September 1958. Sophomore year, first day. I new, the school old. Two thousand kids. I knew maybe ten.
The office sent me to Room 116, which turned out to be a black hole of a study hall, with miles of desks, enough for two homerooms, one mine and the other — gulp — seniors. Were you ever 15? Then you might know how I felt.
My new homeroom teacher waved me to an empty desk in the back of the second row from the wall. I needed binoculars to see it.
I sat behind Bill. For three years. In that time he partnered with Donna as a debate team while I bungled along in Extemp, and the three of us forged bonds stronger than kryptonite in weekend speech meets. On many mornings, Donna walked through our homeroom just to jab at Bill with some incendiary word to keep the fires burning in their Peanuts vs Pogo feud. Our corner of homeroom — Roger the suave, Sandy the effervescent, Bill the brilliant, me, the nice-smile-and-you’ll-go-far, plus the pedestrians, hormones and opinions in high gear, on their respective ways to other homerooms — was the real core curriculum. What I didn’t learn there I didn’t need to learn.
When Bill and Donna made their commitment to be debate partners for life, I was maid of honor. Our lives remained intertwined. Then, recently, mysteriously, we turned 70. We celebrated together with a birthday cake patchworked from a Lilliputian pastry shop. We threw caution to the winds and stayed up past 9:00. In a true flashback to homeroom, we split our sides over Bill’s take on pickle labels. They met my grandchildren.
Of all the floors we’ve walked throughout the years, it’s possible that those worn old hardwood floors of homeroom were the most important.
Because life comes in all flavors, and a lot of it is sticky.