​I’m As Free As A Bird…

Pam Pollock
June 2019

It’s hard to believe but in a few short weeks, I will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of my graduation from high school. And trust me, I have been celebrating that graduation every day for the past 40 years.

Our senior class “theme” song was, ironically, “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. That’s exactly how I felt as I walked out of that $*&^%@! school on my graduation day. “I am free as a bird now…”

I HATED my high school years. I came from the boonies – my elementary/middle school was surrounded by corn fields. When I turned 14 years old and entered ninth grade, we were bussed about 25 miles up the road to what I then considered a “big city”. Looking back, Franklin was really just a small town but at the time, I thought everyone who lived there was super rich and uber sophisticated.

To say that I never fit in would be an understatement. I was this short, extremely underweight little nerd. I had no coordination. I didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs. The only time that I dared to skip class was in my senior year and my English teacher caught me out in the hallway. I was such a book-loving, play-by-the-rules student that he just waved at me and kept on walking. I lived in fear for two days that I would be called to the principal’s office and be suspended but nothing ever happened. I guess that teacher just thought it was about time that I did something every normal student did… go figure.

Don’t get me wrong, I had friends and I still keep in touch with some of them and get together with them and reminisce over dinner. And I have reconnected with many others in the last few years on social media. I am still in contact with some of my teachers from my middle school years as well.

I attended two or three high school reunions since graduating. I noticed that the cliques were alive and well, after all of these years. Most of us little “Victory School” people were clustered in one section. I didn’t remember most of the people and I am sure that they didn’t remember me. At the last reunion I attended, which I believe was our 20th, a girl rushed back to our table to inform me – and everyone seated at our table – that another Victory girl was talking smack about me in the bathroom. “She said that you look just like Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch and that you were always our English teacher’s pet!” People gasped and swiveled their heads to gauge my reaction. I admit it – I was pretty mad. My cousin was sitting at the table and asked me, “Do you want me to go in there and kick her a$$?!” And my cousin could do that – heck, she did do that to a lot of people all through school and was definitely my protector. I pondered on my reply longer than I should have and then I said, “Guys! We are 38 years old! We’re adults! No, you can’t go in there and kick her a$$!’ (But secretly, yeah, I wanted her to do exactly that!” “And yes, I was the English teacher’s pet and yes my hairstyle in kind of like 1970s Carol Brady…”

I was still stewing on the drive home and I angrily told my husband, “I am NEVER going to another *^[email protected]#$% high school reunion again!” Except, I did attend HIS 40th high school reunion three years. He went to a different school than I did, and I discovered that the Mean Girls at his school were like 75% worse than the ones at my school. In my old age I have decided to just speak my mind and I called the nasty people some really, really bad names and said what I thought of all of them. I was pretty embarrassed over my meltdown – but my husband and a couple of his friends thought it was the funniest and truest thing that they had ever heard.

So, will I be attending my 40th reunion? Nope, no way, no how. If I could go back in time, I would tell a couple of my high school teachers this:

“Mrs. Heckathorn, thanks for being a great teacher who worked with me to get me through math and science. You knew these were not my strong subjects, but you took the time and effort to explain everything to me and the other students.”

“Miss Muse, I am so sorry that I tried to get out of typing class and when you refused, that I spend 8 weeks not doing any of my assignments and instead kept typing up your Last Will and Testament over and over. You gasped when you looked over my shoulder and read it, but you never said a word. And when I realized that my efforts to get out of your class were futile, I had to crank out 8 weeks of assignments in 1 week because failing a class was not an option for me. The irony is not lost on me that my career relies on being efficient in typing. Thank-you.”

“Mrs. Jenkins, I sucked in your home-ec classes and told you that my future husband would not care if I had tunnels in my biscuits. I was right. And guess what, I still suck at anything cooking and he does 97% of the cooking.”

To the principal, “I am still extremely bitter that I graduated high school with a 3.85 grade point average, but you refused to allow me in the Honor Society because one 9-week grading period I had an extra study hall. You were a jerk.”

“If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?”

Guess what, I don’t care if you do…

“Cause I'm as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change”