I took Lily shopping for middle school supplies yesterday. Middle school supplies aren’t the same as elementary school supplies, we quickly learned. We took the school’s list to Fred Meyer, one of Lily’s favorite places on Earth, and went into their special back-to-school area. We grabbed some of the familiar items on the list and put them in our shopping basket — #10 pencils, a protractor (a bad boy stole hers last year in 5th grade so I got to hear that story all over again and then do a little dance to celebrate that after being in the same class with him for the past five years, Lily will no longer have to endure his incurable meanness because he’s going to a different school than her next year), notebook paper, etc. Lily asked if we had to get scissors. Nope. Markers? No, again. Those things are for elementary school kids!
Instead, her list included a Texas Instruments calculator, gardening gloves, and, my personal favorite, deodorant. I could see reality starting to dawn on Lily and for the first time, she asked, “Do we have to take showers at school?”
Well, if that isn’t the sign of before and after, I don’t know what is. There will always be that time before she had to endure the hell of the middle school locker room and the shared showers and the attempting to get dressed in a modest way in a room with lots of other people, some of whom are much more developed than you are. That time before she had to deal with all of that discomfort will always seem kinder and gentler BECAUSE IT WAS.
Lori and I became friends because we were in PE together in 8th grade. We both had the same incredibly cheap “gym shoes” from the Navy Exchange. I think they cost less than $2. Later, as Keds, they would become hip. But, back then — social death.
To top off the horribly cheap white shoes, we wore the most hideous gym uniforms you can imagine. They were one-piece stretchy-material outfits that you had to step into from the neck and pull up. Even while I type this, I can hear you say, “NO WAY! That’s just too hideous.” But, wait. The bottom half — the shorts section — was solid navy blue and was way too form fitting. WAY too form fitting. The top half — the shirt section — began more or less at the waist at a lame piece of elastic, and was navy blue and white striped, with t-shirt-length sleeves. The stretchy collar was navy blue. These uniforms made all of us look at least 10 pounds heavier than we were and made us feel like dirt. Wasn’t it enough that we had greasy hair, acne, and rapidly changing bodies?
The only thing worse than wearing the hideous gym uniforms was taking them off after a humiliating hour of PE. I have so many memories of that locker room, the social pecking order, the different products that girls had that gave away how much more “mature” they were than I was. Thank god Lori was there to make me laugh.
So, when Lily asked if she would have to take showers at school, I told her the truth. “I don’t know,” I said, and changed the subject. I want to put off that reality for her as long as I can. It might just be three weeks, at this point, but it will be a kind and gentle three weeks.