I blogged a while ago about how I was able to avoid an expulsion from public school by being transferred to a Lutheran school from 5th to 8th grades. I stood out as one of the “charity kids” because I received a grant to go to the school. Every class had 1 to 2 kids who were given this grant due to poverty. Back in the early 70s, it was very easy to tell the poor kids from the better-off kids. It was our clothes.
Nowadays, it’s hard to tell the poor kids from the better-off kids. Many of them wear the same clothes, carry the same phones, and tend to act the same way. It wasn’t like that 40 or 50 years ago. Poor kids were so obviously poor back then and generally wore used clothing or hand-me-downs, nobody had cell phones, and we definitely acted different. The better-off kids usually let us know they were better off.
It took me a while to make friends at that school. Not only was I the new “charity kid,” but I was also just a new kid in 5th grade who didn’t grow up with the other kids from Kindergarten on up. The other kids also somehow found out I had been going through an expulsion from my old school. Some of the reason they talked about was true, but a lot of it was exaggerated. For example, I had accidentally hit a teacher, but the rumor mill had me attacking a teacher. That rumor might’ve given me a respectful reputation in high school, but in 5th grade, it made me a bad kid.
It took me writing a long 70-page story and reading it to the class to get some kids to like me. It also helped that I was a straight “A” student, I very seldom caused trouble, and I finally listened to my dad and avoided fights. There were 3 kids in particular that I made friends with. They were nerds and didn’t quite fit in with the others either. They called themselves “The Eggheads.”
These guys had been looking for a fourth Egghead and I seemed to fit the bill. You see, they each had the brand new Bic 4 colored pens and they needed someone to represent blue. What they did during class was pass around a sheet of paper and each of us would write a sentence and accompany it with an egghead drawing…or stickman drawing for those of you who don’t call them eggheads. It was fun, tolerated by the teacher, and for some reason, it drove some of the other boys crazy that we would do this. They were constantly trying to steal the paper from us because they were convinced we were writing bad things about them.
Eventually, we got smart and developed a code that only we knew. After that, all of our writing was in code. Even if we weren’t writing bad things about those boys before, we sure were now. We also made fun of a few of the girls. Basically, the more we were made fun of, the more we made fun of them. It gave us a secret power to know they were driven crazy because they didn’t know what we were writing about them.
I loved being a part of the Eggheads. It was the first time in my life I belonged to a group. These guys didn’t make fun of my deaf parents like many other kids had in my past. They asked questions about it, but only out of curiosity, not ridicule or disbelief. Also, even though I was younger and smaller than everyone in my class, they didn’t seem to care. This was the first time in my life that my brains were valued more than my athletic ability…which wasn’t much to brag about.
Childhood can be tough on those of us who are different. Other kids can be extremely cruel and if you’re alone, life can suck. By finding this group that accepted me, it actually set the path for me to learn how to be accepted where ever I would be. That included high school, college, the army, and everything afterward. I no longer thought my life sucked, but rather, it became fun and interesting.