Rites of passage: Hero goes the wrong direction……..



As a sixth-grader I was quite fortunate to have a teacher like Mr. Gunderson. He was progressive, learned, informed, well, just plain smart. One of his favored statements was “if you stop learning, you stop living.” One of his favorite subjects was nature. “The ecosystem is a very delicate balance, if any one item in this system is destroyed, the balance of the entire system can collapse”, he said. These pearls of wisdom became words to live by for me.

In a unit on recycling to lessen human impact on this fragile world, we were asked to present reports along with demonstrations of our knowledge of this subject. I was all too happy to oblige. Granny Pantzke had just shown me how to make a rocking chair sculpture out of an empty beer can. I went home and requested the large cans so I could practice. Now I should probably let you know this was way back in the era of bottles. Cans were a relatively new item in stores everywhere. A can large enough to practice with had to be a big Budweiser can more specifically. I did find a can in the trash though, and went right to work cutting & rolling it the rocking chair form Granny showed me. For a novice beer can sculptor, Granny said my artwork came out pretty good, and it was functional. It actually rocked.

A penchant for writing would help with the oral part of this report. I had that too, even though I was usually so shy I refused to speak. The whole report was good and I knew it. I looked forward to giving a great presentation and sharing my beer can technique with my classmates.

Having enough confidence in the subject at hand, I aced this baby. The whole class was dead silent as I explained the process, but they seemed interested and happy.

Within a few weeks I noticed I was being asked to participate in some of the so-called cool-kids groups. I was being invited to slumber parties more. The class bully left me alone, and the class genius asked me to be his girlfriend (I was too shy to say yes).

I stuck with my original friends. Science classes went on. One day a few weeks later, several kids were missing from class, and we all found out they had been suspended for having a beer party. The class genius was the brains behind the party. I missed out, but made up for the drinking later on when I could but did not get away with it.

Now I realize there were a few people who thought I had some kind of underground access to beer, thus my instantaneous popularity. I did not. And I do not recommend any sixth-grade attempts at this report unless you have the same Mr. Gunderson as a teacher.

by Jill Johnson
Copyright 2012 Jill Annette Johnson. All Rights Reserved