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Surrendering to Motherhood

Jennifer Huffman's Surrendering to Motherhood: Junior high time warp

In 1979 I went to a large junior high in my hometown — one that pretty much fit every public school stereotype of the day.

Overcrowded? Check.

Scant supervision? Check.

Bullies? Check.

Smoking in the bathroom? Check.

Junior high “gangs”? Check.

I had no idea what I was getting into. There I was, Little Jenny, looking more like a fourth-grader than a seventh-grader, stepping into big bad junior high.

What an eye-opener. Some of the boys already had facial hair. Some of the girls already looked and acted like high schoolers, with makeup and platform shoes and attitude to match.

I was mesmerized by them all, especially the clothes. Dittos and Jordache jeans. Pastel-colored satin baseball jackets. Feathered hair. Love’s Baby Soft perfume. Lip Smackers lip gloss, ideally the big stick, root beer flavor. Candies high heels. Gunne Sax dresses.

My hair would not feather back like I wanted it to. I was not allowed to wear perfume or Dittos. And as for a satin baseball jacket—I never had the nerve to ask for such a luxury.

I just gawked, taking mental notes.

There were some definite cliques: The jocks. The smokers. The popular kids. The “tough” girls who wore long tan trench coats and black Mary Jane shoes who waded down hallways in groups, knocking anyone and everyone out of their way. Absolutely terrifying.

At junior high, I learned new words like Maui Wowie, doobie, and roach clip.

Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in elementary school anymore.

Rumors and hot topics would race through the campus. Did that girl steal that trench coat? Was that boy threatening to beat up that other boy after school? Who would make the cheerleading team? What did the guys from KISS really look like under their makeup? Was it true that Rod Stewart used gerbils in an unnatural way?

Some junior high stuff was downright scary. A frenemy decided to sic her boyfriend on me, and he stalked me until I learned how to hide from him at lunch. Oooooh, that boy was mean. I hope he went straight to reform school and Learned His Lesson.

OK, so there were some good memories. A favorite history teacher. Sewing class. Eating the food we made in cooking class. A cool PE teacher. Afternoon school dances in the gym with the windows papered over. Carpooling with neighbors. Square dancing class. KIDDING!

I’m sure us junior high students were no picnic either.

We were mouthy. We didn’t listen. We tried to sneak off campus during lunch (I was too chicken.) Our antics drove an elderly sewing teacher to tears, causing her to leave the classroom. (She returned with a male shop teacher who yelled at us to STOP THIS IMMEDIATELY OR WE WOULD ALL GET DETENTION.)

I’m not completely innocent here. At one point in 7th grade, I totally dumped my best friend. I don’t remember why, but I completely cut her off. In response, she solemnly returned the school picture I’d given her.

I’m sorry friend. If I had the guts I would look her up on Facebook and apologize.

About 20 years ago, I met a man who knew some of these kids later in life. Turns out some of them were going through some heavy stuff. Bad home lives. Divorce. Poverty.

I never knew.

I wish I could go back in time and visit junior high for just one day. Like a Fairy Godmother, I’d tap each one with my magic wand.

Be kind, I’d tell them.

And stop making the sewing teacher cry.

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Surrendering to Motherhood appears every other Monday. Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @NVRHuffman.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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