Allow me to set the scene…
Otter Valley Union High School, Brandon Vermont, 1994-1998.
Otter Valley (OVUHS) is a regional high school in Brandon, Vermont, which served, at the time, approximately 700 students in grades 7 through 12, from five different towns. The school is situated on Route 7 in Brandon and is two solid squares of poured concrete, with a stone driveway.
The best and only way that I am able to describe my high school experience, is to use movie metaphors. If you take Dazed and Confused and throw it in a blender with Dangerous Minds (but only with white kids, it’s VT for god-sakes, the second least diverse state in the country) the final product is OVUHS. Kids smoked pot, teachers grew pot, my friend’s parents sold pot, we even had that hot/creepy guy that was in his late 20’s or early 30’s but was still willing to date high school girls (thank you Matthew McConaughey.) Now add rough and tough kids with severe anger issues, little to no future ambition and nothing to lose. The result is chick fights in front of your locker where one girl bites a chunk out of another girl’s cheek (Mike Tyson style) and spits it on the floor.
And here I am. My freshman year of high school, I made the varsity field hockey team. Don’t let the skirt and bangs fool you, I could bench press more than you weigh, beat you at arm wrestling or leg wrestling and inflict serious injury with my stick. We made it to the state championship game three out of the four years that I played (we won it twice!) I was captain my senior year, and at one point I held two school records (one of which might have been for the most number of red cards awarded.)
Sports were a huge part of my high school persona. I played field hockey and basketball, I earned 8 varsity letters, I was captain of the basketball team both my junior and senior year. I loved the competition, I loved the physical aspect and I loved the camaraderie that I formed with my teammates. In 1998 I was awarded VT Sports Woman of the Year, by our governor. Here is a picture of me with my Mimi and Papa and my Sports Woman medal, which our principal thought would be awesome if I wore to graduation.
I also played sports in college. Being sporty and athletic is something that continues to be an important part of my life. As a parent, I would love nothing more than my daughters to be athletic, but I am aware that the outcome is beyond me. I will encourage them to sign up for soccer, play basketball, and swim, and I will cringe when they talk about dance, tap shoes and the classic, “Hey, Cameron, did you score a goal at basketball today?” But ultimately I will support them in whatever activities they choose.
Living in a small, gossip driven community is not easy for a teenager. I once went into the local store to order a grinder for lunch and was confronted by a group of men who held court in the store during all hours of operation. In town they were known as the ‘Part-Time Loggers’, although I’m not certain they actually ever logged a single tree. The men questioned my performance in the prior evening’s basketball game and questioned whether or not I was still dating that baseball pitcher from our rival school. Yes, I was still dating him, but no, we would not be going to the prom together. At OVUHS only the junior class had a prom. In order to attend the prom you must be invited by a junior. As tom-boyish as I was, I loved getting glammed up for the prom. I attended my freshman, sophomore and junior years.
My junior year I was lucky enough to be crowned Prom Princess in the fabulous OVUHS prom court. I give all the credit to my Mom, who drove me to New York (state not the city) to buy my dress. The only clothing store within a one hour radius of our house was the GAP, and their selection of prom dresses was horrible.
I have wonderful memories of after prom parties and weekends of having loads of fun with my friends. I had a midnight curfew throughout high school, and I never violated it. I also never lied to my parents about where I was going or who I would be with. If I were going to be camping out on blueberry hill and sleeping in the bed of a pickup truck, I always let my parents know. It never seemed worth it to me to tell my parents that I was staying at a friend’s house, because with my luck, my mother would call to try to tell me that Father McShane needed me to serve at the Sunday morning mass, and then the shit would really hit the fan.
If my daughters take away one lesson from my entire high school experience, I hope that it is learning to tell the truth. My parents were not overly strict with me, and because they were reasonable, I found no reason to lie to them about my plans. Every year I attended high school at least one student died in either a car, ATV, or snowmobile accident. Kids in my high school were always driving like crazy to get home before curfew or lying to their parents about where they were. It’s totally not worth it, and besides, does this sweet gawky teenager rocking the modified “Rachel” look like she would be any good at lying?
As rough and redneck as my town was, it was more forgiving and accepting of the social and economic differences that people had; more so than any community I have lived in Connecticut. Growing up I never thought of people as being poor or rich. I never questioned if my friend’s mom worked or stayed home. Almost every mother that I knew worked, if they didn’t work they were either in between jobs, on unemployment, or on disability. Your social status was not decided based on the brand of your jeans, the car you drove, or where you vacationed. The richest people I knew in my community were the least likely to publicly display any of their wealth. Parents were not judged because they sent their children to daycare, and mothers were not questioned if they left their kids with the teenage babysitter while they went out to dinner at the turkey restaurant with their girlfriends. I worry that my daughters will grow up being too concerned about material wealth and success, and I hope to impart on them some of my more reasonable VT impartialness.
If you take any line out of a good country song, I can guarantee you that it has some real world implication to how I was raised. I loved growing up in VT, yet I always felt like I had one foot out the door. My friends in high school would joke about me moving away after college, they would joke with me about being too much of a ‘smarty pants’ to stick around. My friends in CT are always joking me about moving back to VT, the count down to the day when I can finally return to my homeland.
I guess that I don’t really belong here nor there. But one thing I know for sure, my rough and hick town background, coupled with my husband’s street smart up-bringing in New Haven, have combined for a parental dynamic that will benefit our three daughters as we try to maneuver the tumultuous waters that are known as high school in the Farmington Valley.