With schools starting, I now present something I learned each year from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Kindergarten: I learned not to take myself so seriously. When a kid pulled my chair out and I fell, instead of reacting angrily or crying, I laughed and my teacher commended me. I later punched the kid in his stomach at recess.
First grade: I learned that my teacher, Ms. Holly, loved me. I would send her elaborate love letters (“I love you, do you love me?”) and she would always check the “yes” box.
Second grade: I learned the F word and not “fudge.” I mean the word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word! Some kid told me to say duck with an “F.” “Fduck,” I said, not understanding. He explained what he meant and I verbalized the F-bomb for the first time. He gasped loudly, pointed at me and told the teacher.
Third grade: I learned not to jump to conclusions. I was in my language arts class when Susan Yak showed me a book by Judith Viorst called “I’ll Fix Anthony.” It was about a kid who was planning revenge on his evil older brother Anthony, the same name I went by back then.
The teacher caught me talking (again) and I was sent to the office of the vice principal who yelled at me and sent me back to my class, which was home room then. When I walked in, the entire class started chanting “ANTHONY IS BAD!” over and over.
The teacher succeeded in hushing most of them except one kid who didn’t stop until I socked him in the face. Turned out the kids were not specifically teasing me about being sent to the office, but were referring to Susan’s book, which my teacher had been reading to them. Oops.
Fourth grade: I learned about friendship and race. In Norfolk, Va., I lived in Navy housing in a predominately white neighborhood. Starting in 1973, I was bused to James Monroe Elementary School in the ghetto. There were race riots and rocks thrown at buses and cops patrolling hallways, but I had friends of numerous races. As long as you loved “Lost in Space” or “Planet of the Apes,” I couldn’t care less what color you were.
Fifth grade: I learned about best friends when I got my first one, Sam Inabinet, who introduced me to the awesomeness of James Bond.
Sixth grade: I learned how exciting/terrifying it was being the new kid in school when we moved to California in December 1975.
Seventh grade: I unfortunately learned how to smoke cigarettes in June 1976 after moving to Fairfield. Neighborhood kids smoked and to fit in, I did, too. I cleverly hid my smokes in my sock drawer and was stunned when my mom, who – duh – did my laundry, found them. I unsuccessfully resorted to the now-famous “Uh, I am holding them for someone else” defense.
Eighth grade: I learned that Dittos jeans were awesome!
Ninth grade: I learned that I could have authored a book titled “How NOT To Get a Girlfriend” when I blew several chances to be with C.C. Davenport because I couldn’t get past my own awkward shyness.
10th grade: I learned how cool my English teacher Mr. Scherr was when he busted me reading a girlie mag in his class and instead of humiliating me, just discreetly but forcefully ordered me to put it away.
11th grade: I learned how great winning felt when our varsity basketball team at Armijo finally won a game after going 0-9. I . . . coincidentally . . . didn’t play in that game.
12th grade: I learned about leaving a legacy. Like many graduating seniors, my best friend John Nolan and I had painted something on the asphalt in Armijo’s parking lot we thought would be there forever. Mine said something near-Shakespearean like “Rock ’n’ Roll Rules!” while John painted a circle around a deep brown stain that had accumulated from spitting WB Cut chewing tobacco next to where we parked every day. I am now grateful that the blacktop was redone.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.