Category Archives: School Days

My Two First Kisses

Preface:  The idea for this piece has been on my brain all week.  Last night I watched the video below and it inspired me to finally write this one.  See the clip “High Five for First Kiss” at the bottom of this post.

My first kiss was in May at the end of my freshman year of high school. This statement, is in fact, actually a fallacy.  However, when asked when my first kiss was, this is how I will always respond.

My true first kiss occurred the summer after eighth grade.  Corey McAlester’s birthday party was in June, about a week after school let out.  Over the last month or so of school I had developed quite an interest in Corey’s best friend, David Wickland.  He was tall, outgoing, comical, and a drummer.  As a trumpet player, I saw him everyday in either full band or the brass and percussion sectional.  Band was followed by lunch, thus providing ample time to mingle and make my feeble attempts at flirting.

Shannon Bailey and I went to Corey’s party together.  Shannon was about a year into her dating life and I felt slightly envious over this fact.  Most recently she had been seeing Randy O. and he was a high schooler.  I felt young and childish and was worried that Shannon would view me as such.  That year I felt as if many of my friends grew up while I stayed the same.  But no one had run off and abandoned my friendship yet, so there I was, going to Corey’s party with Shannon.

The night went on most uneventful.  As adult as many of us thought we were becoming, it’s clear how much we were still children in hindsight.  Corey’s fourteenth birthday party consisted mostly of us hanging out in his backyard, running around and playing on his swing set.  (It was proposed that we play spin the bottle, but this was declined by his parents.  I would like to take this opportunity to point out that my parents allowed the playing of said game at my birthday party.  We opted to hug instead of kiss.  Except for Amanda Riesling.)

After the birthday rituals of singing, cake, ice cream, and presents, the party began to split off into smaller groups.  David, Shannon, and I found ourselves taking a walk around the neighborhood at dusk.  I recall nothing of what we spoke of, only that I simultaneously hated and yet was relieved by Shannon’s presence.

There existed rumors that David liked me, but I remained nervous that it was too good to be true.  I had yet to recover from an incident in the fourth grade when the boy whom I felt sure I was in love with had prank called every girl in our class with his friend asking them to the dance.  David seemed excited though and appeared to be geniunely having a good time.

I’m unsure what brought about the subject, but the topic of kissing had arisen.  The specifics remain blurry, but my memory comes into focus as David posed the question: “Can I kiss you?”  To which Shannon responded with a simple yes.  Then he kissed her quickly before returning to our conversation, or rather what was now our lack of conversation.

It was silent, but not an uncomfortable silence.  Interestingly enough I wasn’t angry, upset, or even confused.  I knew that it should be awkward, yet it wasn’t, not for any of us.  Several more silent, unawkward moments passed because no one really knew what to say.

The next words spoken were by David.  For the second time that night he posed the question, “Can I kiss you?”  To which this time I responded with a simple yes.

And he kissed me.  And that was that.

Except that I was filled with a small happiness that I hadn’t experienced previously.  Somehow I knew that he did like me, but we were too nervous and Shannon wasn’t and he had to practice with her first.  It’s like when a child goes to the ocean for the first time, and big sister or Dad has to put their feet in the water first just to show the child that the world won’t end, a shark won’t eat their foot, and they won’t die, or whatever it is they’re afraid of.

He and I didn’t speak for the rest of that summer, and that was okay.  I never thought on it too much.  I never even told anyone about the events that transpired that evening.  But it was my first kiss.

I guess it never felt real.  I would have to wait nearly a year for my next kiss, which is the one I claim as my first.  I suppose it just felt more real because Jordan Holling and I actually spoke after the incident; in fact, he was my boyfriend for several months.

This alleged first kiss wasn’t much better.  After an awards ceremony one evening at school, Jordan and I were walking in the corider that connected the band room to the gymnasium.  Photos of every graduating class since the ’70s lined the walls.

Before stepping out into the night, he leaned in and kissed me.  It was wet and drool-y and most unpleasant.  The prior three decades of Springfield High School alumni witnessed this awkward and somewhat pathetic scene.  Never in my life has something I enjoyed so little brought me such great euphoria.

High Five for First Kiss:


The Birds, The Bees & Body Image

I ninth grade I took a trip to Washington D.C. with the Junior Statesmen of America.  (Have I mentioned how super cool and popular I was?)  There were about seven of us who attended this trip; some of us were close friends and others merely acquaintances.  We had been traipsing around the city for two days at this point.  Mrs. Stewart had set us free to roam, and on our own we found ourselves at Union Station in search of food.

