Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mommy's Piggy Tales: 8th Grade

8th grade...once again, as I started thinking about this post, it went sort of like this in my head, "Oh, not much happened that year, I'll just write a little paragraph and keep it short this time." Then as I start really thinking about it, everything comes rushing back.
near San Antonio

We took our family vacation the summer before 8th grade to Texas. That was my parents' trip destination of choice any year we were able to travel. Most of my mom's family lived/lives in Texas, we were able to stay with them for free, and we always had a good time. Several of them lived near Houston. My aunt and uncle had a lake in their backyard, and we would also hit up AstroWorld, San Jacinto Monument, and Galveston Beach, among other places.

A summer or two before this, we were all packed and ready to go camping. Mom and Dad were on vacation, and we'd even invited our neighbor Ben, who was my brother's best buddy growing up, to go along. That morning, my parents woke up and said, "Hey, maybe we should go to Texas instead!" They called Ben's parents, told them about the change of plans, and even cleared it for him to go with us. The 5 of us kids packed into the back of our wood-paneled station wagon (sans carseats or seatbelts) for our 10-11 hour adventure. One more kid didn't really cause any discomfort, and Ben was like family, anyway.

My 13th summer, however, we also included San Antonio in our sojourn. My Uncle Wimpy lived/lives there. We visited the the capital at Austin, the River Walk, and the Alamo, etc. We stayed in one of Wimpy's rent houses, which included this neighborhood pool.

That's me with my brother. This leads me to another topic that began when I started junior high. My brother is 2 grades ahead of me. I have mentioned that our school was pretty small; everyone knew each other. In other words, all eyes were on you at any given time...and in my case, especially the eyes of my older brother.

He knew what was going on in the minds and lives of his friends and schoolmates, and he wanted me to stay far away from all of that. Although, I think he was definitely more protective than he needed to be, (I had a pretty clear sense of the life I wanted to lead, and I certainly didn't want to disappoint him or my family, anyway.) I am grateful that he was always looking out for my best interests. There were times he took it way too far. (I'll try to fit in the Florida/security guard story on a later year's post.) My husband loves hearing these stories, though. He loves that my brother was standing in between me and every guy at my school, literally or merely metaphorically - and that the boys actually considered his presence.

Here are a couple of examples: In the 8th grade, I liked this 7th grader named Michael (who did end up becoming my boyfriend for a month or so). I thought he liked me, but I was confused about why he would never ask me to "go" with him. Finally, it came out that he was afraid my brother would pick on him. I wrote in my diary: My brother has gotten all of the 7th graders afraid of him, telling them they better leave me alone.

There are several other examples from later years. Too many to post. Here is one: During my 9th grade year, there was a senior who liked me. I talked to him and enjoyed the attention, and my brother was furious. This guy didn't have the best reputation, and he wasn't someone I should have been dating. I went riding around with him one night (along with 2 of our other friends - we weren't alone). The next day, Matt found out about it. As soon as this guy walked out of the cafeteria, my brother (looking furious) jumped up out of his seat and went after him. It was like in a movie - a hush went over the crowd, and all heads turned to see what was going to happen to this guy who dared mess with Matt's sister. I jumped up and ran after both of them to make sure my brother didn't do anything crazy. He offered a bit of advice to the guy (along the lines of "stay away from Jenny"), but luckily, that was it.

Sometimes I was able to shrug off my brother's overprotective methods, and other times I was horrified and thought I would never forgive him. His friend Daniel (who I thought was hot!) asked me to go to prom the next year. Matt told Mom and Dad they shouldn't let me go, and they listened to him. I was livid.

So...yes, my hair was pretty big in the 8th grade. It wasn't THIS big EVERY day. But this is a pretty good example of my hair at its "finest." This picture is from the night my mom took my sisters and I to watch the ballet performance of Beauty and the Beast in Springfield.

On the friendship front...Lori (above) and I had gotten to be really great friends by this point. I was still friends with Sarah and Deanna, etc., but this was the year the girls in junior high apparently went cuckoo. There was a month or two that I was physically afraid of a few of the girls because they threatened to "beat me up." I remember crying all of the time about it, having to buy a lock for my locker, and sitting in group meetings with the guidance counselor. In my diary, I wrote that one of the girls was dating Isaac, who was my best guy friend. He and I were really close pals all throughout junior high and high school. People would tell her that I was spending too much time with him or whatever. Surely, that couldn't have been the only reason for their torment, but maybe it is what originally triggered it. Funny stuff. Fortunately, since I was relatively a pacifist with no desire to get into a fight (and I still can't believe kids actually got into physical punching fights at school!), everything eventually worked itself out. To this day, I hate conflict, and I hate it when people are mad at each other.

I definitely wasn't perfect in how I handled everything. There are moments that I chose something else over my real friendships and the feelings of those friends. I did desire to "fit in," and there were a few moments I can think of that I treated someone poorly because of that. I am a person who cares deeply about the feelings of others and the actions of it's tough to look back on.

There are other moments that I wish I could erase, for sure. For instance, to get back at one of the girls, we snuck into her locker and found a poem she had written. It was actually a poem she had written about me, how she missed our friendship - all very private, vulnerable thoughts...and we wrote it on the chalkboard in one of our classes. Everyone saw it, and she was humiliated. No matter how much I thought she deserved it at the time, I feel pretty rotten about doing that.

That's me, standing at the end.

