After years of paying Catholic school tuition, my parents decided to save money and send the three oldest to PUBLIC SCHOOL. We were baby Christian martyrs among the pagan Roman hordes.
My younger sister had it the worst. Situated in a deteriorating, thug-infested neighborhood, her junior high was surrounded by a tall fence and rolls of twisted chicken wire. Need I say more? She still hasn’t forgiven my parents for her painful adolescence.
Meanwhile, my older brother and I went to the same high school, so we had each other in an emergency. After years of torture at the hands of menopausal nuns and sadistic monks, my brother was finally a freed man, attending a new school where he was known as “the cute, new guy.” You know how that goes. His foray into public school was nothing like my sister’s.
Me. I was lost. In my old life, I’d known who my friends were and where I fit in. Now in a school the size of a small Texas town, I was faceless and friendless, a nobody, but maybe if I kept to myself, no one would mess with me, and I could sneak by the next three years without anyone getting hurt (meaning me).
On one of those painful first days, I sat in the cafeteria munching on a forgettable meal, trying not to make eye contact with anyone, when an ex-schoolmate from my younger Catholic school days ran over to me as if we were long lost buds. Patti was so happy to see me again. She grabbed my tray and dragged me over to her group of girlfriends. Suddenly I was Sandy from Grease, and here were my Pink Ladies to the rescue (except I’m not Australian and there is no Danny Zuko in this story).
They adopted me into their group that very second, even though I was brand new and they had known each other since elementary school. At first I didn’t think I was going to fit in, but I soon realized they were in a lot of my honors classes. They kept asking me to sit with them or work with them on projects. I belonged once again. They made public high school tolerable.
I lost touch with half of them after high school, and the rest after college, but their kindness endeared me to them forever.