We rode the escalator down and began to engage in a most important discussion of who liked whom.  (We may have been mildly nerdy but we still had our teen priorities in order.)  We started with a review of the love triangles, or pentagons and hexagons as they so often were, of the dating world at Springfield High School.  I was somewhat interested, but I didn’t participate with such zeal as I usually would since I currently was into a boy who attended our rival high school a town over.

The group diverged in two as we selected our food providers of choice.  Myself and three others made our way to line up for pizza as the conversation continued.  My mind had entirely drifted elsewhere, until I heard my name.  What?  Shellie?  What about Shellie?

“So I think Scott Peterson definitely has a thing for Shellie,” I heard Steven continue.

Scott?  Scott Peterson?  But, he’s older than me.  And I’m friends with his little sister.  No, I have no interest in Scott Peterson.  None.

I glanced over to see if I can spot him at the taco joint where the other half of our group went off in search of nourishment, but they were out of sight.

“Yeah, I was talking to him about it last night.  He claimed he didn’t, but I know he’s lying,” Steven theorized.  “I told him, I said, ‘Scott, why won’t you admit it?  You like her, and I mean she does have a nice body!'”

Wait.  Huh?  Me?  We’re talking about my body?

I wasn’t so shocked that someone was describing my body as nice, so much as the fact that someone was describing my body at all.  Aside from a few overweight girls in middle school teasing me about my flat chest, I had never heard anyone give an opinion on my body one way or the other, so one can understand my utter shock.  Since when was the topic of my body up for discussion?  Weren’t there some sort of release of consent forms I had to sign before any male adolescents were able to comment on such subjects?

I entirely blocked out that conversation from that point on as my mind waded through all of these thoughts.

How many others had approached this topic without my knowledge?  What did they say about it?  Besides, what was there to say about it?  I was more or less a toothpick.  I wanted to know if other girls knew about these discussions, and what they thought of this.  Were they okay with it?

It was the first time in my life I came to be aware that these were things people discussed.  I knew they discussed female bodies in the general sense, but I was unaware that my own would actually be up for grabs.  I felt as if I were still a child; we were far too young for people to be talking about our bodies.  I was not pleased.

*Image from Diets In Review

Fourth Grade: The Missing Year

I have an outstanding memory.  In fact, my memory is so outstanding that it is often cause for embarrassment in social situations where I mistakenly reveal the precise details of past events my mind holds and therefore appear to possess subtle stalker-like tendencies.  (If you were wondering, my first boyfriend, Jordan Holling and I began dating on May 9th, 2002.  Drawing attention to the fact that I know this is not something one should point out.)

I vividly recall exact outfits I wore on specific days of school, verbatim quotations from inconsequential conversations past, and can replay movies in my head of many events from age four on.  Recently however, I have discovered that I have a big blank spot in my memory.  An entire school year of my life has lapsed into the recesses of my brain, and for the life of me, I cannot draw them out.  Fourth grade is the missing year in my childhood.

I’ve developed several theories as to the cause of this, and I’m sure you could too.  For those old-school psychology types, you may think that I am repressing some unspeakable, ghastly event.  Others may argue that my memory just isn’t that great.  Others may claim that if I simply think hard enough, it will come flooding back to me.  I must insist you are all incorrect.  Over the past months, I’ve reached only one logical conclusion.  Fourth grade was painstakingly boring.

Mrs. Carter was my fourth grade teacher.  It’s not to say that Mrs. Carter was a poor instructor; she merely loathed children.  Perhaps loathe is too strong a word, but she certainly didn’t like them.

Of the 180 days spent in this woman’s classroom, I recall the following events in this all-inclusive list:

  1. Spelling Tests
    Each week we had to learn twenty words.  Mondays were pretest days, where we were to spell each word without any advance notice or study to serve as a frame of reference of our prior knowledge.  We worked on the words throughout the week and had our post-test on Friday.  We kept data on our results in our Spelling Folders.  I earned a perfect score on every single post-test for the entire year.  I experienced great anxiety that I would receive a 19/20, and one day this almost happened.  The offending word: lemon.  Fortunately, at the last moment I abandoned the second ‘m’ I had placed in the middle of the word before submitting my assessment for grading.

  2. Proficiency Test Prep
    I abhorred any day that I spotted those yellow spiral-bound packets sitting on Mrs. Carter’s desk when I walked into the classroom.  It was at this point I knew any remaining hope of having an engaging, interesting day was now killed when I laid eyes on them.  Reviewing for the Science Proficiency Test was the bane of my existence.
Thank you, Mrs. Carter, for providing me with such wonderful memories of learning and discovering in the fourth grade.  This served as my first lesson in, “sometimes one is required to do incredibly vapid and wearisome tasks in order to get where one wants to go in life.”

