Senior Skip Day was my favorite day of high school.
On the face, this may seem to be no surprise. For many, this would be a statement about how much they did not like high school, or maybe how much they liked to party—or a combination of the two with an inconclusive understanding of causality. On my senior skip day, I missed the party.
I missed all of the parties in high school. I heard about the parties—or overheard about the, on Monday mornings in the open period before home room in the cafeteria or at lunch later that day. I never knew where any of the parties were. I was not included. I could count the number of reasons why, all true and none easy to verify. But being left out opened the door to a great day late one May my last year of high school.
I arrived at school that morning, seeing a street filled with cars, trucks, a boat--vehicles all loaded with beach fun and provisions to aid the festivities. It seems that the only thing I had in common with most of them was that I was armed with a note from my parents excusing me from attendance for most of the school day.
I don't know what most parents thought about writing this excused absence note for their kid. What is it that they thought they were providing their kids? I am sure that some kids knew their parents would not write such a note: no such note to miss school for no good reason, much less for the opportunity to party with lots of alcohol and youngsters of the “opposite” sex, unsupervised by any adults and at a location disclosed only to those who would be driving there via a quickly mimeographed, last-minute map.
I don't remember what mine said. It was respectfully crafted. I don't remember which parent signed it, and actually, was likely dictated by me, crafted so that I would have an excused absence and be eligible to attend baseball practice the next day.
All the seniors attended home room. Not many were dressed in anything that was appropriate for a day of school. Not that it was necessary, either for the day or in a useless attempt to fool teachers or the administration.
Home room let out. There was a mad dash to the waiting cars and vehicles that soon would be pointed to someone's lakeside property, somewhere in Stearns or Benton County in central Minnesota. I walked slowly and empty-handed to the old Buick Estate Wagon that I used to drop mom off at work less than an hour earlier. I got in and made my way to one of the other high schools in town, one of the public schools where my girlfriend Lisa attended.
Missing senior skip was no matter. I did not feel that feeling of being left out-- again. Rather, I did not notice I was being left out. I was also in love.
Calling me smitten would have been an understatement as would any literal description of the heart break that visited both Lisa and me in our youthful helplessness delivered by the hands of highly cultivated, culturally aged intolerance.
I spend Lisa's free period with her in the student commons, having a tender conversation, holding hands and staring into the eyes of the cutest and smartest girl that, to that point in life, ventured onto my radar.
Lisa and I talked and then I walked her to her French class. There, we met her best friend, anther smart girl, and waited for “Madame.”
Madame was Mrs. Anderson. She taught me for two failed years of French as a freshman and sophomore. I was a silly little boy who was a bad student and didn't have enough of a clue about the parts of English speech to apply them to the French version in class.
When I had Madame, she spent a lot of time talking to the girls in the small class. There where four boys and almost a dozen girls. The boys talked amongst ourselves as the beginning of each class was filled with cool, grown-up girl talk.
This day, with Lisa, was different. I had not become one of the girls, but I had become something—someone worth talking to.
Instead of the first part of this class being taken up with the girl talk (and Lisa's class was even more strongly represented by girls than mine had a couple of years before), it was filled with me talking to Madame.
Okay, is there a better way to impress you girlfriend than by taking over a huge chunk of one of her favorite teacher's class time with a conversation that gave me more attention than any silly-boy, ninth grader could ever get? If your girlfriend is one of the smart kids, there really isn't anything better.
I said good-bye to Madame and the cutest, smartest girl in the world and left to meet my dad at his work, which was not far from Lisa's high school.
Dad took off the afternoon from work and we played a round of golf. It was a habit that had lasted, to that point, about a decade during the springs and summers, but rarely on a school or work day. Golf was followed by a late lunch trip to....Burger King.
Burger King was good. It was not a feast of food, but a feast of conversation. Or a feast of having a dad who would take off from the middle of a work day to spend some earnest time with one of his sons.
I remember little of what was said. I remember that we lingered. I am sure dad asked me about my thoughts about the future. I am sure that I evaded some of his questions, ones that were hard enough to think about much less answer. We got our food fast but the conversation was not.
Even though I do not remember many specifics of what was said, I remember one other thing he said, more clearly than anything. He delivered a simple message: I could go out with whomever I wanted.
Seems kind of simple—and kind of odd, but the backdrop of the statement held many more words than the brief sentences he spoke near the end of our talk. Growing up as a black kid in an almost completely white town, it meant that if I was going to have any kind of social life, I was going to date someone who was white— with all the treacheries that come with transgressing the often unspoken and sometimes overtly stated apartheid of that time in history and the cultivated segregation of that subculture. Except to most people who had gotten to know our family, we were at least marginally unwelcome, and the idea that I might date was an offense many degrees to the bad.
I did not know what sense dad had about the unease I was living with—and the fear I felt and the sometimes tacit, sometimes overt hostility that I faced. I did not know if he sensed that it was a current issue in my relationship with Lisa. I did not know if Lisa's father, who worked at the same place as my dad, had said something to my dad about Lisa and me.
I didn't say much in response. He wanted be be sure that I understood what he said. I mumbled an okay, dad. We finished our late lunch and I drove dad back to work so he could clean up his desk before the end of the day.
I was buoyed by two grand conversations. I felt thoroughly adored and respected. I was lovable, smart, attractive and worth more than anything in the world.
That Skip Day was glorious. The next school day, everyone was back at school, talking about the party just as they did every other weekend. There was a discussion among the senior baseball players who held a mock accountability session for what they might, hypothetically, have done that might, hypothetically, transgress Minnesota State High School League Rules.
Even though I did make it to a couple of parties before summer really got underway, I realized that I did not like drinking or teenage drinkers enough to make me come to the conclusion that I had missed something by being excluded.
Not long after, the luster on the mutual infatuation between Lisa and me dulled under the social pressures of the realities of the day. It was not Lisa's father who really objected. It was her mom, who stood in the way, telling me, one evening, “I thought I told you to never call here again.”Neither this, nor anything else dulled my memory of the best day of high school I ever had. I didn't miss anything.