I spent my junior and senior years of high school at The Miami Valley School. My graduating class was a tightly knit crew of forty-three, and it used to be the biggest since the school was founded. Some of us have known each other since before kindergarten (the lifers), but I didn't start there until fifth grade. Obviously, with not even a hundred guys in the entire high school, school spirit was not about football. My varsity letter was european football, and that was just fine with me (incidentally, my three letters between two schools spell something appropriate for cow country). Our first homecoming event wasn't until after the turn of the millennium, and the first one I visited wasn't nearly a drunken fiasco where everyone looked inflated. Maybe I need to give it a few more years.
Wait, you thought this page was going to be about family? It is (at least my surrogate one). My nuclear family had long since started a sustained fission reaction. Three were semi-stable, but four made critical mass for us. Whenever a fourth tried to join my brother and my mom, things always got a little too heated. Most kids went home to complain about school. I went to school to complain about home. At OHS I was miserable wherever I went. Returning to MVS I found much-needed sanctuary and support.
My foster family was dysfunctional, too, but saintly by comparison. The faculty made good parents, keeping me disciplined enough to learn, but not so strictly that I was incited to rebel. My manacles were heavy enough at home. My forty-two brothers and sisters were good competition. We pushed each other to be our best. Meanwhile, my blood brother and I were too busy fighting our common enemies to battle on any other fronts.
At the time, I knew MVS was something special. I just didn't know how or why it got that way. The easy assumption was that because it was private and the tuition was high (I could barely get my dad to pay the income tax on the trust fund money left by my great uncle), we could afford to get the best teachers around. The reality was that we had the best teachers because they wanted to teach good students. Counting state and federal money, public schools had more resources than we did, despite having to pay teachers' union salaries. The system defeats capitalism by paying more for crappy education than for a good one, because inside the system it's cool to be an idiot. When I finally understood at the tender age of twenty-five that private school was only expensive because we were already paying for the public system at the same time, I wrote my social science teacher an email about it.
Within my foster family, I was unofficially adopted late senior year. The timing was murphian. At the same time that I should have been preparing to leave the nest, I had finally found a place worth roosting. It's hard to tell now if I fell in love with the Wagners or their daughter first, but I was all the way gone. Within a month, I wasn't even knocking on the front door anymore, just walking right in. In the context of the family metaphor, I guess it might have been a little incestuous, but we never did anything more than hold hands.
Still, she was a tough lesson in loss. You know what they say, better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all. Depending on your perspective, this may seem like a bad place to end a narrative. I think an end makes a good end, personally. In a lot of ways it really did mark the end of my old self. Life outside the nest is a new beginning, for the first time forcing us to really test what we think we believe. How hardened are we during our formative years? I say, never stop learning until you die. Plenty of time then for rigormortis. If you're not satisfied with this end, you can still keep reading. I just think I already told the later stories better than I could summarize them here.
That's it for the main course, maybe there's a little time for dessert.