7th Grade

It should have been a banner year, a year of achievement in a young life.

babysitters 1963-64

Van in uniform, on the right. Age 12.

It went mostly unnoticed.

It came up a few days ago when a classmate posted a photo of my YWCA Babysitter Certification class from 1964.

It was from the local newspaper, to which my family subscribed, but no one took note of it; I’d never seen it before.

This was the year my mother was caring for a baby of 11 months, and a newborn. These 2 babies, and their slightly older brother, aged 3, changed the course of my life as I took on far more responsibility for their upbringing than was natural.

It was the year that I went to the head of my class, representing my school in a Dianastate Spelling Bee. My prize was a Kodak Instamatic, the first of many cameras, setting up my lifelong role as   family photographer.

It was the year I performed a piano solo in concert, and cut my bangs to look a bit more like Diana Ross, whose persona I recreated in a lip sync group that performed favorites from the Supremes.

It was the year I set up financial independence, opened my first bank savings account, bought my own clothing, took on regular babysitting jobs to finance my adolescent expenses.

I took leadership roles in school, church and Girl Scouts. I attended my first boy/girl dance, developed my first real crush, watched my friends blossom into young women, prayed that I’d soon reach that coveted 100 pounds.

This is not meant to be a sad post. I don’t regret the circumstances that forced me to develop my independence; they did me a favor.

Thanks to my friend Mark Bialczak, whose post earlier today inspired this one.


This entry was posted in Childhood, Education, Family and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to 7th Grade

  1. Erika Kind says:

    That really is amazing how you were standing on your own feet so quickly. I love that Diana Ross hair dress. Do you have a photo?

  2. lbeth1950 says:

    I well remember my seventh grade. This was a wonderful story.

  3. What an amazing year of growth and budding independence. Lots in there about exploring who you would become. I love these posts that show how amazingly resilient kids are. Thanks for sharing, Van.

  4. George says:

    I remember seventh grade..Catholic School. I didn’t think it was that long ago, but I guess it was….:)

  5. amommasview says:

    Wow. You had to “grow up” fast. Not a bad thing in a way. Good on you. And I agree with Erika: Is there a picture?

  6. Growing up fast could have it’s benefits.

  7. I so hated seventh grade – first year of junior high (as we called it then). Absolute hell for a shy, nerdy chick like me. Sounds like your year might have gone a little better than mine.

    (It’s funny how those old pictures and newspaper photos manage to come back, isn’t it?)

    • My real trials came when I transferred to public school for just one year, in 9th grade. It was hard to blend in as the new kid, especially at such a vulnerable age. Thanks, CM and oh…those photos do pop up ! ☺

  8. Jay says:

    Wow, you were busy! And that’s an impressive list of accomplishments. I really want to high five your 7th grade self.

  9. I knew you were made of strong stuff Van. Love the raw honesty in this post. ❤
    Diana xo

  10. One of the things I enjoy most about your writing is how frank and how emotionally evocative it is. I also find your writing very relatable because it is so open and honest.

    I could identify with a lot of what you have written here. I am the middle child with much older brothers and much younger little siblings. Therefore, when I was wee, my brothers’ teenage behavior and other issues swallowed up all parental attention and I had to develop some independence skills. I found I liked the feeling of being capable so I actively sought out opportunities to learn how to do things for myself. I, therefore, became the capable one who needed less and so that perception became the parent-child dynamic. By the time my youngest siblings arrived, when I was in my mid-teens, I was basically fending for myself other than not paying rent to my parents. Indeed, I ran the entire household for a week and cared for my sisters when my mother was in hospital. There are times when I feel a flush of resentment over having grown up so quickly but the adult me also appreciates how prepared for life I was because I had those skills and the ability to be completely self-reliant.

    • I understand that feeling, Laura, my mother had mental/emotional challenges that left us older siblings to step in way before we were ready. When I left home for college, it was like I was abandoning my own children. One thing it did was delay my own interest in motherhood…I felt like…been there, done that ! I was in my 30’s when I reconciled that conflict, and had 2 babies of my own..who allowed me to experience some of that childhood that I lost years ago. Thanks for sharing. ❤️ It’s nice to know we are not alone.

  11. Melanie says:

    I was 12 when I got my babysitting certification too. 🙂 Do they even do that anymore? Would anyone even let a 12 year old babysit these days?

    • I’m not sure about today, Mel, but at the time, it was a highly regarded program. We all got a lot of babysitting gigs as a result. Not sure today’s 12 yr. olds would get off of their smart phones long enough. ☺

  12. markbialczak says:

    What a year that was for you, Van. Thank you for being you, still, now. 🙂

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