Before I go on, I have a friend who had lost his father today. Certainly, I have been thinking about him and the trouble I imagine he is going through. My deepest condolences to him as he is dealing with this sad time.
Now, onto the story.
During the Persian Gulf War in early 1991, I was a 8-year-old boy in a 2nd grade Special Ed class. The school was Baldwin Elementary in Rochester Hills, Michigan. The particular class had seven students (all male), a teacher and a teachers assistant. Each week, I forget which day, the school’s social worker would come in. During her visit, we would set up a circle of chairs and have a group talk about us special students and their struggles. I forgot that name of this ‘class’ was, so forgive me.
I would fill some days of me complaining about a younger brother who often bothered me. And one day, I cried hard complaining to the social worker and my fellow students about the lack of friends. Special Ed kid problems, eh? The lack of friends is something I’m experiencing now, but I do prefer to have few friends these days. I’m open-minded to having a couple of extra friends but I’ve been quite busy lately with my job and other aspects of life.
When the Persian Gulf War started in January 1991, us Special Ed Kids began to talk about our thoughts of the War in Iraq. We spent that good hour talking about our concerns about the war, much opposed to our troubling lives. The social worker and our teacher were quite impressed with our talk. A few school days later, the teacher put off what we were supposed to be doing and again, we discussed our concerns about the war with the social worker and now the Principal attending too.
This had impressed quite a few people in the staff and shortly later, our teacher informs us that a reporter from the local Rochester, Michigan newspaper will be coming to see us soon. I was happy to hear this because my then 8-year-old self wanted to be famous. And my delusional Special Ed self thought this could be my big break. There are American Soldiers half-way around the world fighting a war and my Special Ed self is thinking about fame. Oy… No wonder why I didn’t have a lot of friends during that time.
Anyways, we get that circle of chairs going and the social worker, teacher, her assistant and us began to talk about our concerns of the war. Now, with the female reporter present. I did not talk very much during this time, instead, when the reporter took photos of us, I would look at the camera and smile. Not looking to us students or the person talking. At the fourth time, the reporter was behind me taking a photo. I looked to the camera, smiled and waved. The teacher wasn’t happy with this and whispered in a stern tone of voice for me to stop. That I did, but I did talk back to her.
Next week, the paper is published and we got to take a look. To my surprise at that time, none of the photos in the article had me in it. I was also upset that my name wasn’t mentioned in it. The article mentioned the “[teachers]’s class” along with the school with none of the students’ names were mentioned. I was upset about the idea that none of the photos had me in there or any mention of me. I can’t remember if I was bitching about this to my teacher or a family member when I came home, but I do remember being pissy about it. Like I said earlier, American Soldiers, including one of my present best friends, were over there dealing with a war. And all I cared about was getting fame.
Of course, I know now why that reporter might not want me in any of those photos. I’m pretty sure she got those photos developed and said to herself while shaking her head, “I’m not including that dork who kept looking at the camera. God damn, what the hell was wrong with him?” Remember, this was 1991, this was a bulky camera with the lightbulb. This wasn’t the digital age.
Don’t blame her or my teacher at the time. I don’t think I would want to be friends with my 8-year-old self.