteen in loud 1970s polyester clothes. When it comes to this stuff, with today’s FACEBOOK and internet searches, it’s too easy to reach out and be disappointed. I think sometimes it’s best to just to leave reality alone and preserve the fantasy.