Say Hello To Seventh Grade

My daughter has now strolled through the doors of Worthington Middle School as an official seventh-grader, and as to be expected it’s just the latest in a never-ending series of “where has the time gone?” moments.


Wasn’t I just changing Grace’s diaper the other day? Pushing her in a stroller to the nearby park? Hearing her tell me with the utmost conviction, “No, Dad!”? (Wait, that has taken place nearly every day since she first became verbal.) To think I now have a seventh-grade daughter — with a quickly approaching 13th birthday ready to be heralded — makes at least one of the few remaining non-gray hairs at the top of my head give up the ghost.


I’ve got an inkling that this is going to be a memorable school year in many ways. Besides soon becoming a teenager, Grace has dove head-first (literally — she did give us a good scare by smacking her head pretty good the other day in the street. She was under orders to rest through all of the past week) into what should become an ambitious slate of activities. The fall cross country season got underway late last month with a long haul to water-logged Canby, and soon dance and church confirmation classes will be in full swing. There will be piano lessons, too, and while a winter sport may be unlikely at this point, it’s looking golf or perhaps softball is a spring possibility.


Given that Grace will likely have more homework this school year than before, it promises to be a challenging year for her — and, by extension, for her parents, too. (This is all without even considering Zachary, who starts fourth grade today.) And, given that Becca is in the home stretch of wrapping up her master’s degree — Dec. 8, I’m told, is D-Day), that means the first few months of the 2017-2018 school year than will likely be busier than ever for this parent. I’ll probably get some pushback from my wife, but I may try to challenge the unwritten record for Most Times Serving Spaghetti for Dinner in a Week.


No matter what Grace eats for dinner this year (macaroni and cheese is another fine option, right?), seventh grade promises to be monumental on some level. It was for me — in bed the other night, I remembered not just all my seventh-grade teachers but the order of my classes  for that year, too. Why I can remember this sort of thing and not, say, the important details of a story reported in The Globe just a couple of days before is, well, probably, the fault of either Mrs. Elem, Miss Bianchi or both.


Mrs. Elem, my seventh-grade art teacher, was a ringer for the German actress Elke Sommer. I could barely draw a straight line, never mind paint anything conceptually interesting on any level, but Mrs. Elem didn’t seem to mind. Actually, maybe she did, but it didn’t matter, because Mrs. Elem was nice and very, very pleasant to look at. And as for Miss Bianchi, my Spanish teacher, she wasn’t the bombshell that Mrs. Elem was, but she was young and pretty and smelled good. I had a 100 percent average in all four quarters of seventh-grade Spanish. If the 1979-era Miss Bianchi was around today in Worthington, all English-speaking boys would be effortlessly bilingual (instead of simply being able to utter a handful of words from “Despacito.”)


Seventh grade was the year Mr. Coye took us the Casino Museum, and the State Capitol in Albany, for social studies. It was the first of six years of Mr. Vredenburg, choir teacher extraordinaire. There was reading class with Mr. Spira, who also led a bowling club after school one day per week. And science with Mr. Kish, and math with Mrs. Jackson, and gym with Mr. Iuliano. All seventh-grade boys had Industrial Arts, which I dreaded and involved wood shop and metal shop. Girls had home ec; they got to cook! That’s it — blame all those nights of spaghetti on sexist junior high class scheduling 38 years ago.


Thirty-eight years ago. Goodness — what will Grace remember about her seventh-grade experience 38 years from now? I can think of at least one thing: she has her mom for a teacher. Here’s hoping that aspect of the current year will be unforgettable, in a very good way.