My difficulty began in earnest the next year when there was no Mrs. Gibbon and the years of Dad’s commuting dragged on. A postscript to this story that I haven’t thought about much until recently? I won the contest. Love Letter – – part 7 from the beginning
Why was seventh grade so much harder? Like P1 and P2, I hit my growth spurt a little late but hormones and the acne they brought rose. I retrenched my identify in grades and lost much of my joy in work. Then I couldn’t sleep. It was very different from the early rising that I do now – – that is who I am. No, this was the dreadful racing mind and unstoppable anxiety that fed on itself and would not let me rest. Many, if not most nights I was in bed trying to sleep for four hours or more. Beginning band became symphonic and second chair was not enough. Pre-algebra came and was much more difficult for me than arithmetic. Math is rarely taught well and it was not (is not) my native tongue. Then the mystery of girls. The ones I admired were too shallow to matter. The ones that liked me were too shy to say. Junior high became the worst experience I could imagine. At one point on a Sunday afternoon I tried to explain my distress to my parents. They must have perceived it true. My Dad called into work, did not drive back to San Antonio, and pulled me from school the next day for an emergency trip to NASA. That impromptu field trip means the world to me. They were stopping the world so that I could get off. And like a boy escaping from a cruelly pushed playground merry-go-round I stumbled, fell and vomited.
I can’t remember many details about this time J, but I remember it was dark. After the Fall came, after daylight savings was rescinded, I awoke, lived, and tried to sleep in darkness. Depression? Normal reaction to pre-teen angst? Foreshadowing of something much worse.
Over Christmas break I knew how seriously Mom and Dad saw this. They asked how I liked school. For the first time ever I said without irony, “I hate it.” What I meant by saying that was, “I hate myself.” It was cold, smooth, black, hard and true. They did so many things right. The income disparity between myself and my classmates was about to reach a high not equalled until present day when I interact with Harvard faculty and alumni. They enrolled me in Northland Christian School – – a 40 minute drive away. I had to quit band and was so grateful to do so. Talent alone can’t dictate passion. I was good at more things than I could love. I joined a class of 40 (split 7A and 7B) seventh graders instead of 400. I played sports for the first time, beginning with track. My lifelong love of running was nourished and at my best I could run a quarter in under a minute. The girls I liked were shallow, and very rich, living in subdivisions populated by Houston Rockets. The girls who liked me were not shallow, or stunning, or super rich. Kelly Amos wrote me a note to declare her interest. I stopped pursuing shallow Shannon. Kelly was pretty, quiet and kind – – not gorgeous, boisterous and spiteful. Our 7th grade commitment maintained innocence and presaged what I would find in Mrs. Pascal – – also struggling through middle school 1,000 miles to the north in Michigan.
I came to love school again. The sacrifice that my parents made was big. Mom worked. Dad worked more. They may have taken loans. How did I repay their kindness? With a growing desire to wear shirts with little horsies of the left front pocket. My father and I, raised in humble circumstances, struggled with materialism. My mother, raised in wealth, privilege and alcohol’s legacy did not. I regret my attitude to this day. God has been gracious to deliver me from the bondage of desiring wealth and into the life changing concept of stewardship. I grew in the second half of middle school – – in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. It was a Church of Christ school – – most of my teachers were members there. Mrs. Gibbon never said a word about Jesus to the best of my memory. These teachers taught Bible and many professed faith. Many were kind and dedicated. The 8th grade Bible teacher who preached the loudest and justified the bizarre belief that instrumental worship was wicked? Not a nice man. Why was I loved by one who never mentioned Christ and discounted by one who couldn’t shut up? Is it what we say or what we do that matters? If only more people, myself included, would recognize the leverage of both.
-to be continued-
Photo credit: Handwritten letter by Descarte: by PHGCOM [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons