Victoria S. Hardy

Victoria S. Hardy

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Those High School Years

Those High School Years

I was reminded of my high school days today when a friend passed away.  I never did well in school, and it wasn’t the grades that pulled me down, it was the much-needed participation that I found hard to deliver.  My grades were good, mostly As and Bs, and then total Fs. 

The hardest part of my life was gym class – I hated, not only due to the clubfoot that made me a bit clumsy, the whole idea of putting 30+ girls in a room together to change clothes.  I was chubby, and already picked on, and I tried a few times changing clothes in the group, and then in the bathroom so no one could see me.  After about the second week in 7th grade I gave up and would no longer participate.  I usually sat on the bleachers, or stands, or wherever the class was taking place, in my regular clothes and reading a book.  And I did that from 7th grade to 11th and then I discovered I couldn’t graduate high school unless I had changed clothes in front of a hoard of folks and participated in the silliest things. 

I took an F – a failure all those years with no regret.  I would see the cute girls in their tiny bras walking about with small hips, no jiggle, and tiny stringed panties, and then I would look at myself in the mirror.  Why would anyone expect me to change clothes in the same room?  I was smarter than most of them, although I never studied, yet still achieved good grades. 

In my last year of high school I discovered I couldn’t graduate, if I didn’t participate.  Luckily, my mom gave me her credit card to go shopping and I spent most of it on bras and panties that complimented my form.  And finally, I dressed out, standing in the stinking locker room with the others.  I was still heavy, but had thinned out a bit, and I changed clothes and participated. 

My gym teacher, who left the middle school, followed her class to high school, and who I had failed every class under, was still my teacher.  I didn’t bring in doctor notes to explain the clumsiness, and we did well.  She praised my athletic ability, and wondered why I hadn’t worked so hard in all those years in gym class.  I don’t think at the time I could tell her my challenges – I didn’t talk much back then. 

Then came the time in April or May, under Georgia heat, we had to run.  It was a big part of our grade.  With a clubbed foot, and uneven hips, running is not something I do.  Evidently, running that quarter mile on the track was part of my grade, and I had to have the grade to graduate.  I tried three times and couldn’t do it.  Stupid foot, and uneven hips, and with no doctor’s notes or reprieve - my father had quit writing notes for my birth defect in the 4th grade, as he said I must be able to be like the others - I was doomed.

Miss Ward, Maggie Ward, decided we’d do it together.  As the other girls sat on the stands, easily done with their part of the grade and agenda, she set a pace that I could do, and ran beside me.  We did that quarter mile around the track, her encouraging me the whole way, and I finally received an A in gym class.  I had participated for once, but even more, she had seen my unspoken struggles and helped me.  I think of her often. 

Nowadays, I’m still not very athletic, but I do tend to animals, gardens, swim deeply in the lake, and sometimes play a game of badminton with my husband in the grass.  I’m not as athletic as I want to be, but I still hear Ms. Ward encouraging me every time I think I can’t do a thing I know I can do.  Sometimes, we don’t actually know our blessings until they are gone. 

Our friend Buddy, odd, strange, sweet, and picked on a bit in his youth is gone today.  Carol Holland, a teacher who encouraged more than I would have believed is possible, is also gone.  And for Ms. Ward, I hope she is still kicking about and will appreciate how much I love and loved her.

I suppose the truth always comes with some pain.

Truth is painful, it’s challenging, and be it a decision or action made for a child, sibling, student, classmate, stranger, spouse, co-worker, or partner, I believe we should be just and fair, thoughtful and understanding when dealing with people we don’t understand.  I know it’s hard at times, we all have our own filters, but I believe breaking the lens to see deeper is important. 

Ms. Ward didn’t have to be so nice to me, especially while knowing that I needed her help to get my diploma, she also knew I had failed her classes, deliberately, for years.  She could have been offended, but she wasn’t.  She helped me, and she may have bent a rule or two to get me around that track.

I suppose truth like that is heartbreaking - like watching a sunrise.  It’s undergoing pain to experience a birth.   It’s falling in the dirt to be reborn.  It’s surrendering to the knowledge that we don’t have all the answers.

Today, I lost a friend, and I am reminded of those painful teenage years, where the levels of acceptance were clarified in the locker room dressing out for gym, and then I remember the teachers who saw the least of us and lifted us up.  I truly hope my friend experienced the same kindness.  I didn’t know him very well as an adult, but I remember him, and us, as kids.  And we rocked!  Weird, odd, strange, genuine, and mostly unsullied, but a bit scarred, by what was happening around us.

