I, of course, was in seventh grade myself once upon a time (1956-57), and as I look at this school photograph now, I wonder what my Seventh Grade Self would have thought of Joyce--and, of course, what Joyce would have thought of that same Seventh Grade Self. Here's my school picture from that year.
We had just recently moved from Enid, Okla., to Hiram, Ohio--perhaps a month or so before this picture was taken. I was on the cusp of turning 12 (November 11), and I still have that look of Dorky Oklahoma Kid about me. Toothless smile. Jug ears. Splendid haircut. Fashionable T-shirt. There was not a letter of the word maturity that applied to me. I was "all boy"—loving sports, running around in the woods after school playing Robin Hood, annoying my brothers (one older, one younger), perplexing my parents, playing with our dog (Sooner), doing as little homework as possible.
I didn't even really know what homework was when I hit seventh grade. We'd never really had any back at Adams Elementary School in Enid. So, I figured, if I don't know what it is, then I can't really do it, can I? My grades in seventh grade were not impressive. Here are my final yearly averages for seventh grade:
- English: C
- Phys Ed: A
- Arithmetic: C+
- Geography: B
- Gen Science: C
- Art: B- (now this was a gift: I have no art ability)
- Music: S
Joyce's seventh grade story was somewhat different. She was all A's all the time--from Kindergarten through Ph.D. She did unthinkable things--like study. Even on a Friday night--even on a Saturday! She turned in work on time, put fancy covers on her reports ...
I remember two reports I did for Geography class that year--one on Honduras, another on Ecuador. Both bore an astonishing similarity (diction and punctuation and, well, in every way, really) to the articles "Honduras" and "Ecuador" in the World Book Encyclopedia--my generation's Wikipedia. I also remember that I threw up one day in Geography--right onto the feet of an Ohio girl who'd caught my attention. Best thing about it? I got to go home for the rest of the day.
The Ohio Girl Who'd Caught My Attention did not look like the Joyce you see pictured above. My Seventh Grade Self was really incapable of seeing what's important.
Joyce would not have been the slightest bit interested in me in seventh grade. (A boy who never studies! What is that about?!?!) And vice-versa. So it's fortunate that we did not meet until the summer of 1969. She'd just graduated from Wittenberg (summa, of course); I had just finished my third year of teaching--believe it or not--seventh graders in Aurora, Ohio. I'd begun working on my master's degree (I'd taken only one course the previous fall--American Literary Realism--an A, if you want to know!), and Joyce, who was spending the summer in her Akron hometown (her mom was dealing with skin cancer), had decided to take a course at Kent--just to have something intellectual to do for the summer.
We ended up in the same class--American Transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau, and their BFFs). And at long, long, long last, I was ready ... or, at least, I thought I was. There were many more lessons to learn ...