This week I am sharing some of my favorite excerpts from contributing writers’ work for the Essays on Childhood project. Click here to find out how to join us this year!
Middle school started to show me that football could put a boy at the top of the popularity totem pole. The players always seemed to have the prettiest girls talking to them and they got the most attention around school. That was especially true when game day arrived. The team members always had a tradition of wearing their jerseys at school all throughout that day. The school would be dotted with light blue jerseys bouncing around campus. Everybody got excited for the games, especially if they were playing at home. Those days we didn’t have to ride the school bus home. We could stay after school, watch the game, and have our parents pick us up after the game was over. But when you saw those blue jerseys around campus, they were not being worn by the players.
In a lot of cases, those jerseys were being worn by girls.
We would meet in the parking lot of the Tech Center, a great, sprawling piece of property where most of our parents’ offices were located. Parents and kids who were going and kids who weren’t going and kids who had already been but wanted to say goodbye to their friends all gathered. There was always crying. Kids crying from fear if it was their first year and frustration if their siblings got to go and they didn’t, always last minute dashes to the bathroom, and slightly controlled chaos abounded. Parents yelling out the ever-embarassing, “Don’t forget to change your underwear!” “Brush your teeth!” “Use the bug spray!” “Don’t forget to write!”
When we would spend the night with Mamaw, Shawn and I would sit up late at night and watch “Chiller Theater” on TV. I was always such a big chicken and didn’t want to watch, so I would hide under the covers on the couch. Mamaw would then shoo us into bed and the three of us would giggle and tell stories by the light of an eerie green colored night light.
When I was about ten years old, Papaw renovated the apartment above the detached garage next to the old homestead. The double car garage served as Papaw Charlie’s woodworking shop and my uncle Ted’s garage band’s practice studio. Since Ted was just a teenager when I was young, I always liked to listen to his band rehearse. One Halloween, when I was in the third grade, I remember dressing up in my costume, a character from The Planet of the Apes, and standing in the garage door as the band practiced their rendition of CCR’s “Rolling on the River.” To this day, every time I hear that song I think of standing there in my ape costume, wanting to just listen to the music as long as I could.