On Being a 6th Grader, a Big Brother, and Having a Pregnant Wife

I hit sixth grade in the fall of ’86.  We traded in our striped van for a silver one that year.  It had back seat air conditioning and a greased side door that I could open and slide in one smooth motion.  Dad pulled up to the school, made sure my hair was in place and that Jean had her homework.  Then he looked at Jake, who was in second grade that year.  “Stick your tongue out,” he said.  Jake winced and stuck his tongue out.  Dad took his thumb, wet it on Jake’s tongue, and cleaned all the dirt spots off Jake’s face.  “Ok, kids,” he announced, “have a good day at school!” and I threw open the side door, waited for Jean and Jake to slide across the bench seat and out of the van, and hurried to shut the door.

I loved the sound of the side door opening; I could even open the door when the van was downhill.

Just before I got the door shut, dad said it.  “Jim, make sure you let your brother play with you.”  The door shut, but I heard him.  And sighed.

“Jake, you have to walk four steps behind me because you’re in 2nd grade and I’m in 6th.  Don’t talk to me if you see me during the day.  I only have to play with you after school.  That’s what dad meant.”

I reminded him about the four steps behind rule on a daily basis, but he still forgot. And had to be punished for it.

Being a sixth grader at Topeka Drive Elementary meant you ruled the school.  No kids were older than you, you had either Mr. or Mrs. Grofsky, and knew both Willie the janitor and Sue the lunch lady on a first name basis.  Sue might even know your name if you were lucky/cool enough to work the milk line at recess.

And if you were the third best kickballer, eighth best dodgeballer in your class, and almost nominated for class vice-president, well, people knew you. 

I walked into the school.  I saw Robbie.  I turned, saw Jake walking too close, and pushed him back.  Robbie laughed and I went over to talk to him.

At recess, the milk lines were long.  The price of chocolate milk had just dropped to a quarter, matching the price of 2%, and business was booming. 

Kid after kid came up, dropped his quarter on my counter, and said, “Chocolate, please.”  I took quarter after quarter and gave carton after carton.  After about five minutes, Jake walked up and said, “Chocolate, please.”

“Jake, I told you not to talk to me during school, you’ll have to get in the other line.”

“But Jimmy,” he said, “I couldn’t see which line you were working from the back of the line, if you don’t sell me a chocolate milk and I have to wait in the other line, I won’t get to play four-square before recess is over.”

“Sorry Jake, but rules are rules.”  He walked away without his milk.

1986 was a good year. You can tell by the in-style couch fabric.

On the after school playground, I had to play with Jake.  Some days, he didn’t come up and ask to play with me and my friends and on those days, we’d play kickball.  As soon as he’d walk up to me and ask to play, we switched to dodgeball.  Jake and I were always on different teams and I threw so hard that my glasses would fall off.  We were technically not supposed to aim for the head, but Jake was so small and had that patented Gutzman head, it was hard to hit anything else.

On the day I refused to sell him milk, he walked right by our game to play on the jungle gym.  He was dirty again and Robbie and I pointed and laughed at him. 

He played with a couple of third graders and a fifth grader.  I looked over every so often to see him on the monkey bars or playing hopscotch. 

It was my turn to kick and I thought that I’d try to hit Jake with the ball.  He was far, but I had a strong leg.  I gauged the distance.  Just as the pitcher was ready to pitch, I saw the fifth grader go up and knock Jake off the monkey bars and onto the hard ground.

I ran right by the kickball toward Jake.  He was crying.  I picked him up.  His knee was scraped, but he was ok.

I threw the offender against the chainlink fence, yelling, “That’s my brother!”  The fifth grader grabbed my glasses, threw them, and then punched me in the stomach.  I doubled over, coughing.

The fifth grader was laughing at both of us.  Until Robbie walked up.  Just a glare from Robbie and the fifth grader went running.

Robbie walked over.  My glasses were scratched and Jake was sort of crying.  “It’s ok,” he said, “she’s the second biggest girl in 5th grade.”

We all went to the doctor on Thursday.  I told Kris about my day in court.  She told me about Zach’s new trick (Zach can put an entire Cheerio in his nose).  Zach told us about his love of milk.  And the new baby told everybody that he/she has a strong and fast heartbeat:  165.

Zach can’t wait to be a big brother.

About Jimmy

The stories herein are about a sentimental 80s child who cried at every showing of ET (the sad part where he was lying in the wash) and his families, then and now. His wife, son, parents, and siblings play their parts well. They have their exits and their entrances. Sometimes their exits are sad, but not as sad as ET.
This entry was posted in Elementary School and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to On Being a 6th Grader, a Big Brother, and Having a Pregnant Wife

  1. inkline says:

    I’m glad the meanest part of that story isn’t quite true!
    Zach’s little brother/sister will only have to walk one step behind him, or half, if they’re home schooled. 🙂

  2. 1smiles says:

    I hated Dodgeball.. I got hit square in the face once. Ahhh the memories!

  3. Dianna says:

    Aw….congrats on the new baby! Zach’s going to be a wonderful big brother…just like his dad.

    • Jimmy says:

      Thank you! Zach and the new baby are going to be closer in age than we were and age proximity is what determines the amount of fighting/rivalry. It’s going to be fun!

  4. Dor says:

    You have the vivid memories and the big heart of a child, which makes for an utterly charming adult and a terrific Dad.

  5. Mom says:

    Lucky for that kid that Jeanne didn’t see what happened. She would have put her down.

  6. Adrienne says:

    Congrats! My favorite part of being a parent has been watching my kids be friends! It’s the best!

  7. Natalie says:

    Congratulations and bestest wishes! Another miracle on the horizon!

  8. societyred says:

    It just gets better and better! Congratulations!
    I had two little brothers to torture when I was young. My favorite kingdom was the back seat of the car. I always got the window seat behind dad (where he couldn’t reach me while driving)…

    • Jimmy says:

      The only thing better than getting the window in the back seat was getting the front seat and not having to share it! I loved being the first one outside and able to call it before any of my siblings got it.

  9. marjulo says:

    Great memories! I wish I could remember my childhood in such detail–but then we would be talking about “the olden days.” I wasn’t a very good big sister, but my sister and I were only 14 months apart. What competition!

    Congratulations on the new little one. Zach will be a great big brother.

  10. Maxi says:

    Wasn’t it great to be a sixth grader … with a walk-behind younger brother? Then you grow up, marry and become “Daddy Diapers” to baby Zach? Ain’t life grand?

    Blessing – Maxi

  11. Thomas Davis says:

    A great story! Childhood! And the cruelty and glories of childhood!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s