(I'm on the right end of the middle row, red pants. Click for larger.)

I was happy

(This story has an interesting visual ending, I promise, so stick with it...)

When I saw this photo on someone’s Facebook page in January, I nearly cried. I have only my kindergarten class photo in my possession, no others. But this one, second grade, was particularly near and dear to me, so I was thrilled when it popped up on the internet. For 30 years, I'd remembered people's names and how much I liked them, but had forgotten what some of them looked like -- particularly since I moved after that year and never saw most of them ever again.

At first I wasn't sure exactly why it struck me so much when I looked at it. But I have a good idea now: I look so genuinely happy.

Things weren’t good after that. I moved to a new school. I made a few friends, but I was an outcast. I didn’t really “get” the kids at my new school. I'm not saying it's their fault, at all. And it wasn’t as if they were from a different background than my previous year, or that my new town was demographically different. Maybe it was that everyone grew up between second and third grade, and I didn’t? Who knows?

I eventually reacted by getting even sillier. Sometimes I tried harder to fit in, with poor results.

Second grade, the one pictured on top of this entry, was the “Enrichment Program”; in other words, the kids with the highest test scores in the previous grade from all five of the district’s elementary schools were bused to one second grade classroom at this particular school. I was lucky because the program was based in the school I already attended, so I didn't have to switch.

In second grade, there were two big fads – the movie “Grease,” and the candy Pop Rocks. Each day at snack time, some lucky kid would bring in Pop Rocks and everyone would ask for some. One girl actually announced, “Okay, these people may have Pop Rocks” and listed the names on a blackboard. Then she had everyone line up to get a few in their hand.

One day, I was in the grocery store with my dad and asked if I could get some. To my surprise, he said yes. The next day in school, a boy saw me with them and he said to another boy, “Oh, she’ll give everyone.”

I overheard that and thought that was the nicest thing anyone had ever said about me, and I was especially moved that a boy had said it, because boys and girls kind of avoided each other then. Of course, he may have just meant I was a pushover, but it was rare insight into what a boy thought of me, and I liked that he thought I would share my Pop Rocks.

I wasn’t perfect. I won’t go into the stupid stuff I did. And my schoolwork was horribly sloppy, even if I always have done well on tests. But I was happy in second grade. Everyone was so nice in that class.

And then...

As I said...I moved. Before third grade.

The kids in my new school in Freehold were more, er, advanced. Some of them were already “going out” with each other. What was up with that? Some (NOT all, just a few) were kinda mean. They’d yell at you if you missed a ball in gym, wore the wrong clothes, just if you stood in the wrong place. They taunted the fat girl...typical stuff.

Did I change between second and third grade? Or did everyone else? Or was it the difference in towns? Or was there a big difference between being in a class of all smarty pantses and being in a "normal" class? I'm not sure.

There were a million things about me that I should have changed, too. But gosh, we were all young. Everyone gets off the hook for who they were in school.

So anyway...yesterday, some later photos popped up on someone's Facebook page of me in school in later years.

I was worried, and rightfully so.

One of them was the dreaded seventh grade, middle school. ACK!!!

I'm on the bottom row, third from left. Click for larger.

Okay, it wasn't so bad. I look normal enough. But then there was this other one they posted, of fifth grade.

At first, I was horribly, terribly embarrassed when I saw this.

Take a close look on the right end of the middle row (click to enlarge)...

And then I thought, you know...maybe I just knew how badly everything sucked.

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