Making friends at St. Mary’s Elementary School was easy. It just came natural to me. I think it helped that I was always a part of the “in” crowd. The “in” crowd in my class throughout my six years at St. Mary’s consisted of five people – my best friend Sharon Miller, Tracy Dawson, Rob Wright, Tommy Holmes and Jeff Weber. We thought we were really cool. During recess, we would usually play touch football which sometimes turned into tackle football.
I developed an intense love of carrots during those years. Rob, Jeff and Tommy usually packed their lunches. Their moms always included carrots for them. They weren’t the kind you can buy in the store today, they were real carrots – the kind you clean and hand cut one by one. Well, the boys never ate their carrots and usually gave them to me. I loved hearing: “Theresa, do you want my carrots?” It made me feel cool. My Catholic guilt often chimed in when I would accept those carrots. I’d think to myself, “their moms took a lot of time to cut these up for them and they are giving them away.” But I eventually got over the guilt and cheerfully ate the carrots.
Sometimes on the weekends, I would spend the night at Sharon’s house. One of my favorite memories of her is listening to the “Candy Girl” album by New Edition which was released when I was 12 years old. We would play the song “Candy Girl” over and over. We did it until we learned all of the words to the song. I just looked it up on UTube and three decades later, I still remember all of the lyrics: “Candy Girl, you are my world. Your love’s so sweet, you’re a special treat.” I think my love of rap music began with that song.
Sharon’s parents moved to Vermilion from Pittsburgh. Her dad was a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so was Sharon. I didn’t know much about sports at the time, but I liked the Steelers because Sharon did. My favorite player was Lynn Swann. He became my favorite player after I read an article about him which said he practiced ballet to help improve his football skills. I was amazed by the picture of this grown black man in tights. I admired him so much for doing something most men would never do. So that’s how No. 88 became my favorite player.
When we were in sixth grade, our class took a trip to Niagara Falls. We went because the priest at our parish (Fr. Steward Lindsay) was from Niagara Falls. It was a tradition for every sixth-grade class to go there. St. Mary’s only went up to sixth grade so it was a kind of farewell party. Every sixth-grade class looked forward to going there. The only thing I remember about that trip was Sharon Miller’s big yellow Pittsburgh Steelers hat. She got attention from all the boys for wearing it and I was jealous – even though she was my best friend. I remember feeling left out because she was laughing and having fun with the boys, but I wasn’t. There I was looking nerdy in my glasses. My mom was one of the parents who chaperoned the trip, and that’s the only thing that got me through it.
My parents wanted me to continue my Catholic education so they enrolled me at St. Peter’s in Lorain. It’s the church I was baptized in. The plan was to go there for seventh and eighth grade and then go to Lorain Catholic. Somehow, my dad lobbied for the public school buses in Vermilion to take us and pick us up every day. All my parents had to do was drop us off at Vermilion High School so we could catch the bus. Do you know how embarrassing it was to be dressed in my plaid uniform skirt at the high school? I felt like everyone was looking at me, but I knew I had to keep it together. My parents wanted me to do to this so I had no choice.
One of the first friends I met at St. Peter’s was Tina Miller. She is still my friend today. Tina was popular and knew everyone. Before I knew it, I was part of the “in” crowd at St. Peter’s. Tina and I joke that until I met her, I wanted to be a nun (which is partially true because I wanted to be a missionary or a horse jockey at the time). Tina introduced me to boys and that’s when any chance of me becoming a nun was wrecked.
I remember passing notes back and forth to boys in the hallway of St. Peter’s. It was an exhilarating feeling to get a note. One time, when I was in seventh grade, an eighth-grade boy passed me a note and told me he liked me. I didn’t reciprocate though because I thought he was too old for me. I figured it would be against the rules if I dated a boy who was in eighth grade.
I’m not sure how it happened, but I felt accepted at St. Peter’s even though I was a new girl. Having Sharon there with me helped. She was tall and beautiful with dark black hair. All of the boys liked her. I figured it would be easy to transition to high school with Sharon as my best friend. But at the end of eighth grade, she moved to Michigan and I was devastated. I cried so hard. I could hardly drive past her house after she moved because it hurt my heart. We were best friends since first grade and now I had to find a new best friend. I had no idea how I was going to do that.