Last week was Grandparent’s Day at my nephew’s school. Unfortunately my parents were out of town, so my sister-in-law asked me if I would step in. My nephew is also my godson, and I see him so rarely, I couldn’t possibly say no.
The day started with coffee and a bakery item in the cafeteria. Just me and a roomful of sixty, seventy and eighty year olds. Psych. No problem. I can shmooze with anyone, even if they are attached to an oxygen tank.
After a speech from one of the heads of the school welcoming us to a very special day, the school’s jazz band came out and took their seats on stage. The music teacher introduced the band, who then launched into a “high school” rendition of a Dizzy Gillespie song, whose name escapes me at the moment.
As I sat their watching these eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds blow their horns, beat their drums and pound their keyboards, I thought about how proud these grandparents must be, watching their grandkids.
Because I don’t have children of my own, I won’t truly know what that feels like. I felt my eyes well up with tears. I won’t see my child perform, or play a sport, or be there to cheer them on in whatever activity that they’re involved with. I wondered what a child of mine would be like. Would they play in a jazz band?
Every so often I play the”‘what if” game. It doesn’t last long but it’s profound nonetheless. When I awake from my reverie, I remind myself of the reasons for my choice not to have a child. Still, I am not hardened to the idea nor am I immune to the “what ifs.”
My nephew found me moments later and the first thing out of his mouth was, “It smells like old people in here.” Why yes it does godson, let’s motor.
Our first stop was science class. They did an experiment with helium, hydrogen and strings. The teacher was very engaging and I tried to think back on my eighth grade science teacher and I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t actually remember. Note to self, text Emily and ask her who our teacher was.
I have never felt so incompetent and idiotic as I did in the social studies class, and I’ve had my share of incompetence and idiocy. My nephew and I sat a table with another student and her grandparents. The teacher, who was incredibly dynamic, handed out a worksheet about the civil rights movement. The class was studying the civil war, and the teacher was linking historical events, so that the students could see how such events are related. Shoot, where was this guy when I was in school?
In the left column of the worksheet were the names of people and in the right column were events from the civil rights. He asked each table to identify and discuss the people on the left and what their relationship was to the events on the right. F*ck me. I could only identify one! One! And my nephew knew less than that. Needless to say my side of the table was rather quiet. In all fairness, the class hadn’t gone over the civil rights movement yet but what the hell was my excuse?
The grandparents at our table knew a lot more. Of course they did, they friggin’ lived through it. I was barely born! And to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember studying it in class at The Robert E. Bell school. I blame the school and the teachers. The truth is, I was probably rehearsing my lines for “Bye Bye Birdie” under my desk, instead of paying attention.
The fact that I’ve gone all these years without knowing this part of history is shameful. My parents should ask for their money back and I should repeat eighth grade. It’s true. I thought about this while I sat at the table, with an embarrassingly blank look on my punim. I’m ready for eighth grade!
I can see now that some of my struggles in school were due to a lack of certain fundamentals, such as proper studying skills and not doing homework in front of “I Dream of Jeannie.” It wasn’t until I became a Pilates instructor that I understood the different ways that people learn and retain information. For me, if facts and figures can be transposed into a musical number, I’m good.
I listened intently to the teacher making the connections between the civil war and the civil rights movement, and it all started to make sense. How cruel that as soon as I’m ready and willing to learn, my memory is fading. So even if I do understand, I now run the risk of forgetting it.
I felt as if I let my godson down by being so dumb. Wait! My ego didn’t need this. I already went through the hell of eighth grade. I did not want to relive this time in my life.
As I sat in art class (the last of the day), I wondered if the kids that my nephew were talking to were his true friends? Were they just being nice because their grandparents were in the room? Was he popular? Did he get invited places? Did the girls like him? Did he like girls? Each thought brought a twinge of anxiety and heart tugging.
I admit that I was riding the projection train. Seventh and eighth grades were horrific, the likes of which are still traumatizing me, if only subconsciously. I was not only physically awkward but the years were fraught with popularity contests (hoping for the attention of the likes of Bobby Avonda), and trying to hide my pronounced proboscis.
I didn’t want my nephew to go through what I did. I didn’t want him to be sad or to feel different. The whole ordeal was truly heart wrenching. I THINK I was feeling what it must be like for a parent. All I know is that I’d be in tears every day because clearly I’m unable to detach myself.
Still, I’m going to talk to my brother and sister-in-law about home schooling my godson.