I Wonder How My Friends From Sixth Grade Turned Out


I never go to my high school reunions. I graduated early, so the class I ended up in is not the class I started with. But I’ll tell you what I’d really like to attend — my sixth-grade class reunion.

I don’t know what it was about that bunch, but I remember every one of them and think about them often. School boundary lines were redrawn, and we ended up at different junior high schools, but I still wonder what they’re up to and how they turned out.

There were two sets of twins, so they’re easy to remember. Mary Rose and Rose Marie were Italian in the good, old-fashioned Italian way. Their mother was our Girl Scout leader at one point, and I remember making craft project after craft project — all out of pasta. I think I still have a coffee can at their house, covered in dry noodles and awaiting gold spray paint.

The other set of twins were Ricky and Vicky. They were quiet, for sixth-graders, and smart. I lost touch with them until, at age 17, Ricky showed up behind the counter at the neighborhood drug store. He asked me to his high school prom and, that night, told me his dream was to become a pharmacist. Did he chase that dream or did he change his mind? I’ll never know because, pardon the pun, the chemistry wasn’t there for us.

A source of great compassion for me was Donald. He was an awkward kid who had been in my class since second grade. He was skinny and jittery and, at age 7, had had the awful luck of standing next to a Milk Dud out on the playground. No one knew whose Milk Dud it was or how it got there, but when it was noticed down there, next to his shoe, a whoop and a cry went up that it wasn’t a Milk Dud at all, if you get my drift. Donald was so rattled he didn’t deny it, and that became his defining moment, poor kid. I wonder if he ever lived it down.

At the other end of the spectrum was Peggy. Peggy was self-assured and outgoing. She had nice clothes and good hair and knew the answer to every question the teacher asked. Her only downfall was that even the boys liked her. This concerned us other girls, and we found ourselves in awe of her rather than being a true friend to her. She wanted to become a lawyer, and I am sure she did.

George and Sandy, however, were the big romantic story of sixth grade. They were from Latin America and had all the fire and verve for which Latinos are known. George and Sandy were perennially tan while the rest of us were quite white (especially in Wisconsin in winter), and Sandy had “developed early.” She and George traversed the halls of Lancaster Elementary School like Danny and Sandy from Grease. Did they eventually get married? Have kids? Or merely hand-jive off into the sunset?

I suppose I could Google all these people, but it seems like such an invasion of privacy. And I kind of like remembering them as they were, before the responsibilities of life set in, when the possibilities were still, well, endless.