Saturday, June 18, 2016



Tabby glanced at the calendar on the wall, and then out the window at the sun low on the horizon.  “Something’s not right,” she muttered, pulling a beer from the fridge and popping the top.  She stepped into the yard, looking over at the chickens heading to the chicken house for the night, and checked her watch.  “Not right,” she said again, walking to the garden.

The seedlings were just beginning to poke their heads out of the dirt, but she knew there would be no harvest this year.  She had planted the seeds three months ago as her father and grandfather taught her to do on the eve of Good Friday.  Even though the official Good Friday had been removed from the calendar, she kept up with the date as best she could and had decided it was in April. 

She glanced up at the sun again and then down at her watch.  She took a long pull from the bottle, mourning the struggling plants and shaking her head.  “I feel insane,” she whispered.  “Everything has changed.”

She been over it again and again with friends and co-workers, but none of them seemed to remember long summer days when the sun set late, nearly in the northern part of the sky, or the heat.   They said this summer was like all the others, and the media backed up their beliefs.  She watched the plants, silently encouraging them to grow, as she finished the beer. 

Tabby sighed, and turned from the withering garden.  She tossed the bottle in the trash and went to the shed to retrieve the feed for the chickens.  She filled the bowls, refreshed the water, and scattered some feed.  She remembered when the birds would excitedly talk and pick up every seed, but today they didn’t come out of their roosts at all, there was no excited chatter, and there were no eggs to be had. 

She locked the door to keep the chickens free of predators and stepped back in the house as the sun fell below the horizon.  She stepped in her bedroom, pulling a sweater off a shelf and buttoned it as a shiver worked through her body.  She grabbed another beer, remembering days of working late in the yard and garden, and sat on the couch, turning on the TV.  The local news had just started and she dropped the remote beside her. 

“Happy Summer Solstice,” the busty blonde at the news desk wearing a pink halter-top declared with an overly white, nearly fluorescent, smile.  “Today the sun set at 3:56 pm just as usual.  And here are pictures taken all over the world of how the sun lined up perfectly to show things are just as how they have always been.”  There was a slide show of photos from Stonehenge to Manhattanhenge where the sun rises or sets perfectly on the Solstice.  “Today, July 29th is the longest day, we’ve had 8 hours and 3 minutes of sunshine, actually a minute longer than usual.”  She laughed and her breasts bounced, pulling the eye away from her fluorescent mouth.  “The longest day of the year and here are some photos of how people have celebrated.”  Another slide show appeared of the average Americans cooking on grills, picnicking in parks, and wet kids shivering as they played in lakes and oceans. 

The news went to a commercial break and Tabby shook her head.  “This isn’t right,” she said again, walking into the kitchen for another beer.  She leaned her head against the door of the refrigerator listening to the commercials from the other room – “Are your family members acting strange?  Are they saying things have changed?  Are they depressed?  Maybe they just need a change …” Music swelled and the tone of the speaker softened.  “Some studies say up to 30% of Americans are suffering under Fact Rejection Syndrome.  FRS is a debilitating disorder that often ends in mania and death, but Pharmacyde is the cure that can change your suffering family member.  Signs of FRS are disremembering events, times, and holidays.  With Pharmacyde they begin to regain themselves and reality.  The cherry flavored powder, when added to food or beverages, will aid you to get your loved one back on the right path.” 

Tabby pulled her head away from the fridge and then lightly pounded it on the forgiving wall.  She briefly remembered summer nights and fireflies, she remembered planting in the spring and the harvest in the summer, she remembered long hot days, and she knew she had never turned on the heat in July.  She shivered, and pulled her head away from the fridge.  She walked back into the living room, settling on the couch as the news began again, and pulled a blanket over her to halt the shivers.

The newscaster with bright teeth reappeared wearing an even smaller halter-top of the same color, and began casting out numbers.  “3400 hundred people died today, most by suicide, others by murder, and a couple hundred were killed by sharks, alligators, bears, and large cats.”  Another slide show began and was filled with people attacked in water or on land by mammals or cold-blooded creatures.  “And in New Jersey, a woman was killed by a sea turtle,” she continued, as video showed a woman struggling beside a boat as a turtle pulled her down under the water over and over again. 

“What the fuck?”  Tabby cried out, looking over at the aquarium that held a turtle. 

The news went back to a commercial break.  “Are your family members acting strange?  Are they disremembering events and times and seasons?  We’ve set up a 1-800 number to help.  Pharmacyde is the only way to cure those suffering…” 

Tabby thought of what she used to know, how the seasons had changed, and then glanced at the turtle in the aquarium.  She picked up the phone and dialed 1-800-Pharmacyde.