Only The Names Have Changed

photo by raysto at

June is a month to reminisce. I decided to challenge myself to think about the very first memory I could recall from kindergarten through 12th grade. And while I have changed the names (actually, I substituted them with the names of some of my most favorite bloggers), the facts are true. So true that some people may be able to identify themselves, or others. It is not my intention to have people name names. However, I would love it if you would think about your own K-12 experiences and share one moment that pops into your head.

• • •

In Nursery School, Julie, Ellie, Amy and I liked to play on the whirlybird, a contraption that consisted of two crossed bars with four attached seats as well as foot pedals for each rider to pump. Once everyone was in sync, riders could spin in circles. Once, Julie decided that she and the other girls were “three witches” and wouldn’t stop spinning, even when I cried. At some point, I slipped off my seat and landed on my back under the whizzing blades. I remember the breezy whir of their skirts as they spun over my head.

Jeff was in my class from kindergarten grade on up, and he once spilled an entire bottle of blue acrylic paint on my dress during art class. That was how I knew Jeff loved me.

In first grade, Paul wore a leather, fleece lined aviator hat to school. He often had black eyes. It never occurred to me to ask him how he got them.

Leanne was my friend in second grade. She lived over a beauty parlor and her bedroom smelled like burning hair.

In third grade, Knox was one of two only black students in my class. He could turn his eyelids inside out, which was creepy but cool. He called me on Saturday mornings and we sang disco songs together.

Chase sat behind me in fourth grade. On the first day of school, I said I had a pair of blue flip-flops at home, and he said they were actually called “thongs.” From then on, we disagreed about everything.

Piper was my best friend from fifth until eighth. We walked around the local shopping mall after and created an elaborate game out of touching people who wore fur coats. Points were awarded if the fur coat wearer did not notice the touch. If you were caught, you lost a point. Terri eventually threw me over for the Deadheads.

Eric was class president in sixth grade. He kept my gerbil when we my family went on vacation, and it died. He cried when he brought back the empty cage.

In seventh grade, there was a girl named Tamara who had something wrong with her face, some kind of palsy that made her mouth twist in a scary sort of way. One day she announced that she was “going to get her face fixed” and that the next time we saw her she’d look completely different. We never saw her again.

My best friend in eighth grade got her ears pinned back and taped aluminum foil antennae on top of the huge white bandage on her head. Everyone thought she was very clever. She once kissed me on the lips during an overnight when she thought I was sleeping.

Kim was the popular girl all through high school. She was also mean. In ninth grade, she used henna that made her hair turn a horrible shade of orange, but no one laughed at her. Instead, we all told her how pretty she looked.

Clay got in trouble in English class sophomore year and had to go to the library to write an essay on angels. Later, he went to some Ivy League school and got in trouble for selling fake IDs.

Wendy and I double-dated when we were juniors. She talked “baby talk” to her date all night long. He seemed to dig it. It. Drove. Me. Nuts.

During my senior year, I dated a boy who was more serious about me than I was about him. When I finally broke up with him, I was rather dismissive. He excused himself and disappeared behind the door of the green bathroom of my parents’ house where he cried for a long time. I know this because I went in the den to watch a one-hour television program, and – intermittently – I heard his sobs. When he finally came out, my show had ended. His eyes were red and he looked ruined. Looking back, I didn’t handle that one very well.

Some guy named Tyler wrote in my yearbook: “May your tail fall off and your hair shrivel into snakes. I’ll never forget you.” I seem to have forgotten him.

Can you remember one specific moment from one specific grade and share it?

46 thoughts on “Only The Names Have Changed

  1. I remember in first grade my teacher had a little bell she used to ring to get us to be quiet. One day when she was out of the room the kids got noisy and I rang the bell so hard it broke. I thought she would kill me.

    I can’t remember anything about second grade, how sad is that? I remember Kindergarten, first grade, third through twelfth, but not second.

  2. Hilarious. Love how you replace all the names. I’m laughing at so many of them. And you associate me with burning hair and beauty parlors. I am touched.

    Since you put me in Grade 2, I’ll give you a Grade 2 memory. The Grade 1 teacher, Mr. O, who I believe was a tad unstable send me (me!) to the office at recess. I was playing on the monkey bars ( a game that might have been called “Girls Catch the Boys”), when he cam by to chat. He said something to me. I answered, “Are you crazy?” I was teasing, speaking idiomatically. He asked me if I was seriously asking him if he were crazy. Still thinking he was teasing, I answered, “Yes!” He sent me to the office. I was scared beyond belief. Thankfully, the principal laughed. I’m pretty sure he talked to Mr. O later, too.

  3. I wrote about this once myself, as one of the first memories I have was in kindergarten or first grade. My best friend left class for speech therapy and I ate his Goldfish crackers–crackers we were using for simple math problems. The only problem I had was that I was hungry. Problem solved.

    We also had a school play in which I chose to be a gray flower, simply because gray was my mom’s favorite color. WTH mom? Gray? At any rate, I remember they had to pull me off the stage. I was a ham and a star was born…;)

  4. You sent me off into a long reverie with this post. I’ve finally snapped out of my memories of dragons made from egg boxes, fights, bomb scares, the ban on running in the playground (! for heaven’s sake!!), scary headmaster in his big hobnail boots, the stick, pretending to have seen TV programmes on ITV so as to join in conversations at school, of the teachers getting arrested (didn’t return), odd nuns, fires, etc, etc.

    But here’s a brief memory – can’t remember which grade I was in.

    We were lined up in the corridor waiting to enter the classroom. Myself and a mate were playing Xie Ozies (not sure how to spell it, only ever said it before – also known as noughts and crosses – or maybe three in a row) in the condensation on the inner surface of the corridor windows.
    We noticed the teacher coming a long way off, but carried on as we weren’t doing anything wrong – or so we thought. Wrong.
    Her nickname should have been enough to warn us – Sister UXB. UXB as in UneXploded Bomb.
    The mad woman (well, she was a nun) took great exception to what she considered to be our vandalism. So we were banished from the class to clean every window on every corridor of the school – in other words, to wipe away the condensation.
    We, the two culprits, were both baffled and delighted by this turn of events. We spent the class period slinking around the school, occasionally wiping a window with a sleeve, chatting and relaxing – while the rest of the class had the pleasure of an angry nun ranting at them about religion. What a great result for us lucky banishees.

  5. “One day she announced that she was “going to get her face fixed” and that the next time we saw her she’d look completely different. We never saw her again.” Witty. Very witty.

    In 9th grade global studies I was seated next to a young man who, one winter morning, was sniffling loudly and making it hard for me to keep my breakfast down and concentrate on the political Doomsday machine that led to World War I. I passed him a note that said, “Please blow your [expletive] nose.” He was offended and did not comply. I never made the same request again.

    1. Alas, not meant to be witty. It’s 100% true. Sad. She never came back. And hopefully Tamara will not take offense, as there is absolutely nothing wrong with her face. She’s gorge!

      Your 9th grade global story is hilarious. Have you had your 20th high school reunion yet? If not, you might consider apologizing to the buggermeister. Or not. 😉

  6. So many memories… hard to choose just one. So I won’t.

    When I was in 2nd grade, we put on Little Red Riding Hood, in Spanish. I was Little Red Riding Hood herself. The only 2 words I remember are roja = red and lobo = wolf.

    In 4th grade, my best friend (Elizabeth) and I spent many many recess periods inside, sitting in desks, chatting and (OMG, I can’t believe we did this or that I am going to share it) using those big pink erasers to erase nothing… just to create what we called eraser dust. We would rub and rub, making piles of the stuff. We saved it in baggies – our goal was to erase away an entire pink eraser by the end of the year. I don’t think we made it!

    In 7th or 8th grade, my friends and I got on a kick where we would call each other by our names spelled backwards. So I was Itsyrhc (It-sirk) Nagoh (Na-go) and my best friend (different BF) was Nasus Yelmel.

    OK – I’ll stop there. My memories are getting more embarrassing as I go along. I’ll save the High School ones for another day – maybe a blog post of my own!

      1. Unfortunately, I have not seen Elizabeth or Nasus since. I switched schools several times throughout childhood (for various reasons), and without Facebook or email back then, it was not easy to keep in touch.

  7. Mrs. Fitzpatrick was my second grade teacher. She was tall, beautiful, and kind. I had a girl crush on her in spite of being entirely heterosexual. I remember her trying to hold herself together as she dismissed our class. President Kennedy had been assassinated (yes, I am that old) but she wasn’t allowed to tell us. The school decided to let our parents inform us. I couldn’t hear her words as I concentrated on her red eyes, the tissue in her hand, and her quivering lip. When we returned to school it was Show and Tell day. I had practiced a routine with my Lamb Chops puppet over and over again and hoped I could cheer her up. She laughed. She smiled. She led the applause. This is both my saddest and happiest school memory.

    1. Wow, that is really a wonderful memory. And a fascinating study in how times have changed. What you have shared is an example of the student trying to cheer up the teacher. You saw her fragility, her humanity, her woundedness, and you wanted to help. I’m not sure that happens very much anymore.

      You sound like you were a good egg, Teresa. I bet you still are. 😉

  8. I grew up in a home that was often quite violent and always quite loud. I don’t remember my first grade teacher’s name but I do remember the wonderful gift she gave me. Toward the end of the year she took us to the library and got us all library cards. Then we sat in a circle and she told us that libraries were magical places. You simply opened a book and you could be anywhere, anyone or anywhen you wished. (Yes I know, no such word as anywhen but I like it and it is my story)

    I remember her reading us a couple of stories and then we headed home. The library was a block from our house. I lived there that summer, reveling in a world where children were smart, and safe, and happy. We moved often but I never lost that love of libraries or of books. I solved mysteries with the Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. I explored with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and lived in the jungle with Tarzan. I have been 20,000 leagues under the sea and traveled around the world in eighty days. I lived the old west with Louis L’Amour and his wonderful characters.

    I do not know her name or where she lives, I have no idea if she remembers even a little of me. Still she is my hero. She gave me hope, a place to feel safe, and lit a candle that shown my way. I still read voraciously. There so many things I have not yet done, so many places I have not yet been, I know I must have somewhen to be soon.

    1. Rob, that is simply a beautiful tribute to your teacher. Sounds like she provided you with a safe haven. I’ll trust that every teacher who reads this – as there are quite a few who visit this joint – will take heart that we each have one Rob T. among us.

      Of course, my Rob T. would be shaving… 😉

  9. I feel terrible for that boy in your senior year. I fear I may have been equally dismissive from time to time. I never wanted to be mean, but there were often times when I realized a girl was way more serious about our relationship than I was, and I didn’t know what else to do except flake out and say I was busy whenever she wanted to hang out. I hope I didn’t make anybody cry.

  10. Great blog!

    Of course, my favorite memory is touching the fur coats in the mall without being noticed. 🙂

    Wow! You stirred up so many memories. One is like a Lay’s potato chip, but I’ll try to be brief.

    May Poles in kindergarten. The whole school went out on the lawn and wove May poles together on May 1. Such a fun tradition!

    My jr. year was the year Khomeni took over Iran. I had a friend who had been there in Tehran. She told me she would sit on the roof and night and listen to the soldiers killing the people in the streets after curfew. The same year, I had a Laotian friend whose family, (minus her father who had been executed for being a college professor) escaped from a communist work camp by hiding in a boat and floating down the river to Thailand. I learned a lot about loving my country that year.

    Don’t want to end on a grim note, though. In 6th grade (age 10), I got my first horse, Blackie. Blackie and I covered a million miles through empty plains as I was a jockey, a highwayman, a cowgirl, and any other fantasy that justified a good run.

    Thanks for a great blog, Renee.

    1. I guess you didn’t learn anything from writing that essay on angels. Just goes to show that writing essays is stupid and has no bearing on the kind of person will become in life.

      Seriously though, I wonder where that dude ended up. I’m thinking jail. 😉

  11. I love this! In 6th grade my friend Rhonda and I were having a grand old time experimenting with curse words. When she got up to turn in an assignment I took her pink pearl eraser and wrote the word “Suck” on it, certain that it was a curse word that would make her giggle with delight. The problem was, our teacher, Mr. B., caught me doing it. He led me out to the hallway and demanded that I tell him what the word meant. I told him that I knew it was a bad word, but that I wasn’t 100% sure what made it bad, since it wasn’t a bad word when we said we were sucking on a lollipop or a popsicle. Then, I got the old tried and true lecture about not using words when we’re unsure of their meanings. My friend, Rhonda, still thought the whole situation was hilarious!

  12. In fifth grade, Brian, Shahdan, and I would reenact the Cache perfume commercial as we walked back to class from gym or art or whatever. The one with Connie Selleca. “Cache is me.” We would almost fall over laughing. No one else thought it was the least bit funny.

