Monday, December 19, 2011

Middle School: A memoir

Middle school is an ugly time for most people. It's when we hit puberty and have braces; we have pimples and clothes that don't fit. It's the time of our first crushes and, most of all, a time of great change. My memories of middle school were right along these lines. Mostly I try to block out some of those awkward moments, but there are some that have proved to be the most special, influential, and dare I say it? cherished memories of my life.

In seventh grade I took keyboarding. My teacher had a "whiz of the week" award that she would give to the fastest typer that week. I consistently would type around 60-70 words per minute, but had too many errors to count. I worked hard on decreasing my dependency on the backspace key, and after about ten weeks of work, I finally hit 74 WPM with only 4 errors. I was so proud of my little certificate that didn't just announce my "whiz of the week"-ness, but also the whiz of the month--and eventually, whiz of the semester. That was a pretty special moment for me.

I also won Student of the Month twice (once in seventh grade, and once in eighth grade). I was awarded a little plaque and got to shake the principal's hand while the counselor snapped my picture. I still have those little red plaques somewhere buried in a box.

One of my favorite classes in Middle School was choir. It was taught by a bubbly lady named Mrs. Speiser who had a pretty good NoDak accent. She had us sing such great songs like "Oh Lutefisk" (to the tune of O Tannenbaum) and a plethora of Disney hits. Every year we would perform a variety show. In eighth grade I was awarded my very own solo. I sang Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano." I wore a black velvet dress, long white gloves, and a turquoise feather boa. After tapping into the sexiest side I had as a thirteen year old girl, I sang my song in front of the whole school and afterword, my English teacher said I was a ham. I took that as the greatest compliment a girl could get.

Also in Eighth grade, my appendix ruptured and I had to leave school for a week for surgery and recovery. My science teacher came to the hospital and brought me a book to read. Now, I regret never getting around to reading it (though in my defense, I was on morphine). But it was still a very nice gesture. I had to wear sweat pants or pajama pants for a month after the surgery to avoid reopening the surgery wound. I'm not sure what anyone thought of me at that point, but I can at least say nobody said anything mean to the girl with the perma-sweats.

My school had a swimming pool, and for a few weeks of the year we were all given basic swimming lessons. We were required to swim the length of the pool underwater, tread water for five minutes, and dive to the bottom to retrieve tar-covered bricks. I realized then that the only possible way to find those bricks was to wear goggles. And yes, it took me a few days to figure that out.

While I was in eighth grade, I tried out for the school's Science Olympiad team. We had to stay after school one day and take a basic Science test. I was accepted on to the team along with a couple other friends. The team was then broken up into pairs and given a couple of events that we would compete in. My two events were water quality and the egg drop. My friend and I built a contraption that would catch an egg that was dropped from eight, ten, twelve, and fourteen feet high. We lost pretty badly at that event. But the water quality--we had no clue even where to start. We found a few books on water quality, but never really read them. When it came time for the regional Science Olympiad event, we went in worked together on a written exam about Water Quality testing. We had no clue what we were doing, so we made guesses throughout the whole of the test. We giggled our way through it, and when we were finished we laughed about our horrible blunder. When it came time to award the medalists for the whole Olympiad, and they announced our names as first place winners in the Water Quality Event, we were downright dumbfounded. I carry that little gold medal still as a tribute to all educated guessers in the world.

I could continue with this memoir for many more pages--like about getting our Hepatitis C shots and doing archery on the stage, or about the tar they put on the roof every Fall and how that smell still takes me back to sitting in Algebra class... The sights, sounds, and smells of middle school still stay with me. Even though I completed middle school well over ten years ago, it still is with me; as it is with everyone. But this Summer, our silly but beloved middle school looked like this:
Now, Erik Ramstad Middle school has been labeled a complete loss. I know I've talked about the Minot floods on here a few times, but I just had to walk back through memory lane today. I'm sure there will be another school where the teachers will drop bricks to the bottom of the pool in the name of better fitness. I know there will be a stage where young girls will first test the waters of stardom. I know there will be halls that smell like roofing tar. I know there will be shop classes with camouflage-colored CO2 cars. I know that the only thing truly lost was a building--the memories I hold will last forever. But it still makes my heart hurt just a little bit to know that my school is gone. So it is with a tear in my eye that I bid farewell to my old school. Goodbye Erik Ramstad Middle school; I will remember you with fondness to the day I die.


Kathy said...

I actually loved middle school too. Of course, my 3 years were at MJHS, not Ramstad... Good times.

Kala said...

Erik Ramstad will be missed by so many of us. The memories we had there and the friends we made those few short years spent in those beloved halls.

Laurie/Mom/Grandma said...

Absolutely beautiful post. It should be published. Oh, and remember those birds in the middle courtyard? Good times.