What is it, anyway? A combination of Fritos, textbooks, Mountain Dew and overall awkwardness? When I went back to my old junior high this weekend to watch my nephew play basketball, the moment I opened the door to the building, it was there: a smell that was distinctly “junior high,” in the same way that the office at work smells like “dentistry” and our car smells like “funk.”
And whatever that smell was, it made those halls immediately familiar. Mrs. Morris’s room is right where it always was; the bathrooms haven’t changed a bit. The kids camped out on the floor, flipping through books and conspiring quietly could have been my classmates – but wait! My classmates are all my size now, with little ones of their own, and we’re due to have our tenth reunion this summer.
If it feels weird to look at Lydia and think about long, long ago, when she was Sarah’s size, it feels even stranger to realize that they’re not the only ones growing up: they may sprout up before our very eyes, but Mitch and I are still growing, at a slower, steadier pace.
Once, I was the one on the gym floor playing. Now, I’m in the bleachers, smelling that weird smell and wondering if any of my classmates have kids in the game.