  13. I remember Mrs. Priest, my seventh grade math teacher. Math was not my forte and that is putting it mildly. It was difficult and I often did not complete my homework. I remember one day in class when I was sharing a magazine I had brought to school with other students during instruction, she caught me, and she took it away. I know, you are thinking a magazine, harmless, but it happened to be Sports Illustrated and not just any issue of Sports Illustrated but the swimsuit issue! She took it away and asked me if I had my homework and I replied, ‘yes, but it is not finished.’ All I wanted was the magazine back and she had me, she knew I struggled in class and in front of whole class, she offered me a deal – if I would have my homework for two weeks, straight, I could have my magazine back. Deal, motivation solved! For the next two weeks, I was a math homework machine. I do not remember if it was correct, but I remember I made it to the final day and, yes, you guessed it – I had not finished my homework. I don’t know why or what happened, but I didn’t have my homework. When it came my turn my to turn in my homework and call out my score, I had to fess up and say, ‘Didn’t do it.’ A sigh came across the class and someone said, ‘all you had to do was finish your homework, one more time, and you’d get the magazine back.’ They were rooting for me. I never saw that magazine, again. I don’t know what grade I earned in math that year, probably a C, I did pass on to eighth grade and on to high school and college, eventually I got math, thankfully. When I think back to the event, I wonder what I was thinking and that is the point, I wasn’t thinking and that is the crux of adolescence.

    1. That is the crux of adolescence. You could have had that magazine back, but you had to be bad. That one last act of defiance kept you from being a good boy. 😉

      You’d better have a blog. I’m coming to check you out!

  14. Great post. The details you present are evocative and fun. Love your voice!

    As for my memories, there are too many to recount. I remember having to pee so badly while taking a standardized test in 4th grade. The rules emphasized by the drill-sargeant of a proctor were, among others, “Stay in your seats. No looking around. And no one may leave the room for any reason.” I raised my hand and told the proctor of my about-to-explode bladder. He thought I was being overly dramatic and maybe had a scheme to cheat brewing. I peed my pants. I let me leave to go to the nurses office and let some janitors come in to clean up the yellow pool–proof of my honesty.

  15. I wonder where Paul got his black eyes. And Wendy’s baby talk annoys me just by hearing about it! LoL.
    My earliest memory is going behind the barn with my sisters and a friend, finding an old mattress, and jumping on it for hours…while making farting and burping noises and giggling uncontrollably. Such fun! It still sounds like fun to me. 🙂

  16. hmm. i don’t have the best files for those days. lots of pieces but hard to connect. i remember our playground monkey-bars and crossing them, looking over at a boy, now faceless. i was smug as i was clearly the stronger one. what a brute i was. thanks for the meanderings. keep on.

  17. Brilliant! I love this post. I just typed up a memory from each grade, decided I just dominated your comments section, saved it for its own post, and will link it up here. Also? I’m pretty sure we would have been partners in crime if we had gone to school together.

    1. I’m so excited that this inspired a post for you. It’s a fun exercise, isn’t it. Honestly, you could do a blog entry for each year? Right?

      We would have definitely been partners in crime.

      You know, when we weren’t being nerds playing word games.

      SIREN. 😉

  18. Rene, Today I’m just going to thank you for introducing me to the world of blogging. I am reading and writing and thinking things that I thought I had forgotten. I wrote two responses today to blogs written by Albert Berg–they really turned into essays. While I’m not interested in writing a book, I am interested in not losing some of my thoughts. i no longer print very well–too impatient I think! Maybe I should blog…

    1. D’Alta: I’m so happy to have inspired you today. That is probably the kindest thing anyone can say to an aging teacher. I think that’s all any of us ever hopes to do.

      And you don’t have to write a book, but it’s fun to blog. The blogosphere is filled with fabulous, smart people. That said, it’s nice to have audience members who just want to read a thing or two.

      Don’t ever feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do.

      Now, off to check out what Albert Berg wrote that got you so wound up! 😉

  19. some of these are quite sad and so many are quite funny. truthfully, i’ve kind of blocked out a lot pre-college life. Not that it was horrible or anything. I had a robust group of friends. it’s just, I kind of feel like I wasn’t really my true self until i got away from my parents and went to college. The day i left, my real life began.

    1. Hi Saucy B:
      I would say that I was becoming my true self, evolving. I was a work in progress. We all were. Leaving home certainly helped me to find greater freedom to do certain things that I’d never done before. I got to try on parts of my personality that my parents may not have appreciated, but I do remember these childhood and adolescent moments. And many, many more. In fact, the manuscript I have been working on requires me to remember.

  20. I remember in kindergarten that we had toy “work benches” that you used wooden mallets to “hammer” wooden pegs into. One of the boys in my class hit my fingers with his hammer, and I tattled on him. I felt kind of bad when Mrs. W. used a fly swatter (the ones with the metal screens) to smack him with (it was the late 1960s)…


    P.S. I abhor “baby talk.”

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