St. Gregory The Great, Williamsville, New York: Kindergarten – ’79-80, 1st Grade – ’80-81, 2nd Grade – ’81-82, 3rd Grade – ’82-83, 4th Grade ’83-84, 5th Grade – ’84-85, 6th Grade -’85-86, 7th Grade – ’86-87, 8th Grade – ’87-88
It may come as a shock to some that from 1979 to 1988, ages 6 to 13, I attended a Catholic school. Where did he go wrong, they ask? Truth is, Catholic school did me well, as it taught me the most simple guideline for living life – do unto other as you would have done unto you. I don’t know that it gets more basic than that. The rest of it, with the commandments and the sins and the guilt, oh the guilt. Yeah, I’ve left that stuff behind (or tried to).
I was not the best student academically, which comes as a shock to some people because I’m often thought of as a bookish info-loving nerd. It’s the glasses, trust me. They add 20 points to the I.Q., easily. I managed to squeak by in most classes, but I got a lot of “progress reports,” which were white slips of paper sent via mail to parents that informed them of sub-par work or behavior. Of course, while I was never a brainiac, I did manage to figure out when the progress reports were going to be sent out, and one year decided to intercept and hide them from my parents. You might be thinking, that’s bad, but it’s smart in an underhanded sort of way. Ah, but you see, I sabotaged my own plan.
See, I either wasn’t smart enough to destroy the progress report, or that damn Catholic guilt subconsciously got the better of me, because I hid them. In the house. My Mom eventually found them, which led to, shall we say, an uncomfortable confrontation which ended with me getting in a shitload of trouble and a tutor, and allowed me to get out of grade school with solid if not spectacular grades.
My musical tastes were pretty mundane at the time, so my only attempt at playing a musical instrument perfectly encapsulated era: the saxophone. I mean, we’re talking Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Glenn Frey, Huey Lewis, etc. But I never got to play, because in order to learn the saxophone, you had to start on the clarinet. I lasted about a month. My school extracurricular activities were limited to a Saturday morning bowling league. I had plenty of stuff outside of school: little league baseball, soccer, roller and ice skating, golf, Cub Scouts and karate.
It’s pretty clear, based on reading through the School Days book my Mom kept of each year, that my interests very early on were writing and being creative. Almost every year there is some notation like “7th Grade – Tim’s teacher Miss Lelanic kept Tim’s essay on the “Mr. Potato Head” because his was so good!” Now, of course, that’s just a Mom being proud of her son, but to be fair if I had a twelve-year old wrote a story called “Mr. Potato Head attacks the Earth, Part II” I’d probably be pretty proud of that sort of creativity, especially considering both my parents are creative types (Dad plays jazz gutiar, Mom paints).
It would be nice to wrap this up with a “what I learned” or “my most fondest memory” of St. Greg’s, but neither seem to really apply. I remember feeling awkward after I got braces, the fear after receiving each one of my three demerits (yes, I still remember the number – the Catholic guilt never subsides), my terror playing dodgeball in gym class.
Awkward. Fear. Terror. Sounds like grade school to me, and I didn’t even have glasses yet.