Several months ago, a certain person made some typically dumb comments about Andrew Jackson and his role in the Civil War (spoiler alert: Jackson died long before the Civil War). My first thought, though, when the news cycle spun out of control after the stupid tweet was “Oh no, now I have think about middle school for the next month or so.”
Yes, I attended Andrew Jackson Middle School and while the fact that a school for children is named after a huge racist and all-around terrible person seems pretty bad, that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that I once went to middle school.
I don’t remember much about what they taught us about Jackson. I think the teachers just said “Old Hickory” a lot and when we got to the Trail of Tears they were required to say “Yes, this was really bad for the Native Americans, but another way of looking at it is…” and then they just trailed off.
History class is mostly a blur because I was really busy going over my class schedule in my head and mentally plotting my route from classroom to classroom every day for two years. Those five-minute class changes might seem long considering the school was a rather small building, but there were a few portable classrooms outside! And you never could be certain when you might get jostled in the crush of students milling about by the lockers. I never stopped at my locker, of course. That type of luxury was reserved for more leisurely times like when I was the first person to arrive each day a half hour before homeroom.
And the class changes weren’t even the worst of it. Far from it. There was this thing called lunch period. And you had to sit at huge tables with other students. But not the wrong students! And the administrators and a few teachers who were probably being punished for something sat at a long table up front, ready to pounce. So confusing! At least the cafeteria always smelled like disgusting bread and there was a bathroom across the courtyard that was adequate for hiding.
Did I mention I was on the basketball team for some reason? WHY DID THE COACH PICK ME? Like 100 kids tried out and I did absolutely nothing to stand out! INTENTIONALLY! I was trying to blend in, coach! Sure, I was excited when the selections were made, but then practice started. AND ALL THE EIGHTH GRADERS ON THE TEAM WERE FREAKING MONSTERS!
First there was Dave* who had ridiculous slicked back hair, but also had a girlfriend or something. He played point guard, which was also my position so he took me under his wing. Just kidding. He ridiculed me pretty much constantly. Except for that time my older brother substitute taught one of his classes and Dave thought he was cool. After that he morphed into my biggest cheerleader for like two days, which made it even worse when he went back to ridiculing me a few days later.
Then there was the really tall kid, Jack*, who wasn’t good at basketball at all, but he was very tall. My friend’s dad said Jack had hands like ping-pong paddles.
We were like, “Is that good or bad?”
He said, “What do you think?”
We were like, “We don’t know, that’s why we asked.”
So, he was like, “Think what happens when a ball hits a ping-pong paddle.”
And then we just gave up because we clearly weren’t getting anywhere.
Anyway, old ping-pong paddle hands, teamed up with Dave at practice one day to hassle me. We were shooting free throws or something and I think Dave was asking me if I had a girlfriend. Jack jumped in and said, “I don’t think Knott has ever had much luck with the ladies.”
YOU THINK, JACK?!?! I WAS FREAKING TWELVE YEARS OLD! THE WHOLE LUCK WITH LADIES THING DOESN’T START PICKING UP FOR ANOTHER FIFTEEN YEARS! WE CAN’T ALL BE 6'6" OR HAVE SLICKED BACK HAIR!
Also, OMG! WHY WOULD ANYONE PUT THIS PICTURE IN THE YEARBOOK?!? DID THEY WANT ME TO GET BEAT UP?!?
So yeah, the whole basketball career might not have been very successful statistically (my career scoring average was under one point per game), but at least it did wonders for my self-esteem.
Freaking middle school. I’m so glad I got to reminisce thanks to the unexpected reemergence of zombie Andrew Jackson. Oh no. I just thought about the swimming part of P.E. and now all I can smell is urine, chlorine, and pre-adolescent arm pit. Here we go again.
* Names changed to protect the guilty.