I Was a Board Race Champion

First grade was the year of board races.  Math review?  Board race.  Spelling words?  Board race.  Grammar correction? Board race.  You name it, we board-raced it.

I was the (nearly) undefeated board race champion.  I won all challenges, except for my first (and perhaps a lone race here or there which I have since blocked from memory.)

I vividly recall my first board race.  It was for our spelling words, and I was about mid-way through the line up.  I carefully watched as my peers took their places at the board for the face off in both speed and accuracy.  It was a simple process.  The two students were given a word from the spelling list, and whomever wrote it correctly first (timed by when you placed your chalk back down on the board’s tray) won.  The loser sat down and the next kid came up to challenge the champion.  This process repeated until all had been defeated with one student remaining.

As my turn approached I began to consider my potential for victory.  I knew all of my spelling words by heart and had practiced all week long.  Things were decidedly looking up.

With mixed confidence and apprehension, I approached the blackboard when my turn arrived.  Steven was at the board and he had been doing rather well.  I stood poised attentively, chalk in hand, awaiting the word.

However, I should take a moment to mention that in addition being a school-focused six-year-old with superb study habits, I was also quite the perfectionist.  Throughout my life this would plague me with oddities such as: recopying all of my notes in sixth grade math because I had to scribble out notes quickly thus it became ‘too sloppy’, insisting that all objects on my desk had a proper place and never getting up without checking said placement, copying the alphabet repeatedly to perfect my handwriting.  Call it perfectionism or borderline obsessive-compulsive tendencies, it’s a fine line.

Mrs. Larkin called out the word: vacation.  I without a doubt knew this one.  I carefully placed the tip of my chalk to the board and wrote the outline of the ‘v’.  Two straight, white lines, meeting at a vertex centered precisely in the middle forming symmetrical angles against the black.  The ‘a’ was also an excellent specimen of penmanship.  The perfect circle was connected seamlessly to the stem to the right.  I was just beginning my ‘c’ when Steven slammed his chalk onto the tray.

I had been defeated.  My beautiful lettering had lost to the sloppy chicken scratch next to it on the board.  I was shocked.  I had lost.  Mrs. Larkin gently reminded me that it was about speed, not how neat the final result appeared.  This was an entirely foreign concept to me.

I let this knowledge sink in as I slept on it that night.  I abhorred the thought of recklessly scribbling away words without attention or care being poured into each letter.  I couldn’t make up my mind about this predicament.

The next day this was still on my mind as I rode the school bus, and I hadn’t come to any conclusion.  The day followed its usual routine.  First I had morning packets, then reading groups, followed by AM recess.  We ran back into our class lines and were still panting as we filed back into the room.  While taking our seats Mrs. Larkin announced that it was time for board races.

Ohmygosh I had forgot!  My mind had wandered from my conundrum as it focused on the morning’s activities.  I was caught entirely off guard, and I was first.  I walked to the board with my mind racing too quickly to reach any sort of a logical verdict.

The next thing I knew, Mrs. Larkin had said the word and my hand was vigorously scribbling messy connections of lines and loops and dots.  In a flash of a second I had decided to go for it, without even realizing it.  I slammed my writing utensil to the chalk tray and realized I had won.  I was caught between triumph and disgust as I saw my correctly spelled word on the board.  But I had won.

Although it pained me, winning outweighed perfection of penmanship.  From that day on, I was unstoppable.  I was a board race champion.

Image from Web Design

Events From My Childhood That Scarred Me With Irrational Fears

#1.) Fire Safety Week: five instructional days dedicated to teaching school children what to do should their house burst into flames or they begin to spontaneously combust. Many of America’s youth reflect on this week and recall activities such as:

  • Mapping out fire escape routes in your home
  • Deciding on a meeting place for your family once escaping the fiery place of residence
  • Perfecting the ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’

All classic memories of this week in school.  The week ended, we took our maps and plans and knowledge home to share with our families (along with the death sentence to our furry friends whom we were instructed to leave behind), and continued with our lives.

Except for me.

I, Miss OCD, did not get on and merrily continue with my life.  I lived in deep fear day and night.  Horrific scenes haunted my dreams as I lay, apparently not so safe in my twin sized bed.  Images of becoming trapped in my second floor bedroom flooded my mind.  I even once begged my parents for an escape rope ladder.  (They declined this request.  After a bit of research it turns out said ladder would have been a greater hazard to a child than a fire.)

Denied my one remaining hope for survival, I cowardly climbed into bed each night hugging my most beloved stuffed animal, Ernie tightly to my chest.  “But don’t worry,” I thought to myself, “you can’t take him with you either: no toys!”