I was in the same activities my 8th grade year - cheerleading, concert band, marching band as a pom pon girl, and volleyball. I was also in student council and FHA. The cheerleaders did our dance routine that year to Another One Bites the Dust. I can still do part of the routine for you. It was great fun riding to the games on the bus. I can't believe they let the cheerleaders sit amongst the players in the back of the bus. There was some "Truth or Dare" going on. I wonder if they let them do that now.

I was still greatly involved in my youth group, and I felt an overwhelming desire to get baptized. (I attended a Baptist church at the time.) I was too embarrassed to walk to the front of the church, though, in front of all my friends and the older, cute boys. I asked God to give me strength to do it, and I also asked Him to understand why I was too self-conscious to make the "walk." (Present day, I have different feelings - with great respect for all ways - about how a church service might be initiated.) I never did get baptized, either, until the year after I graduated high school.

This is kind of funny, but a pretty big part of my junior high years were my walks to the mailbox, especially during summer vacations. We had this really long, hilly, driveway on our 10 acres. I was obsessed with sending and receiving mail. I guess I would have been since there weren't many other forms of communication at this time, and I lived in the country.

Tommy Puitt from Life Goes On...hello, Tyler Benchfield...
I'm sure I would have been crazy about the ripped jeans and the tank...even the hair.

One of my obsessions included writing fan letters. Those who know me will not think this is a big stretch. I am still a little star struck in my old age. I wrote so many letters, though - to anyone I liked in the slightest. I remember writing Jason Bateman, Kirk Cameron, Chad Allen, Tom Cruise, Tommy Puitt, etc. My letters were often rewarded with an autographed photo or a fan club generated response.

This is one of the photographs I got. That's "Brad Carlton" from The Young and the Restless. I was really into that soap opera, plus Days of our Lives. This is a funny story about me and soaps: on Y & R, there was a character named Phillip Chancellor III. Around this time, his character died, and it really upset me. In my diary, I wrote something like: I can't believe he died. I'm taking this harder than I could have imagined. :) A year or so ago, when I was standing in line at a store, I noticed on the cover of one of the soap magazines that Phillip is alive! (He faked his death! ha!) That made me smile.

It wasn't just the fan letters that sent me to the mailbox twice daily. I was also constantly entering sweepstakes, etc. and filling out coupons for "free stuff." My family called me "Jenny _____, Sweepstakes Queen," which rhymes with my last name.

This was probably around the time I got two penpals, as well. One was from Texas, and one was from Pennsylvania. I wrote such long letters back and forth with Jenn and Jamie for many, many years. I recently got back in touch with Jennifer on facebook.

My sister recently mentioned this funny fact on her blog. We would generally not have stamps in the house. All we had to do was put a quarter with the envelope in our mailbox. That is amazing. (I just looked it up; a stamp did, indeed, cost $.25 in 1989.)

The biggest change to me physically, besides the amplification of my hair, was getting braces. When I knew that I was going to be getting them, I looked upon it with dread. I referred to the situation as "the end of my social career." I got my bottom braces on first, which weren't so bad. When it was time to get my top ones, I didn't feel as bad as I thought I might because the boy I had a crush on at the time was dating a girl who had braces. Therefore, I figured it was all good. The reason I don't have a picture of my braces is that I never smiled with my mouth open for the next 2 years. Not without putting my hand over my mouth. I think there is only one picture in existence that shows my braces, and I can't find it.

Oddly enough, I do still have my headgear I had to wear at night. Why was I saving this? I guess I should continue holding onto it. It can be one of those things I throw at my kids one day when they're crying as a teenager that "I don't understand!"

"Oh, yeah? Check out what I had to wear."

Fortunately, I only had to wear it at night. I am the most finicky sleeper ever; everything has to be lined up perfectly, so I have no idea how I got any sleep with that thing in my mouth.

Linking up at Mommy's Piggy Tales!


Cary said...

Oh, I loved that Fiesta Time! garfield t-shirt I'm wearing in that photo. And your braces were pretty bad! Back then, they were so heavy and dark-colored metal...almost black. Do you have a photo of your collage on the wall with the sparkly star? That would make a great addition to all of this. I am so proud of Matt for taking care of you and being protective. Similarly, he was student teaching at my high school during my senior year, so he would come and eat lunch sometimes with my girlfriends and me. They all thought he was dreamy!
All of these years make me a little sad, because I look back and remember thinking that I was losing you.

Jenny said...

I am definitely giving my kids a choice of clear braces. I was looking for a picture of the collage...the only ones I can come up with have me posing on the bed, holding a seemed a little much to post. :0

Aww, you weren't losing me. But it was hard being the first girl to grow up in the family. Remind me, though, sometime to read a few excerpts from my diary about our family.

KellyW said...

Loved your story!! I remember Life Goes On. I watched it religiously too. You helped me bring back some great memories. I totally understand about the girls wanting to beat you up. I went through that too.

Gretchen said...

Your story was cracking me up. My sister and I tried writing fan letters but I never got a reply. She did -- from Arnold Schwartzenegger and Boomer Esiasan (quarterback for the Bengals). HAHA!

Judy said...

I thought the part about your brother was so cute! I always wanted a brother to look out for me like that we're all older, we are really close.

It was fun reading about the fan letters...I never thought about doing that growing up!

Thanks for linking my post up last week and for reading my story!

Eos Mom said...

Great stories, I can relate to so much! (Especially about the braces and headgear stuff at the end--oh and I kept all that stuff too, even did a report about my various orthodontic experiences for a class in college LOL.) Love your big hear--you would have been the coolest back then, for sure!

Thank you for reading my piggy tales last week! I was on vacation, that's why it's taken me this long to return the visit. Love your blog!