Hollie Grimaldi Flores: In the wink of a young girl’s eye
On the heels of the Nevada County Fair, another school year is about to begin.
Though it has been eight years since I have had to balance the cost of corn dogs against the cost of calculators, I still feel for parents as they prepare their offspring for another year of academia.
I do not miss the constraints and demands of the school year, and all that goes with it. The pressure on the entire family — from budgeting time and money to the social aspects and rigorous schedules — are issues I am happy to be looking at from the rearview mirror. I honestly don’t know how my husband and I managed to pull it off. We were going in a lot of different directions for a lot of years.
I had occasion to stop by one of the local high schools earlier in the week and found myself in the parking lot just before Freshman Orientation. Sure, there was a sense of anticipation for the first-timers, but there was also a bit of resignation in those who had at least one student already in the district. (Here we go again.) Still, it was easy to feel the excitement in parents as they made their way to the auditorium, ready to learn what to expect and how to act on behalf of their youngsters, who are about to take the leap from middle to high school.
The kids cannot begin to know what a transition it will be for them as they move from the top of the heap as the upperclassmen to the bottom of the hierarchy as incoming freshmen. The high-school atmosphere means more freedom but also more time management. The maturity needed sometimes lagging the academic expectations. And the social pressures are impossible to imagine.
Hopefully, those wide-eyed, first-year parents I saw running reconnaissance for their child will be able to save them from the darker side as well. The experience will be both rewarding and challenging, as students navigate their way through the microcosmic society called “high school.”
When I attended high school (a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …) there were several very distinct social groups. There were cliques. There were jocks. There were stoners. There were nerds and geeks, and social outcasts (aka the AV Club)! And there was a small group who refused definition. There was a sense of the class system, ranging from wealthy to welfare. We were all trying to find our place and get through it. And, the majority did just that.
A few weeks ago, my alma mater held a reunion (this would be the seventh since graduation). For the first time, I was unable to attend. I hated to miss out, but, for several reasons, I could not pull it off. I watched posts on social media and spent some time thinking about those days gone by.
Unlike some of my best friends from that era, I love going back to those “glory days.”
My mother remarried when I was in the fifth grade and we moved to a new town. I was the new kid for a few weeks but after finding my stride, was able to cultivate relationships that continue to present day. A couple of those lifelong friends protest the need for a reunion — certainly, social media keeps us all abreast of who is doing what. We watch acquaintances from our school days as they vacation, marry off their children and welcome grandchildren. We offer condolences upon the news of the death of a parent and try to offer words of comfort following the unfathomable loss of a child. We rally together to encourage our former classmate stricken with cancer and we celebrate all sorts of victories. Why bother to meet in person? One friend is fond of saying, “We didn’t even like most of those people when we were in school, what makes you think they are any different now?”
In truth, I have learned more about them on the internet than I ever knew while passing by them in the hallway. On the world wide web, I found commonality with people I was, frankly, intimidated by and who have turned out to be wise, funny, smart, and compassionate. I am not saying I would call on them in times of strife, but I am confident we are more alike than we are different. And yes, I am guilty of blocking out or forgetting much of the negative parts of being a teenager in senior high.
I think that is exactly why the bi-decade gatherings are such a treat. When past reunions came around, I always looked forward to seeing who I might run into and connect with and have always been pleasantly surprised — getting to know someone a little bit better as an adult, and often finding out we share more than a common educational experience. Many of the “not so nice folks” have had the opportunity to eat humble pie and are better for having done so.
Each time I have gone to a reunion, I have been happy I did.
Simply, put, we have grown up.
We have learned the single most important thing these incoming freshmen cannot be taught: while you are in it, the high school experience seems like it will make or break you; but in truth, once it is over, it will be a small part of your story.
Reunions will connect you to your past and remind you of what was a much simpler time. A time you can look back on fondly. One you may even find you miss. But, you have to get through it before you can sing about those glory days.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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