I’ve been doing research for a kid book involving the presidents. It got me to thinking how back in high school I needed to do a project for my government class about the presidential election.
It was fall semester of 1972. It was between George McGovern and Nixon. My class project was to make a scrapbook about one of the candidates, one more thing to do with my busy school and work schedule.
I was one of the top students at Urbandale High School. I didn’t know it at the time, but when Mrs. Larsen stopped me in the hallway and personally invited me to take her World History class, I should’ve figured it out. My schedule was packed with English classes and Spanish. Looking back, I wish I would’ve dropped Creative Writing and taken World History. Now, I can never be a contestant on Jeopardy.
But I digress.
Back to government class. I didn’t start on the scrapbook until the night before it was due. I remember staying up till midnight and my mom yelling at me to go to bed.
My OCD had come in handy. One day, early in the semester, I noticed an article about McGovern while my dad was reading the newspaper. When he was done with it, I asked him if I could have it and took it to a corner of my shared bedroom. Every day, I squirreled away the Des Moines Register after my parents had discarded it. I didn’t miss a day.
My obsessive complusive disorder made sure that I dug the paper out of the trash daily or accosted my mother before she used it to wrap up garbage or put it in the bottom of a wastebasket.
Meanwhile, in creative writing, the new teacher brought in a can of monkey brains and dared us to try them. Oh, Mrs, Larsen, what was I thinking?
The night before the project was due, I went through the newspapers after I had arranged them in chronological order. Then I cut out and pasted each and every article about McGovern into my scrapbook.
Did I read any of the articles? Absolutely not. I didn’t have time. Remember, midnight? Mom yelling?
The scrapbook impressed my teacher so much that he waved it in front of each of his classes and then asked me if he could keep it. I got an A+ but felt like a phony. All I really knew about McGovern is that he was the liberal big government candidate. That’s it. And that he lost in 49 states.
At high school graduation, I wore my golden honor chords for being on the honor roll and heard my name called for English Student of the Year. How could I not be? I had taken four semester English classes in one year. That was most of the English department. I took creative writing from monkey-brains man, grammar, literature, and something else that I can’t remember.
When I got to college, I discovered how woefully inadequate my classes had been. My vocab was worse than my dorm mates,’ and I only knew six words of Shakespeare. To be or not to be.
And no, I did not try the monkey brains.