August 23, 1989, the first day of 6th grade as a new kid at a new school: Jordache jeans – check. Trapper Keeper – check. Swatch watch – check. Stussy shirt- ummm, not yet. That fashion trend wouldn’t trickle down to Florida until I was in 7th grade. Supersized NKOTB button on my dresser at home – you know it. Meadowbrook Middle School, here I come!
Everything was ready, school-supply wise. The 1989 school supply list was a very, VERY different version of what we know today. I think most of the school shopping our moms had to do could have easily been completed during a leisurely stroll down aisle 8 on their weekly Publix shopping trip. Basically, it was: paper, pencils, DONE. Had my mom been sent on a scavenger hunt to find Avery Label #38069727412896 or 2.5 gallon Ziploc bags, she likely would have laughed out loud (even prior to lol’ing!). Actually, she probably wouldn’t have ever been able to read the requirements anyway due to the coffee stains that miraculously appeared on every paper I ever brought home from school. It would have been a non-issue!
Outfit-wise I was set. We had done our annual JCPenney back-to-school shopping spree and I was good to go. I was the proud owner of way, way too many purple rayon outfits. I got to pick out one super special outfit from my #1 favorite store, 5-7-9, probably something with shoulder pads, because, style. Keds and penny loafers rounded out my daily ensembles so as you can imagine I was living on the cusp of fashion. I had also just graduated from the home perm and was feeling like hot stuff. I got an actual “spiral perm” at a salon from someone I believe was a licensed hairdresser. All I had to do to make my hair curly was completely drown it in Rave gel, scrunch it with pink AquaNet and never brush it. Like. Ever.
Decisions to be made now that hair/outfit/school supplies were set. There is something both exciting and terrifying about starting a new school. Especially when you are very experienced at being “the new kid,” as I was, you could have a bit of fun with it! Would my name be “Kristy” just like always or would I decide to spell it “Kristi”?! Would I get totally froggy and decide my name was actually meant to be a shortened version of my real name (Kristina) and tell everyone I was “Tina”? Decisions!
Balancing out the excitement was the fear. Always the fear. In elementary school, it was that I would get on the wrong bus and end up in the wrong neighborhood. In my underdeveloped brain, I thought the likely outcome would be that I would be delivered to the wrong house and just have to start over with a new family. They would probably call me by my middle name and never really understand me. By middle school and continuing through high school my biggest fear leading up to the first day at a new school was pretty much always the same: Who would I sit with at lunch?
Lunchroom, Meadowbrook Middle, August 23, 1989: I got lucky this year. By 3rd period I’d met a potential new friend, we’d compared schedules and discovered we had the same lunch period. It was decided that I would sit with her and her friends at lunch, yay! I didn’t have to do that awkward slow walk around the cafeteria making eye contact with strangers I had maybe sat near in class, hoping that they would gesture for me to sit with them. Today I had a plan and life was good…until it wasn’t…
This was not my first rodeo. By the time I graduated high school I had attended 7 different schools. By 6th grade, I should have know better than to bring something smelly for lunch. I don’t remember what it was, only that it did not meet the approval of my new 6th grade peers. It was like I was Ramona Quimby and I just cracked the raw egg on my head. “Umm, what is that um, smell? It’s, like, totally gross!” It became apparent I’d probably need to find a new plan for lunch tomorrow…
Cut to 2018
My 3 school-aged children will be starting at a new school for the first time in their lives. Growing up as “the new kid” I have always taught my kids to bend over backward to be nice to the new kid in school. Now that it’s their turn I am hoping that they will get some of that kindness back in return. Fingers crossed they all get on the right bus and find someone to sit with at lunch. Not just my kids, ALL kids. I will be sure not to pack anything smelly for lunch. If someone would just please design an adult version of the Trapper Keeper I’m pretty sure it would handle all of my back to school worries for my kids, amirite? Here’s to back to school, 2018!