The feeling was something like counting money. Which I loved to do also. But this wasn’t money.
It was so close to it though that I would count it to remind me of how “rich” I was. It was printed on bigger pieces of paper and it had a golden color and a swirly looped design around the border. The fortieth one had my name hand -written in a calligraphy style and neatly typed above it were the words KNIFE AND FORK CLUB.
Along with the many ribbons from track and field day, these Certificate’s Of Achievement were my badges of honor. They represented a sort of stability for what was a rocky time in my life. When things got rough and I was tempted to not give a fuck. I would hole up in my room, haul out my stash and be relieved by the proof these awards represented. Proof that I had what it took. Proof that I could make it through. Proof that someone else saw it in me too. My self doubt could be crippling and in a way these symbols of my worth served as my crutches, my leg braces and at times my wheelchair.
I had a charmed life at Hallet Elementary through 4th grade. Mrs. Wilson was super cool Kindergarten teacher and Ms. Harris was an awesome 4th grade teacher. I belonged where I was and in hindsight I took a lot of it for granted. I also racked up stacks of these certified symbols of significance.
Going from walking to my neighborhood school in 4th grade to catching a bus across town to an unfamiliar school in 5th grade was traumatic for me. While I think the teachers and staff at this new school did what they could to not intentionally look down at me and the students from my neighborhood, they couldn’t completely hide their contempt.
Imagine feeling like you don’t belong.
That was 5th grade.
I’m not sure how I survived that low point in my life and my education. I refused to go to school so many times my parents took me to a psychiatrist.
I needed reminders that I was OK and that I was going to be OK and my stash helped served that purpose.
We moved across town and I attended Stevens Elementary for 6th grade. It was an old 3 story building where Ms. Dillon taught 6th grade and knew what she had in me. She encouraged me, she challenged me, she didn’t stand for my BS and I believe she truly wanted the best for me.
When I graduated from 6th grade we had an awards ceremony. I added to my stash. One of the certificates was for getting straight A’s and that honor also came with a bonus pair of tickets to get into the pro baseball game for free. One of them was for the reading club. One was for safety patrol. One was for the talent show. One was for participating in this cheesy production of “Oklahoma” - Ha, I forgot all about that. And then there was the certificate for the Knife and Fork Club. Students who helped out in the cafeteria got one of those.
I don’t know whose idea it was to give out so many of these certificates and I don’t care.
They knew what they were doing. 7th grade at Morey Jr. High was coming.
I was ready though.