I posted to Facebook that I had been looking for some people from my past, people who may not even remember me now but for some reason their memories have stuck with me through the years. For example, there is a girl named Wendy that I was in elementary school with who was my intellectual rival. Without tooting my own horn, it would not be inaccurate for me to say that I was the most intelligent kid at Fletcher Elementary School in 1976, but Wendy always gave me a run for my money. I remember that she was a quiet girl, that she wore glasses, but little else. I think I remember her last name, but in just googling for her last name I find no one with that last name anywhere. So I may be mistaken, or I may have it misspelled, but anyhow I can't find her.
So part of my search involved going to Google and looking for the Tonawanda High School Class of 1985, to see if they had a list of students who graduated that year. Not only do they not, but the high school is apparently now a junior high, and there are no records of a 1985 class from that school. So I don't know what happened. Maybe all the students were bused to North Tonawanda High School.
I fired up Google Earth and look for the high school, and everything is just as I remembered it. That was kind of cool, going back and seeing the old neighborhood from this perspective. Looking at the computer right now, I can remember getting beat up on one corner by a boy named Kenny. I can remember how to get to the baseball field from my house. I can see my old house, and they have something in the backyard that I don't recognize and cannot see close enough to figure out what it is. There used to be a copse of trees between my house and the high school (the high school was just behind my house) that isn't there now. I remember during the Blizzard of 1977 that my friend and I were able to climb right on top of the high school because the snow was so high, and we jumped off of the roof into the snow. The snow was so high that we were able to climb over the tennis court fences (the tennis courts are still there, but they've been renovated). I can see the exact path that I walked to get home from school (that magically involved cutting through their high school's field and climbing over my back fence).
So looking at these images, I have been having little flashes of memory come back to me. As I said, I remember where I got beat up once. I remember at the high school that there was a classroom that had open windows, and the teacher in that classroom never seems to mind when my friend and I stopped to look in her windows. I can't remember how the teacher looked, but I remember there was a very nice teenager named Jenny in that classroom. I can't remember what she looked like either, and I can't remember her last name, and I can't really remember why I thought she was so nice – although I do recall once drawing for her a picture of a Stegosaurus - but I do remember her because of what somebody did. I think that this was perhaps my first realization that the world was an ugly place. One morning, as I was walking to school, I saw that someone had vandalized the building. I don't remember what else was spray-painted, but the vandal had very clearly written "Jenny (I can't remember her last name) is a slut!" I did not even know what a "slut" was, and I can't remember how I ever found out, but I could tell it was something bad. And when I did find out (really, I wonder who I asked - my teacher? my mom?) my immediate reaction was one of denial and outrage that anyone might have said such a nasty thing about another person. I said that I think this may have been my first realization that the world was ugly, but I think it may also be the first time I recognized my own sense of chivalry. Not that I could have done anything about it, not that I ever said anything to Jenny about it, but within my knight's chest I was ready to defend her.
I know it's silly, some little child's whimsy, but it's who I am. It's who I've always been, this rather chivalrous man. Looking through my 40-years-later lens, I wonder now what Jenny did upset that person so much. I mean, face it, she was singled out in someone's desecration of a building, her name put up publicly for anyone driving down the street to see – this was a pretty nasty thing. Did she sleep with someone's boyfriend? Did she break some poor guy's heart? Who knows.
And so somewhere out there is an almost 60-year-old woman – somebody's grandmother – who once had her name spray-painted on a building with an offensive slur. Does she ever think about that? Did she ever think about what she did to make that person so mad? I know she doesn't remember 8-year-old me. (But wouldn't it be a hoot if she did?)