Saturday, August 1, 2009


My daughter will be starting middle school soon, which made me nostalgic for my middle school days – NOT.

Middle school, which I attended in 8th grade versus 6th for her, was a huge adjustment for me. I came from a country school, where my mama worked, so everyone knew me, and I had no choice but behave because the teachers, lunchroom ladies and custodians didn’t mind telling her if I didn’t.

My new middle school housed over half the county and worked under a modern theory. Instead of closed classrooms, we had open pods. Had I worn my glasses, I could have waved at my friends across the pod. Instead I waved at strangers. You see, since I couldn’t see a lick, and my parents wouldn’t buy me contacts, I ended up saying hello to everyone in the halls as not to appear stuck up. As a result, I made lots of new friends; I just don’t know what they looked like.

Classes were separated by partitions, so I could hear the teacher next to me, who would inevitably be more interesting than mine. I went from two teachers to seven with a rotating schedule. For example, Monday would be classes A-G; Tues. would be G, F, A, B, C, D, E and so one. Despite its drawbacks, my new school had one major thing to offer that my elementary school didn’t – air condition!

Fashion was a big concern for me in middle school. My best friend had parachute pants in ten different colors – ten – just think about it. My mother, sensibly, told me I may have one pair. To my horror, it was a knock-off brand, so they looked a little like Lilly, Herman Munster’s wife’s, cape. But, hey, I wore them proudly, every other day. I also bought some camouflage pants from the Salvation Army. I was determined to be cool.

It was during middle school that I made a big discovery - I, Meredith Leigh Knight, was not gifted with the voice of a canary. I desperately wanted to be in show choir. They sang; they danced; they wore shiny costumes. I really wanted that. But, I had to try out. The days of being selected because my mama worked at the school were over. So, I practiced my song – “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” day in, day out. (My poor parents!)

Mother politely told me that the judges were probably looking for someone with a lot of personality, so I needed to smile while I sang. Heeding her advice, I practiced singing loudly with a smile on my face in the bathroom mirror. For weeks. Did I mention we only had one bathroom? (Again, my poor parents!)

So, the big audition day came, and my name was called. I went back ready to dazzle the judges with my bright smile (having just had my braces removed), only to find a curtain. I would be singing behind a curtain. I was being judged solely on my voice. I was so rattled that my “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” sounded weaker than ever (Think American Idol rejects). But I had a smile on my face, even if no one could see it.

Fortunately, my daughter is blessed with a beautiful voice. I have no idea if she’ll ever want to join show choir, but I do hope she can keep a smile on her face no matter what obstacles middle school presents. If not, I can always cheer her up with my rendition of "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." After all, it's hard to feel down with Mr. Bluebird on your shoulder.

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