My friend Marc Serra posted an eighth-grade class picture from the Paul Revere School, circa 1984-85. The scowl on my face says a lot about the time.
Here I am, first from left in the back, looking like I want to stab someone in the eye:
The photo was snapped maybe a year or so after my brother died. I was gaining weight by the boatload and couldn’t seem to stop. Some of the kids picked on me as a result, though I gave as good (or badly) as I got. Things at home were less than harmonious for the obvious reasons.
This is around the time I was starting to rebel. I grew my hair long and started staying out late, especially when I was with my father, who didn’t keep tabs on me as closely as my mother did. I learned to escape not just in food, but in alcohol and weed.
The school district knew I was an emotional, troubled kid. I started getting extra help in elementary school because of the toll Crohn’s Disease had taken on my young body. It worked at first, but when I went to the Paul Revere School for seventh and eighth grade, the safety was off the gun.
There, kids were divided into three groups: The A group, the B group and the C group. The first was for the kids who consistently got As on their report cards. To the lower groups, they were sort of an elite class. The B group is where most kids were. Then there was my group, the C group, where the kids with bad grades were sent to rot. I think the school was trying to do what was best for students. But the stigma of being on the low end of the student body was damaging all the same.
Call it the unintended consequence.
The C kids were never really encouraged to study their way to the B or A groups. We just got teachers that gave us the bare minimum for work and treated us like troublemakers to be kept in line.
Indeed, the C group was where all the troublemakers were. I was a quieter version of trouble. I mostly hurt myself by dabbling in addictive substances and ignoring the academics. Other kids in my class were always getting into fights and some were already getting arrested. There were some so-called normal kids in the mix who did study their way into the higher groups.
Some of the C kids got picked on a lot, including me, though I also met a lot of great kids along the way.
I remained a slacker in high school and it took a couple years of community college before I found my ability to study hard and advance.
It all worked out for me, and I have no regrets. Those days were what they were, and as I look at this picture, I see kids I remember fondly.
Marc Serra and I bonded over music, including the AC/DC song at the start of this post. All the girls in the row in front of me were kind to me. One of them, Lena Cerundolo (third from left) lost a sibling, too. Several kids were originally from the Roosevelt School in the Point of Pines, and we had essentially grown up together. I hope everyone in the picture is doing well today. I know many of them are, as I’m in touch with them on Facebook.
This picture is like the fourth-grade report card I wrote about recently. It’s a snapshot in time, something I can look at and suddenly remember everything I was going through at that point.
Staring at it in the rear-view mirror, I have no regrets or grudges. History played out as it was meant to, and here we all are.
Thanks for sharing, Marc.