I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.
– Kansas (sung by Kathy Spillane at our 8th grade graduation)
Girl your eyes have a mist from the smoke of a distant fire
– Sanford Townsend Band 1977
Dear Bernie –
The hardest part has been accepting how much I’ve forgotten. I remember having such a good memory. I’ve recovered some glimpses of you, hunted up old photos, talked to old friends, but there’s so I no longer recall.
We met in Sebastopol, California at Pinecrest School in Mr. Martin’s 6th grade class. (Did we ever see each other anywhere outside of Sebastopol? I don’t think we did.) Pinecrest was a half an hour walk from my house. I chose it over a closer school as a fresh start. I’d had too many problems with kids at my old school and hoped that a different set of kids who make school a less painful experience.
I don’t have a first memory of you, no meet cute. We wouldn’t have talked much. The first half of the year I got this insane idea that boys were supposed to go through a stage of hating girls. Since I hadn’t gone through that stage yet I figured it was time to start. If Mr. Martin seated his class alphabetically then you and I spent a lot of time near each other. I doubt if you had to suffer through any of my girl hating. Poor Kathy Spillane ended up doing that. I was horrible to her. I’m pretty sure she’s forgiven me long ago. I still haven’t forgiven myself.
That fall you and I both won prizes in a Bicentennial essay contest. My essay was about Washington crossing the Delaware. I didn’t believe a word of it and I won second place. It was a valuable lesson in doing well at school. In December 1975, as part of our prize, we toured the American Freedom Train during its stopover in Sacramento. How did we get there? I don’t remember.
Mr. Martin was nothing if not ambitious. The class spent a good part of the year fundraising for a trip to Utah and back. We did car washes and bake sales to raise money and got McDonald’s to donate two buses for us to travel in. We toured for a week, hitting Hearst’s Castle, Las Vegas, Bryce and Zyon National Monuments and the Grand Canyon. Sometime before we left on the trip I decided that girls were okay. I distinctly remember thinking that since I would probably marry one someday I might as well start liking girls now. And somewhere along the way I remember drawing pictures for the girls I liked. Do you remember the portrait of a horse I drew for you? It’s the only drawing I specifically remember doing. I remember it because I had a little crush on you.
I would say that the crush faded but here I am writing to you over thirty years later.
For 7th and 8th grade we attended Brookhaven. Brookhaven consisted of 6th, 7th and 8th grade classes. It was Brookhaven I’d avoided attending the previous year. Now I was back with some of the kids that I’d played so poorly with back in 5th grad. I’m sure we had classes together although now I can’t tell you which ones. I remember you being best friends with Diane James. I remember because I had a crush on Diane. You were voted a student of the month both years although you were only photographed for it in 8th grade. We were both on the honor roll.
It was at Brookhaven that I started hating school less. Less. I still hated it but I’d begun to develop a cheerfully nihilistic attitude. I’d been called a weirdo for most of my childhood. Sometime in 7th grade I decided that if I was going to be called weird I might as well be weird. With enthusiasm.
It helped also to have a varied set of classes with electives that I was interested in. The school day was divided into seven periods (plus homeroom and lunch). I was never stuck with one set of kids for too long. And there was Drama, a place where being weird was encouraged. I’ve assumed that you were in Drama but maybe not. I barely remember the shows I was in (Trial by Jury, Christmas Carol, HMS Pinafore – all condensed versions of the originals) much less who else had parts. I didn’t find you in our Yearbook Drama Club photo.
How did you survive Brookhaven?
We graduated. I discovered pot in the summer of ’78. That got me ready for being a freshman at Analy High. Analy is where most of my memories of you begin.