What I Used to Know

To be honest, I didn’t realize it was the anniversary of the Challenger Disaster until a friend mentioned it on Facebook. It happened when she was 12 and she said that for her it symbolized an end of childhood.

I was 17, a senior in high school, and if you had asked me at the time, long past childhood. I knew all there was to know about sex, drugs, love, and death. I knew all there was to know about the hypocrisy of adults. I had lived in the Third World. I knew!

I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now

We were supposed to be in English class, but we were in the library watching the launch on TV. Our beloved senior English teacher, Ms. Hay, had recently won an award as a top teacher in the state, and then was promoted out of the classroom and in to the district office. We spent about a week in the library, waiting for a replacement.

Because, as I knew, adults mess everything up.

When our replacement came it was a woman named Jane Norman. It seems absurd now, but within weeks we all learned one fact about Jane Norman: She shared a husband with Playwright Marsha Norman.

Today I can’t remember if she was the first wife of a man who went on to marry Marsha Norman or if she was his second wife, after Marsha Norman.

I knew there were a few true teachers, people like Ms. Hay, who wanted to be English teachers. But I also knew that most English teachers were failed writers who either hadn’t taken a chance or had taken a chance and failed. (Or, in the case of our high school, sometimes they were former college basketball stars who were mainly needed to coach the high school team, but that’s a different story).

I knew, that Jane Norman must be miserable. To share a husband with a famous playwright when you yourself were nothing but a high school English teacher teaching Advanced Placement, clearly a class of geniuses destined to do great things? I knew there could be nothing worse.

I remember watching the explosion on TV and I don’t remember anything else that happened that day. Did the school leave the TV on? What period was it? Did we go to other classes? Did we take it as an excuse to leave and go get stoned at Big Rock?

I remember knowing everything there was to know about what life was like and what my future life would be like. I remember knowing that the worst things that could happen to me had already happened to me. I remember knowing that the people I was watching TV with at that moment would always be my best friends, but I also knew that soon all of us would blow off Louisville, KY and never look back. I remember knowing that my own life would be fabulous and one day, I too would touch the sky.

I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

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