And not only because I was wasted most weekends on Coors and Bali Hai...
I came away from high school with two things: Salad tongs and a decent 60 words-per-minute typing skill, both of which would serve to feed me throughout the entirety of my life right up to the present.
Let’s just say I was not the most serious of students. High school bored the bejeezus out of me. I couldn’t wait to get out. And college? Why the hell would anyone actually choose to go to school if they didn’t have to?
Good grades, while nice enough, were never stressed as particularly important for girls in my family. I’m not saying an “A” didn’t warrant a smile and a word of praise, but a “C” or even a “D” didn’t come with much more than a furrowed brow and a “Try harder next time. Oh, you want money for the movies? Sure. Have fun.”
And so I spent my three electives each year choosing bullshit classes with no homework, like sewing and crafts. I did try a language in my freshman year. French. I thought it sounded sexy and sophisticated. Who was I kidding? It was hard and when was I ever going to France? No one could accuse me of forward-thinking.
You’d expect I would have been drawn to journalism or English classes, but I didn’t know I was a writer back then. In grammar school, teachers would often comment on my report card that I wrote well and had good comprehension of story and character, but no one ever made a big deal out of it or encouraged me to go in that direction. So it would take decades and a wildly circuitous route for me to discover it for myself.
But back to the salad tongs. In crafts, I was one of the few girls in a classroom of mostly boys, all of them destined for a future in waste management. Little was expected of us other than to not slice off a finger with the leather carving knife or set the school on fire with the heating gun. Why I chose salad tongs is beyond me. We weren’t even big salad eaters in my family, but nevertheless… My memory of the actual process is vague. I recall carefully drawing out the shapes on a piece of flat quarter-inch plastic, then using some sort of buzz saw to cut them out, after which the plastic was heated, bent to form the desired shapes, and then put into a small refrigerator to harden.
To this day, people remark on my interesting salad tongs and I proudly say, “Thank you. I made them in my high school sophomore crafts class.” But the truth is, while it’s always a good story to tell and a sure source of laughter, I’m not proud at all.
Recently, I went to the high school graduation of a cousin. Alas, he too is an underachiever, but I was a late bloomer and I’m hoping the same for him. Most of the kids were going on to colleges – damn near all the girls. They had decorated their caps with the colors and insignias of the universities they’d be attending, and as they marched up to receive the hard-earned diplomas that would open those doors, maybe it was the emotion from hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the school band, maybe it was the joy and naiveté on their carefree faces, maybe it was just that they were all so damn young, but I wanted to be them. I wanted a do-over.
Every time I look at those salad tongs now I’d like to reach back in time and bitch slap the silly girl who wasted such important years. And yet I keep them around. Maybe as a reminder that time is finite and opportunities go to those who grab them.
I can’t say that I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has gone, but I will always wonder what might have been.
Pass the dressing…