“This is me in grade nine, baby, this is me in grade nine…” – Barenaked Ladies
Where I went to school, grade nine (or 9th grade as we called it back in the States) was part of High School. After spending most of the rest of my life working with kids, most of whom started High School at grade 10, I realize this was a cruel trick on us. We could have enjoyed grade 9 as the top class instead of being lower than the bottom as “Freshmen”. I’ll concede that I was probably immature for my age anyway (I’m 45 now and my voice still cracks.) Those days were lived with fear and trembling and my memory of grade 9 is of being a hairless guinea pig, air dropped and forced to survive in the rugged jungle dominated by the powerful silverback gorillas we called “Seniors”.
Band was great. First period of the day and our Band teacher, Tony M, was hilarious. It was also great because it put us lowly Freshmen shoulder to shoulder with the Sophmores, Juniors and Seniors in the band. In some sections this was a huge advantage for people as they were taken in by the Silverbacks and developed protective relationships. Unfortunately for me I wasn’t in one of those sections. The percussion section quickly bonded over some pot. The trumpet sections seemed to be where the jocks or nearly jocks all landed so they bonded over sport. The flute section, well, girls can be meaner than guys but an all girl section made up of honor roll members bonded over being better in every way than everyone else. The trombone section, the noble, proud trombone section, of which I was a part, was a mis-matched section if there ever was one.
The sax section, the percussion, shared a particular passion for herbs that made them a cohesive, though laid back group. Our trombone section was made of brains, nerds, burn-outs and jocks – or jock wannabees, the elegant trombone being the only common denominator. This basically meant that in grade nine I was chum for the sharks in my section. One shark in particular (and these weren’t singing and dancing Puerto Ricans that I’m talking about) did his best to give me a bruise-a-day. So our section bonded over beatings. As the third chair of the third (and last) section of the trombones it was pretty much my destiny.
The one thing that kept me in band during grade nine and through the beatings was a girl over in the clarinet section. This was a huge section in our band and mostly female except for a friend of mine. I teased him in grade 7 about playing “a girl’s instrument” and envied him from grade 9 to 12 as he sat constantly surrounded by girls. Near him sat, we’ll call her C.D., and if crushes were weather she’d be my “perfect storm” from grades 7 to 9. “Stalker” is such an ugly word but I was definitely infatuated with her during my junior high years, or what I now call my “blue period”.
I was so taken with her that there was no limit to the embarrassing things I would do to be in her orbit. I would spend hours on the phone with C.D. after school until just before the time my parents were due home from work. I would talk with her about nothing, her personal, daily Seinfeld episode before Jerry even met Larry David. I wanted to be her “Jerry” but I was more like her “George”. That didn’t stop me from crushing on her in the most obvious ways. By grade 9 I’d tried to get her to “go steady” with me so many times that I didn’t bother asking anymore. She just assumed I wanted to and I just assumed her answer was always going to be “no”. But I was hopeful as long as she wasn’t dating anyone.
…to be continued…whether you like it or not…