In sixth grade I went to science camp. It was a glorious three days of parent-free awesomeness in the woods with my teachers and the entire sixth grade at Jordan Elementary. I don’t remember that much about what we did, except that we dissected owl pellets. It was both grody and kind of cool.
I do remember going on a hike with a big group of kids and a certain teacher, Mrs. Seaton. She wasn’t my classroom teacher, but we rotated classrooms for things like math and English depending on aptitude. If I’m remembering correctly, I had Mrs. Seaton for advanced math.
Mrs. Seaton was one of those brash, bossy teachers who told it like it was. I remember her being excessively blonde and tan. And when I say tan, I mean tan like a baseball mitt, tan. Although everyone seems older and grosser when you’re young. She was probably less George Hamilton and more Snooki. Is that a compliment? That may actually be more offensive.
Most of the kids generally liked Mrs. Seaton because she was loud and sort of off-color and cool. I was a little afraid of her, though. She called me and two of my small, brunette friends, Sarah Becker and Dawn Jimenez, ‘The Runts’. I’m fairly certain she couldn’t tell us apart. We sat together in the back of her classroom and looked equally small and mousy.
Anyway, on the hike, at science camp we encountered a small waterfall type area along the creek we were hiking near. It wasn’t like a Niagara Falls type waterfall. The drop was taller than a tall adult, but probably not by much. The waterfall had a mossy log that had been leaned from the bottom level to the top, like a sort of uphill bridge.
I don’t remember how it started, but a couple of the boys in our group decided they were going to climb the slick, wet log up to the top level of the waterfall. For whatever reason, Mrs. Seaton didn’t shut this down. Instead, she egged them on. Like I said, she was the cool teacher. I remember Jason Matthyssen got almost all the way to the top before sliding off the edge of the slippery log and dropping into the water below. He was soaked.
I watched the other kids try to shimmy up that log and fail and I knew this was something I could do. I was a gymnast and a dancer. I was small and flexible. Scaling things was right up my alley. Before the group could lose interest and move on, I ran out into the water and jumped on the log.
I shimmied and inched and clung to that log with all my heart. I struggled and pulled my way up. When I got close enough, the kids at the top reached out their arms and helped pull me the last few feet. I was wet and covered in moss, but I was the only kid that day who climbed all the way to the top of that log. I felt like a hero.
Mrs. Seaton said, “Look at you! I thought you were just a runt, but you’re scrappy!” I could not have been more proud. I believe that moment began my lifelong love of being underestimated. That’s right. Size me up. I look sweet and innocent. Feel free to condescend. As soon as you turn around I will kick your ass.
My eldest, Bennett, is at science camp this week. He’s only in fifth grade, but as my husband says, “They do everything ‘advanced’ at the Mesa Academy for Advanced Studies.” Or maybe kids just grow up faster now. Who knows?
Regardless, I’m so excited for him that he’s away in the woods with all his friends right now. I’ve spent the last two days imagining the adventures he’s having that he’ll never forget. I can’t wait till he comes home tomorrow and tells me all about them.
I’m so old. Sigh.