What if this had all happened in my day? Part Two: March 1988-Ninth Grade
So, after I had so much fun writing part one, I decided to keep going. I don’t know that every year will be as dramatic or pivotal as that eighth grade one turned out to be, but I think that’s part of the fun for me. Going through old journals and albums and yearbooks is even more fun when it’s for work!
So again, I hope that this finds you and yours safe and healthy and staying at home. We’ve been in our house over a month now.
For the purposes of this series, I’m going to examine my journals and albums and memory banks beginning on the first of March of the specific year in question. I will begin the examination as though it ran parallel in time to what our experience has been, so “stay at home” begins on March 13 and assumes that the remainder of the school year is cancelled. For each year, I’ll give a summary of what was happening in my life and then I’ll discuss what might have been different had this pandemic happened then. I will also look into the months to come and summer and postulate a bit.
Ninth Grade: March, 1988
To that point, I’d had a good first year of high school. I’d made the honor roll all year, I’d made a lot of new friends, earned my first varsity letter on the swim team, made the advanced choir, had a part in the fall play (THE CRUCIBLE) and CABARET, my first high school musical, in which I had a supporting part with a solo, a ton of stage time and some very cool dance numbers, was about to open.
I recently watched CABARET and was really impressed with the look and feel of the show and choreography, but also equally impressed with how much we got away with! It was fun to see again, although I still had no business trying to solo on “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” you know, since I’m not a tenor, but I digress. The show was fun and figures prominently in my memories of that year.
I had just started dating a really wonderful young woman on the first of March. We’d become very good friends in the preceding months before she asked me out on Sadie Hawkins Day, February 29 and we started dating March 1. As part of the music program, we were both really looking forward to the band/choir trip to Akren, NY, which is near Niagara Falls.
My sister was in her second year of college in Ohio. My dad was still teaching in the East Brunswick School District and my mother was still running the ECHO program in Trenton, which ran activities for and gave assistance to senior citizens in the area.
So, if the world had shut down on March 13, 1987,
how would my life have changed?
Well, it would have changed a decent amount, I think. CABARET would have been cancelled, the band trip to NY would have been cancelled, all of the Spring Concerts and sports as well. The Spring One Act plays in May would have been cancelled as well, although in early March they were not yet on my radar as something I was going to do.
Two fun fact about those one acts:
So, all of those events would have been cancelled. That would have been a lot of fun missed, especially CABARET. That show might have been, for me, about the purest fun I had in a show in my four years at HHS.
My relationship with the young lady would only have been thirteen days old when the stay-at-home stuff began. Even without the shadow a pandemic, we talked on the phone a lot, so we would have had that. I didn’t have a phone in my room yet: I was set to get one in June, if I maintained honor roll grades all year, so it still would have been stretching the long cord from the rotary phone down the stairs into the basement in order to have any level of privacy. That privacy would have been a lot harder to come by with my sister likely home from college (missing out on one of her earliest journalistic efforts covering her college’s Division III Men’s Basketball National Championship. Another fun fact: the MVP of that tournament/Division III National Player of the year, from her school, went on to play minor league baseball and was replaced in the outfield by one Michael Jordan during his brief foray into baseball).
I was an impulsive fourteen-year-old in those days and I had a bike that I rode everywhere. (Ten speeds!) I have a hard time thinking that I wouldn’t have ridden over to see friends and my girlfriend, at least from the sidewalk. I think my father and my sister would have largely kept to themselves. Being locked down would have been harder for my mother and I, as extroverts. I don’t know if I would have ridden all over to see people or not, nor do I know how much freedom I might have had to do so. I’m not sure if my parents would have been super strict or if they’d want me to get out and, as Gramma Kugs used to say, “run the stink off.” I just don’t know, but I have a hard time thinking I wouldn’t have pushed the envelope as I was very young, very impulsive, very engaged with my friends, excited about my new romance, and still very much a little stupid. I was also a developing hypochondriac, so who knows?
Overall, I’m not certain my life would have changed dramatically, except for the awesome experiences missed: the shows missed, the time with new friends, and time with my first official high school girlfriend would have been big losses, but I’d like to think that the relationships would have been sustained.
I think I would have written a LOT more mediocre songs and poetry than I actually already did in that time. Perhaps that is the greatest thing from which the world was saved with this not having occurred in the Spring of 1988.
What about the Summer?
The Summer of 1988 was a strange one. I remember coming home from school on the last day looking forward to summer and a much-needed break from my hard work as a freshman. In retrospect, I had actually worked really hard that year. I’d really had to work at math and science to get my grades up. I scored well enough in science to move into honors biology as a sophomore, which had been a goal of mine. I’d wanted to earn a varsity letter and I had. I’d made honor roll all year so my own personal rotary phone was waiting for me in my room. I had big goal for the summer swim season, primarily beating the kid from WWP who had touched me out for first place in the breaststroke championship race the previous summer. I’d had a slow burn for him all year, so I was looking forward to swim practice kicking off. I had a small part, with lines even, in the summer production of OKLAHOMA at OAT, so that was on the horizon too.
As I walked in the door, tossing my bag on the couch, planning to spend the remains of the day reading through my yearbook, which I’d waited to do until the year was over, and listen to Living Colour’s “Vivid,” I was greeted by my mother.
“Turn around, I’m taking you to your new summer job.”
She drove me to the historic Cranbury Inn, where I was the latest in a revolving door of fourteen-year-old dishwashers. I made it through the whole summer and actually had a pretty interesting experience, which I wrote about on the old blog. The days ahead would be filled with swim practice in the morning, work the rest of the day and then show rehearsal in the evenings. My plans for a summer of leisure were over before they began.
But, as I pore through my journals, it was a pretty fine summer. The show was good; I won my age group race in the championship meet despite almost missing the race because I’d fallen asleep in the marshalling area; I’d made some real money, as opposed to what I had been making mowing lawns the previous years. It was a real “getting tossed into the deep end” sort of moment with the restaurant industry and I think I can say with confidence that that aspect of this all worked out.
In addition, I had made several friends who had their own cars, which really opened up the opportunity for me to have my first real taste of social freedom. Instead of needing to have my parents take me everywhere, or bum rides from my sister and her friends, I had my own friends to coordinate travel with. The journal is full of evenings where my friends and I went and did something after rehearsal or got together on the weekends, completely independent from my family. I remember really embracing that sense of independence and enjoying the old “Tell you parents you’re going to the movies but really driving down to Seaside” routine, which we did a few times that summer. That was a real first taste of that type of social life for me and I loved it. It would wane a bit in the coming years until I had my own car and driver’s license, but that first taste of freedom that summer was exquisite.
Would any of that have happened if the shutdown had continued into the summer? I’m not sure. I would have missed many of the experiences I had but much of my journals from the summer of 1988 is about friends and relationships. I’d like to think that those would have continued, even if we were shut down from hanging out together.
So, in the end, I think there would have been some losses had this happened in 1988, but in very different ways than had it occurred in 1987. Assuming 1987 happened as it actually did; I think many of the people I would have connected with during a 1988 version of lockdown would have still been in my life. I’d like to think we would have made it through together. And, I have a suspicion I’d have found my way into the restaurant industry at some point. And I wouldn’t have had to clean that grease trap at the Cranbury Inn.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back with part three, 1989: tenth grade, whenever I get around to writing it. I journaled a lot more that year, so this should be thoroughly embarrassing for me to research. Stay tuned and stay safe!