Friday, August 19, 2022

Eighteen Years Ago

Eighteen years ago today I taught my first college English class.

It's significant that it was eighteen years ago because in that English 1101 class, virtually all of the students were "traditional" college freshman, in that they were nearly all eighteen years old and just out of high school. So, for them that class was half their lives ago; they were eighteen then – approaching adulthood – and they are 36 now – approaching middle age (with a rapidity that probably sometimes surprises them, if they're experiencing their late 30s like I did.).

For me, however, that English 1101 class in 2004 wasn't even quite a third of my life ago; I was 37 then, and had already spent a decade and a half in the computer training industry before being able to leave that field and move towards what I'd decided I really wanted to do nearly twenty years earlier, teach college-level English.

Next year, in 2023, most of those former students of mine will turn 37, and I will probably post something then about how now the students I had in my first year of teaching are the age I was when I taught them. The student has become the master (or something like that. I wasn't really a "master" when I was their teacher, but I was finally becoming old enough to begin to recognize that fact, which is perhaps the beginning of wisdom.).

Of course, I'll still be older than they are; they may turn 37 next year, but I'll be 56, the age at which…well, an age I've never been before, so I don't know "at which" what. I guess I'll find out. In any case, I'm pretty sure that then I won't be any wiser, despite being nearly two decades older, than they are; probably I never was. They may be approaching the beginning of wisdom, as perhaps I was at their age, but I'm approaching my dotage with a rapidity that sometimes surprises me.

So, anyway…eighteen years ago today I taught my first college English class.

(The picture above was taken eighteen years ago, around the time I started teaching; the picture below, for contrast, is just a couple of months old. I've changed a bit in eighteen years, no?)

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Throwback Thursday: Me and Darren, 1972

It was great being a kid fifty years ago, especially if you had a best friend like Darren to eat Cheerios and get strong with.

This picture shows me and Darren on the driveway of the house I lived in then in Clarkston. (I'm the one on the left, wearing shoes and socks.) If there's a story about that overturned kid-sized wheelbarrow beside us, I don't know what it is; I have no memory of that wheelbarrow. Or of the green plastic ridey-toy visible on the left side of the picture.

I don't remember those things, but this is one of the things I do remember from back then:

Probably around the time this picture was taken, about 1971 or 1972, Cheerios (the breakfast cereal) was running a TV commercial intended to convince kids like me and Darren that eating Cheerios would give you energy and make you strong. It worked. The commercial worked, I mean; I doubt the cereal actually gave you energy and made you strong, at least not nearly as dramatically as the commercial showed it doing to the run-down stick figure character, but Darren and I sure believed it did.

One Saturday afternoon we confirmed this belief by first trying to lift the sofa (whether in my house or Darren's, I don't remember). We couldn't do it – look at us in the picture; we were scrawny little kids! But then we ate a couple of handfuls of Cheerios (whether from my kitchen or Darren's, I don't remember), and then, Shazam!, we could lift the sofa! Cheerios made us strong, just like in the commercial!

The sofa probably wasn't really that heavy to start with, and it took both of us to lift it anyway, but we were convinced that the Cheerios had given us strength we hadn't had before. We didn't talk about whether we had been giving it our all on the pre-Cheerios lift attempt. (I suspect we hadn't, but admitting that–even discussing it–would have been heresy.)

Why two five-year-old kids decided that being able to lift a living room sofa meant they were strong, I can't tell you. Also, why two five-year-old kids who also watched Popeye cartoons were eating Cheerios instead of spinach…well, that one is kind of obvious, isn't it?

I have no idea where Darren is today; after my family moved to Maryland, not too long after this picture was taken, Darren and I stopped being friends. We didn't have a falling out or anything – five-year-old kids don't – we just lived several hundred miles apart, which made it hard to get together and play, you know? And way back then we didn't have e-mail or texting or social media, so when somebody moved away, they were just gone. I wonder if that happens to kids these days: do they lose touch with people when they move, or if you know someone, does technology make that forever? In any case, I would like to know what became of Darren, and I'd love to be able to ask him if he remembers the Cheerios event–and if he remembers it the same way I do.