I was most distraught by this thought.  I could eventually learn to cope with leaving my photos, blankets, pets, and all of my other possessions to set ablaze in the fire.  Fine.  You win fire safety marshals. But not Ernie.  Ernie was pushing it too far.

It was at this point I began to desperately search for a loophole.  The lovely men at the local fire department didn’t want children burning to death in their homes whilst searching for Mr. Potato Head amidst an array of a toy-covered floor.  That made sense.  But Ernie wasn’t cast off into a vast sea of toys, nor did such a pile exist in my mother’s household.  Ernie slept with me each night; he couldn’t be that hard to find.  Except, sometimes he did slide down and get wedged in between the mattress and the wall or other tricky hiding places.

I had to devise a method to quickly and easily locate my beloved friend should my house erupt in flames.  Running out of options, it dawned on me.  The only items that made it out of my room in such a catastrophe were myself and my pajamas.  If Ernie was in my pajamas, I wouldn’t be breaking any rules.  Just as your pajamas made it out safe and sound simply because you just so happened to have them on your person, Ernie would just so happen to make it out as well.

Thus one day my mother walked into my bedroom to the following site: me, crawling across the floor in my pajamas with Ernie stuffed down my bottoms, head sticking out above my waistband.  (I had to practice.  Duh.) She must have thought I was crazy, or clearly was already messed up in some weird, sexual manner.  I like to hope she recalled the rope ladder incident months before and connected the dots before phoning a psychologist.

*This post inspired by Genesis Meranda

First Failures

Mound Elementary had many great qualities and truly did bestow upon me a good, or at least decent enough, education.  During my grade school years my instructors designed an array of purposeful and effective lessons and kept us all more or less in line behaviorally speaking.

That said, there did exist the outlier, the occasional, “Are you serious? We’re actually doing this?  Wait.  School is for education, right?”  Okay, so perhaps as an elementary school student I didn’t have quite the sarcasm I now possess, but nonetheless was left confused and mildly annoyed at the waste of my precious time.

One such instance occurred several weeks into my Kindergarten year.  I liked school so far.  I found it interesting, educational, and purposeful.  Pleased with my schooling experience thus far, I walked into Room 2, took my seat and prepared for another enriching day of enlightenment.

My teacher, in her Sunday School dress and Grandmother sweater walked to each table and dropped off the morning’s work.  It looked like this:

Fresh off the xerox, the purple ink was slightly smeary.  Surely this mysterious paper must be part of some intricate science experiment!  Typically our morning worksheet was simple, straight-forward, and self-explanatory.  But this – oh this was something different, special!  I eagerly sat in my navy blue chair, wearing my sailboat dress with matching bow, awaiting instruction from my teacher, the bearer of all knowledge.

She spoke: “Good morning class!  Today, for your morning work you will need to take out your scissors.  This is a cutting assessment.  Use your scissors and neatly cut each line on the paper.”  She went on to explain not to stop cutting too soon nor cut too far and other obvious things.

“This certainly must be a joke,” I thought silently to myself, “It must, must, must be a joke.”

I waited for Mrs. Finch to let us in on it, tell us she was kidding, to start laughing at what a foolish assignment this was.  None of these things happened.  Instead, every kid in the room began rummaging around their school boxes for what I could only assume to be a pair of scissors.  Sitting there dumbfounded, and mildly offended, I realized I was now the only student doing nothing; everyone else was meticulously cutting away.

Not wanting to appear noncompliant, I obediently removed my blue fiskars from my school box.  I ferociously began to work in what was perhaps the most hasty cutting job Room 2 had ever witnessed.  I haphazardly guided my scissors across each line.  The last started and the first finished, I marched over to the book corner where I read a lovely story with beautiful illustrations in what was clearly a much more effective use of my time. I received what was nearly my lowest mark of the year, only to be rivaled by the time I received an “unsatisfactory” in skipping.

Flawless Plans

It was the perfect plan, some would agrue flawless.  Here is how it would go: Kathryn and myself (typically referred to as Partners in Crime) would meet up with Jack at seven am.  The tardy bell would ring at promptly 7:09.  We would pile into Kathryn’s Cavalier, affectionately referred to as The Purple Bomb, and arrive at Bob Evan’s no later than 7:30 that lovely Thursday morning.  This would give us plenty of time to order and eat our breakfast before slinking back into the high school by 8:47 just as first period ended, leaving us precisely enough time to slip Mrs. Johansen her order of biscuits and gravy in return for her not marking us absent.  It was perfection.  Nothing could go wrong.

We were terribly mistaken.

