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How much do you remember from high school freshman year?

Me? At first, almost nothing.

I got to wondering that recently, and only scattered memories came to me. It's not like fall 1988-spring 1989 just didn't happen, it's not like I entered James Madison High School of Vienna, VA, walked through a time warp and left it a sophomore, but I had trouble with specifics.

Yeah, I wasn't as engaged in things then as I could have been.

My memories of junior high, at Thoreau Intermediate on the other side of town, are more vivid. And more maddening, because junior high is often something we don't experience so much as survive. (Junior high is also when the region's 1987 seventeen-year cicada brood came out, and WHOA that's a memory.) But that's maybe another entry another time.

One major freshman year memory isn't even mine: my high school got visited by freshly-inaugurated President George Herbert Walker Bush. I didn't see him...but my brother, a senior, did. He'd wound up alone in a corridor and was surprised when Bush and some Secret Service agents came around a corner. The President spent part of his visit in the cafeteria, eating lunch with students.

Speaking of the cafeteria, I wasn't there that day. Or most days, either. I usually ate lunch by myself, outside and out front, brown-bagging it and sitting under the flag pole. (The following year, a new rule required us to eat in the cafeteria. Assigned seating. Luckily I sat with good guys I became good friends with, later. Eventually.)

Scattered memories: September '88, me asking a teacher in front of a class if the space shuttle Discovery, the first shuttle to launch since the loss of Challenger, had successfully launched (it had launched safely, thank everything), and a jackass I knew in that class said "Yeah, it blew up." I got mad. I don't remember how I showed how I was mad. (No, I didn't hit him, but the urge to yell "Oh, f--- you" was likely strong. But back then I was even more inhibited about swearing in public than now.)

A decent library. We had one. It also wasn't ever closed for major remodeling, the way my junior high's library had been. Speaking of Discovery, later in the day when that jackass had "joked" about the shuttle blowing up, I confirmed the shuttle was in orbit, then went to the library and saw video of the launch. I'm glad I hadn't watched it live: a trick of the light made it look like the shuttle, before jettisoning the solid rocket boosters, was venting from the side of the launch "stack." Even knowing it was an illusion and that the shuttle was fine, I was nervous watching.

A more general memory: the second floor front hall of the school, where I had my locker, always seemed surprisingly dark, darker than the other halls. You know, by then I'd seen The Breakfast Club, and had wondered if schools were likely to be that well-lit. Only in movies, I guess (I didn't know yet that the film's library was specially built in a gym), but it seems more newer schools and more recent remodels are generally brighter.

I was there, I was learning, and it must have been foundational learning: brick-laying. No one remembers putting down every brick, so to speak. I was an OK student, not great, but I honestly wish I remembered more of what I was doing then. Maybe I was just boring. *wryly grins*

The big sign I was getting more engaged and focused in high school: in 10th grade I joined the school newspaper, the Hawk Talk. It was more magazine format-y, but still, newspaper, by students for students. Which meant writing, which I'd been doing on and off since grade school, but (finally) more of it. I think — think — that I didn't join freshman year because my brother was on it, but maybe I simply didn't think of joining. But I'm glad I did. I was on it for three years, becoming the Entertainment Editor my senior year of 1991-92.

And, at different times during senior year, had crushes on two others also working on the paper. *thinks back and smiles* Nothing happened beyond friendship and working together, but still, feeling that was nice. Ah, Kathryn. Ah, Carmen.

I still have all my issues from at least my senior year; I possibly have all three years' worth of my Hawk Talks, but I don't want to dig through them to be sure. (I've even republished one Hawk Talk movie review, my review of Alien 3, here on this blog.) I think my working better on the paper made me a better student overall; joining it was definitely one of the best decisions my young, budding writer self made. And I met good people through the paper, including a friend I'm still friends with 25 years later.

Those were four years where I was reasonably productive, decently learning, and managing to grow as a person. I was lucky to be a Navy brat who did not have to change high schools, so I never had that disruption; I'd just had it earlier, attending five grade schools over the course of six years. And that's nowhere near as many moves and schools as some kids with military parents have had.

I wasn't exciting. But at least I was learning.