Today I watched several hundred third-graders face horrendous torture.
It was the annual May Pole Dance Celebration at my daughter’s elementary school, featuring line dancing, square dancing and even a polka or two.
As we parents aimed video cameras, snapped pictures and beckoned to “please, please just smile,” our children actually had to touch classmates of the other gender. *Shudder!*
My girl, her face beet red, kept her head tilted opposite her dance mate, who copied her stance. Together they skipped, dosie-do’ed and bowed to their partners with stony faces and barely touching sweaty fingers.
My own square dancing days spurred the fastest calculating I had ever done as I positioned myself in line to be paired with who I was pretty sure could be the love of my life. Not that we had ever spoken, of course.
Unfortunately, I stink at math. I was paired with someone else, who seemed pretty sure I was the love of his life. Not that we had ever spoken, of course.
I ached at the thought that my fingers held too tightly, were too sweaty or scratched his skin. My feet were bricks, sure to crush toes with each twirl. Why couldn’t my hair bounce like my friends’ instead of slapping my partner’s face?
The manuscript I’m writing now brings back so many memories like these. My first kiss, my first real fight, my first taste of not fitting in. The clearest memory is realizing that I was the only one in my class wearing dark penny loafers in May. Everyone else had sandals or flip-flops.
But my parents were on a budget, and these loafers fit just fine (thanks to Mom always buying them two sizes too big). I obsessed about these loafers, they way they made my feet look like tanks and my legs like white twigs. Each step I took was a move away from the cool table in the cafeteria.
Here’s where I get to use the best part of being a writer: My kick-butt protag is going to face some of these same tortures and insecurities. But she’s going to come out ok. Better than ok. Just like me. But hopefully she’ll figure that out sooner than I did.
What awkward memories do you have of grade school? Are they reflected in your writing?