Back to School . . . by Tessa Gray
As I watch our neighborhood children board the narrow steps of the yellow school buses, I must confess that I’m almost envious . . . almost. This past week I assigned my college students an essay called “Remembering an Event.” The young men and women in my English class approached the assignment with some degree of trepidation. As we discussed potential scenarios for their papers, many of them began reminiscing about their school experiences.
School memories are often instrumental in shaping us, molding us into the adults we become. They’re the memories we often share at high school or family reunions. As we look back on our school memories, we often yearn to have “do-overs” – to be able to right a wrong that’s been done to us or confront someone who bullied us. Most of us won’t ever have the opportunity to “get back” at someone who embarrassed or humiliated us. I was fortunate enough to have that magic moment presented to me on a silver platter. And now . . . allow me to share my very own “payback is a bitch” moment.
Flashback to 1966 . . . I’m strolling down the hall of my Minnesota high school (which shall remain nameless). Spring is in the air and the lush trees outside had begun budding after a grueling winter. Donning my adorable “A-line” skirt, my white tennis shoes and cream colored “wigwam” socks, I’ve feeling pretty good about myself. As I rush to my fifth period class, a loud voice roars through the narrow halls, interrupting my train of thought.
“Hey, Tessa-wanna go to the prom with me?”
I whirl around and who do I see but a short kid I’ve known since grade school; the shy, preacher’s kid I’d probably engaged in conversation with four times during our entire school careers. I’m certain I gave this guy, we’ll call him Dexter, a rather furtive glance as I pretended to mull over my decision.
“Yeah, sure, I guess.”
The look of relief on this guy’s face was comical. Pulling himself up to his full five foot, four inches, he threw back his head and breathed an enormous sigh of relief. I often think of that Clint Eastwood phrase, ‘Go ahead, make my day’ when I recall how pleased Dexter appeared to be I’d accepted his invitation. I quickly began planning which of my girlfriends to tell first. Truth be told, I was more excited about attending the prom than I was having a date with Dexter.
“Thanks for going to prom with me. We’re going with Barb and Gary.” If only Dexter has simply left it at that-had not felt compelled to be so brutally honest. But he didn’t. As he blurted out the rest of his words, my ego plummeted. “Thank God you agreed to go with me. You’re like the fiftieth girl I’ve asked.”
Way to turn a girl’s head.
Too humiliated to continue our conversation, I slithered through the halls to my history class, already regretting my decision.
Flash ahead to 2006-my 40th high school reunion.
As my husband, Jim, and I sat at a table filled with the reunion attendees in a ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, I quickly scanned the group, noting several familiar faces. At that round table, in the nine o’clock position if you’re describing the hands of a clock, sits my prom date, Dexter, and his lovely wife. Now, I realize many would have taken the high road, resisting the urge to remind Dexter about his comment from forty years ago. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. Dr. Phil would no doubt call me a “right fighter.”
Within the first three minutes of our conversation, I set the record straight. Like most men, Dexter refused to believe he could possibly have made such a remark. His wife, fortunately, was well aware that her husband didn’t have much of a filter. As Dexter gasped and chortled, trying desperately to deny his embarrassing behavior as a teen, his wife quickly set the record straight. Leaning over, she stared at me intently, her dark eyes boring through mine. “I totally believe you,” she replied. “That’s so something Dex would do.”
Of course, all was forgiven. But a word to the wise might be in order here. Guys…if you ‘dis a woman and behave poorly, just know this: We never, ever forget. And while we women have long since finished our schooling, those of us who write might just put you in our next book. So…watch your back.