I've been thinking about my high school days a lot lately, mostly because I'm doing an year (well, an academic year)-long project about one of the high schools I cover. Andrew Lloyd Weber's Really Useful Production Group has selected one of the high schools in my coverage area to be among the first to do an amateur production of Phantom of the Opera. In exchange for free royalties, they have to hand over all their production notes, costume sketches, etc, so that future high schools can see exactly how to pull off the whole falling chandelier thing.
This high school was a good choice, actually. We cover the crap out of community/high school theater around here, and... Well, let's just say that sometimes...? It's better than poking yourself in the eye with a stick? But not by much. I'm following the kids from auditions to final curtain call, and let me tell you something. They sooo do not suck. It is not painful- AT.ALL- to listen to the girl who plays Christine hit that high C in "Think of Me." She's awesome. This is a really fun project for me.
I used to listen to the music from Phantom all the time in 1994. It was the soundtrack for many long Saturdays spent set-painting. I have a pretty sensitive sense of smell, actually, and that more than anything has the ability to trigger memories for me. Add those famous Phantom chord processions to the smell of fresh paint and sawdust from a hand saw cutting plywood and KA-BLAM, I'm backstage at HHS wearing sweatpants so coated with paint that they took on the shape of my body. It was good times. And I knew it.
I had more disposable income in high school than I do now, actually. The only real purpose of my job at Isaac's was to earn spending money, and of course- to learn about Very Important Life Lessons about personal responsibility. Well, that and learning how to cook 75 different unusual sandwiches named after birds, and anything I ever wanted to know about gay sex in rural/suburban PA, some of which was rumored to have taken place on the prep tables and in the walk-in refrigerator. Anyway.
People wax nostalgic about the innocence of childhood, but the truth is, it's hard being a little kid sometimes. You have very little control over your day-to-day existence. Don't like your second-grade teacher? Too bad. Want to quit violin lessons? Keep asking for another three years. Someone is mean to you on the bus everyday? Just ignore them. As an adult you can change jobs, pursue the hobbies you like, take the subway if you hate the bus.
One of the things that I've always been able to do fairly easily is appreciate the phase of life I was/am presently in. That doesn't mean I didn't get senioritis or want to wish away junior high, because who didn't? But I don't want to go back there, either. I knew at the time that I would never again have the chance to anchor a morning TV show, do independent scientific research at a local lab, play classical music, and go to pool parties with my friends- all on the same day. It was good. And I knew it.
But I still can remember camping with my family as a small child. One night in particular, we were camping in Ontario. The night sky was incredibly clear. We sat by the campfire, just the four of us- my parents, Amanda and me. I was still small enough to fit comfortably on my mother's lap. My mom was holding me in her arms, the smell of wood smoke all around, the stars picked out against the dark sky. It was good. And I knew it.
I remember autumn nights at football games with cold hands and thick-cut French fries in warm parchment paper. I can remember my first love's senior prom. I was a freshman, and I felt so lucky to be able to go. I remember doing the chicken dance in a circle with my friends (who make up with majority of the readership here.) Gwen was right across from me, and Kelly was to my left. We were all laughing, and I remember wanting to take a mental picture and freeze the moment. It was good, and I knew it.
I remember taking a road trip with College Roommate Jo to Harrisonburg, VA. She was thinking about transferring to JMU. I didn't want her to transfer, but I was willing to drive her to her audition at a different college, 14 hours away, straight down Route 81 . We sang and ate McDonald's- she almost never ate fast food unless you were going 65 mph down an interstate highway- and took turns behind the wheel. We were almost back in Syracuse when we started laughing so hard that I actually peed my pants. I tried to sit on a pillow so it wouldn't get absorbed into the upholstery. She laughed until she cried and just barely steered us off the exit ramp to the gas station where I threw away the pillow and changed my clothes. There's a photograph of me (no, you can't see it) standing outside the minivan, cheeks pink from laughing, and the air temperature back in upstate New York so cold that steam was rising from my soaked jeans. She bought Pet Odor Remover (sadly, not a joke) while I was in the ladies room. It was good, and I knew it while it was happening.
I remember being in London, when I didn't have a job for the first time since I was 15. All we had to do was take pictures, work in the darkroom, visit Stonehenge, go to free museums, use our Britrail passes, see West End shows for 8 pounds or class credit, take your pick. It was good. And I knew it was good while it was happening.
I remember being in Miami, not loving the drug dealers, scary drivers and giant flying roaches, but loving the feeling of swiping my ID card in the lobby of the Hiami Merald, getting on an elevator with Dave Barry, seeing my work on the front page, getting critiques from my editor. I knew I couldn't stay there forever. I needed health insurance, and 80 degrees and sunshine every day got monotonous for this East Coast girl who loves four seasons. There was a lot about the second half of my time there that was good, and I knew it.
It's the same way now. Joel and I get a little bit of a hard time about how much fun with have our friends' kids. There's a lot of - not peer pressue, exactly but... um, pointed commentary? I guess you could say?- about how we should start a family, like, last month. Someone actually said, "If you got pregnant in a month or two, you might not even be showing at the wedding!" Um... Has the Folger's crystals guy secretly switched my birth control with a jelly bracelet from the 80s? What? And the truth is, as much as I adore my friends' kids and proudly display their artwork on the fridge and happily hold their place in line at amusement parks while they play skeeball and willingly change diapers to give a new mama a break, when they leave our apartment? Joel and I have been known to hide under the covers and declare it "silence time" for fifteen minutes. We do want to be parents someday, but I'm not going to deny high-fiving about the fact that we have no one else's butts to wipe except our own right now. I like this child-free, engaged time of planning and traveling and sleeping until noon on weekends. It's so good at the moment, and I know it.
That doesn't mean that I didn't love seeing a friend's one-year-old in footie PJs last weekend and melt a little when he laid his head on my shoulder out of sheer exhaustion. I know there will be sleepless nights and dirty diapers and frustration with teething toddlers. I know I'll miss sleeping until noon the way I currently miss having nothing to do but hang out with my high school friends, wander through Borders on long winter breaks from college and explore London. There will be babies who fit into my arms like I used to fit into my mom's, and that will be good, too. I just know it.