“Am I ready for this?” I asked myself as I walked in the door for my first day of high school. I had anticipated all summer, but was still a little scared. High school meant I had to start thinking about my future. I was accustomed to living day by day, and not worrying about anything else.
Born with a heart problem, not expected to see my third birthday, and developing Cerebral Palsy, I knew what an amazing feat it was to reach high school. The last day of middle school I went around to anyone who would listen, “I’m going to high school!”
My freshman year started without a hitch. I occasionally had to ask where my next classroom was, but it didn’t take me long to figured out that I belonged.
I wasn’t a model student, and didn’t really care about doing the school work. I was more interested in sports, especially football, and music. And like most teenage boys, I chased the girls. My future was the farthest thing from my mind.
I was a manger for the football team all four years, though if I could have, I would’ve played. I wasn’t worried, nor did I care that I could have gotten hurt, or maybe worse.
Right away, everyone made me feel like I was part of the team. I felt like I was one of them, going into battle every week. I never felt that way more than in my junior year when we played in the league championship.
There wasn’t a better feeling than running behind the team out of the looker room through the lane the cheer-leaders made, and onto our side of the field. I loved the sound of the crowd roaring in my ears along the way, and never wanted it to end.
Along with bowling in a weekend league, I bowled with the high school club. It not only kept me occupied, but also nimble without going to therapy. The first time I broke one hundred, I felt like I was just as good as any other bowler, although I knew I wasn’t.
In school I sang in either the chorus or the choir. Singing in the chorus gave me my first taste of the stage, and it led me to try out for the school musical. I had seen my cousin in one when I was young and wanted to try it.
I went to the audition with butterflies in my stomach, but once it started I was fine. With little singing ability and nonexistent dance moves, I got cast in The Music Man. It was a great experience, and my biggest highlight in school.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I felt more equal when I sang in the choir. Participating was a bigger thrill than watching from the sidelines.
I was almost time to graduate, final exams were over and classes were done. The entire senior class had gathered in the auditorium to find out who the valedictorian was, and who wasn’t going to graduated. I sat there almost expecting my name to be called with the other kids who wouldn’t get to wear a cap and gown. I let out a big sigh of relief when I didn’t hear my name.
The day I’d been waiting for my whole life, because it meant no more school, finally arrived. I walked out with my classmates onto that football field with mixed emotions. Happy to be free from school, but sadness at the realization that this would be the last time I’d be on that field. I had spent so many great times on the sidelines during football season.
Being on that field that day meant so much more to me than going to school or watching football. It was a sense of accomplishment after doing something great, or doing something I thought was out of reach.
The stands were filled with proud parents and family members. Everyone listened intently to the speakers while ominous clouds slowly rolled in. As the speeches went on, drops of rain started to fall. By the time they called out each graduate it was a steady shower. Fortunately we had a relatively small class, and it wasn’t long before it would be over.
I couldn’t have been more proud when I walked up to receive my diploma. The applause of the crowd wasn’t the only sound effect. A flash of lightning and a clap of thunder accompanied the downpour that ensued.
It was the end of an era for both the high school and me. The following year the school merged with two other high schools, while I move on to an uncertain future.
As we rushed off the field it was like the heavens were weeping. For we we were the last class of Swissvale High.