The plan started out just as we anticipated.  I had stayed the night with Kathryn and we woke up and went to meet Jack.  As we drove down Byers road, the sounds of our summer ’03 CD mix filled the car with a nostalgic longing for summer.  The moment of truth was now upon us; the high school was coming into view.  I detected a brief hesitation from Kathryn before continuing to press down on the accelerator and we sped past 1860 Belvo.   A fleeting nervous feeling flitted down my spine for a brief instant.  However it didn’t last too long, and Nelly’s rap interrupted my worried thoughts.

We stepped into the restaurant.  At first, I nearly expected every adult within a twenty foot radius to pull out their cell phone and immediately call a truancy officer to come and arrest us.  He then, undoubtedly, would take us to jail where would inevitably rot in a forgotten cell reserved for children who commit the heinous act of skipping even one class of one school day.

But as it turned out, no one seemed to take notice of this trio of teenagers out and about on a Spring morning.  We ordered our meals in peace, and the South Western Omelet’s melted cheese never tasted so delicious.  Innocent me, sitting there taking in my small act of defiance.  As well as Kathrn, too, sitting there in her Springfield High School hooded sweatshirt.  Not to mention the high school guidance counselors sitting on the wall opposite of our booth.

Flashing red signals went off like a firework exploding in my brain.  All of the peace that delicious omelet brought to me was now no where to be found.  I was in a state of silent, utter panic.  Lest I forget, Kathryn sitting there in her SHS apparel with the giant Viking plastered across the front in case you didn’t bother reading the print.

“Kathryn!  Take that sweatshirt off!” I whisper-yelled, “Now!”

Fumbling foolishly, she scrambled awkwardly out of her sweatshirt, but to no avail: underneath we found nothing but her Springfield Swim Team t-shirt.  My mouth dropped and my heart sunk as my eyes made the connection to my brain which processed the gravity of our predicament.  Luck was not on our side.  Kathryn sheepishly slid down low into the booth, but whether out of shame or fear I was unsure.  A sick feeling returned to my stomach as it began to tie up in knots.  I was thoroughly convinced that we would be caught and I was all too aware that there was nothing that could be done.

We immediately asked our server for the bill, and I’m quite positive that I’ve never had to wait such an eternity for check.  As I stared at my watch, I painfully counted the seconds which seemed to stretch on into a vast infinity.  Eventually our bill came and we paid and tipped our waiter.  Quickly, we made a quasi-nonchalant dash-walk back to The Purple Bomb and we were on our way.  The lighthearted feeling that was present that morning was now replaced with a somber tone hanging on our shoulders as we headed back to school.  Nelly’s rap still sounded through the speakers, but it didn’t bring the sing-a-long it had merely hours before.

And then… silence.

“Hey, turn that back on,” Jack called up from the back seat.

“I didn’t turn it off!” Kathryn protested.

“Well, what happened then?” I inquired.

We exchanged quizzical glances as we approached the four way stop at Byers and Gebhart Church.  An eerie feeling crept upon us and the silence felt unnatural.  With slight apprehension, Kathryn pressed down on the accelerator after completing her stop.  Our weight shifted back in our seats as the car began to move forward, but began was all it did as the car slowly came to a halt in the middle of the intersection.

“Cut the engine and try again,” Jack feebly suggested.

In what we all felt to be a hopeless effort, Kathryn gently turned back the key.  A short pause ensued before she tried again.  The engine made a weak sputtering noise that sounded like some sort of dying animal taking its last breath before it gave out.

“Er… why don’t you try it one more time,” I suggested, a slight shake in my voice.

With no success, we sat in heavy silence after a second failed attempt.  An unspoken, “What now?” filled the space between us.  The Purple Bomb sat idle in the intersection of the four way stop.

Just when we thought all was lost, we had hit rock bottom, and there was nothing more left to lose, it began to rain.  Not just rain.  No light April shower to bring us lovely May flowers, but a downpour: a monsoon in midwest America.

As Jack and I stared out the car window watching the rain drops dancing down the glass, a sinking feeling ripple down from my heart to the bottom of my stomach.  I felt sick.  It was hopeless.  We played the silent game of who could last the longest and not verbalize the only obvious solution to our predicament.

Jack finally caved, “Well, are you going to call him, or should we just sit in the intersection a little more?”

Kathryn’s hand had a subtle tremor as she pulled out her phone, which matched her voice as she spoke to her father.  Kathryn retorted a brief account of our story, which was followed by a prolonged silence that seemed to correlate to the forlorn look on her face.  She said her goodbye and the sound of her phone closing resonated in my ears and signified the finality of our defeat.  Our short hours of rebellion had come to a close.  It was time to return to school.