When the phone rang that summer I was minding my own business, working away on a 20 page paper over Moby Dick and the hero’s journey, or something like that. I get all those papers mixed up in my mind after all these years. Anyway, I was writing…in the zone and I almost didn’t answer the call, but the ID showed Goddess of our school Kathy Merder on the line, and, well, I didn’t have a choice.
Kathy’s one of those women who knows exactly how to get you to do what she wants. She scares the living daylights out of you. When she says jump. You jump. Once she made our meanest, toughest, biggest coach cry. And she wasn’t even trying.
Anyway, so Goddess Kathy was calling.
And I answered.
And she said, “the yearbook teacher from last year is in the hospital having surgery because of the stress of deadlines. Say you’ll take the job.” And I said…well, I better not write that down,
See I’m a newspaper girl. Always have been. Always will be.
Way back when I was 15 and my J-teacher Mrs. Gillespie instilled the importance of news in my soul, I found my calling.
Yearbook was my idea of hell.
All those cheerleaders and preppy boys in pink shirts looking like the cast of Saved by the Bell. No thanks.
This was Kathy. And a couple years before she was the book adviser and I was the paper adviser and we shared a room, and I pretty much decided, once I got over my TERROR of her, she was beyond amazing. Plus I got to know a few of those cheerleaders, and funny thing was, they weren’t really as bad as I thought.
But still. The book was, in my opinion, staffed by a group of beautiful honors conformists who wanted to have fun, eat lunch, and work on Who Wants to be the Most Popular, and thanks but no thanks. Me and my paper kids with their funky hairstyles and crazy clothes were out there changing the world.
And I was working on my Master’s.
AND hel-lo, the past year’s adviser was having surgery because of the stress. I’d seen her earlier, and she she’d SHAVED ALL HER HAIR OFF!. So I’d be crazy to take the job.
I think Kathy had notes because she knew I’d say no. So she threw in the whole, but we’ve got this great kid from Kansas. You know her. Rebecca. She’s going to be editor, and she really wants to make it a journalistic book. You could help her.
I knew Rebecca. And I knew then I was stuck. Yearbook was mine. At least for a year.
That first year I learned a few lessons.
Lessons like those kids I saw as conformists who thought only of making the grade and popularity were actually pretty amazing.
And just like all my other students, they worried about love, suffered heartbreak, laughed at Beavis and Butthead, watched The Real World, listened to music, sought acceptance and self-worth. The loved Hope Floats and City of Angels. They came from broken homes. They knew about prejudice. They knew about death and depression and pregnancy scares.
They were just kids. Like all the other kids. And they were mine.
One year in, I was hooked.
I bet Kathy had this planned a decade ago when she called. I think next Monday I’ll go tell her thank you.

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