Tuesday, March 6, 2012

let's talk about fourth grade.

Everybody goes through an awkward phase in elementary school. Some would argue that all of elementary school (and for many, all of junior high) is an awkward phase. While that may be true, in my particular experience, one grade outshines them all in pure, unadulterated awkward: fourth grade.

I began the fourth grade in 1996 when I was nine years old. It was a weird time for me: I was on the verge of getting braces, and I had recently discovered that there was a life outside of The Lion King. The pressure was on to start being “cool,” and I had no idea where to begin. Clearly, neither did the rest of my classmates: we took all our cues from Clueless. Sure, we were nine-year-old Midwesterners comparing ourselves to teenage Californians with rich parents, but to our little fourth grade selves, it didn’t matter. We picked up two major things from Clueless: sassy terminology and feather pens.
Simpler times.
Before Clueless, none of us had been exposed to the phrases “as if” or “whatever.” After Clueless, hardly a sentence was uttered without containing one or both. I’m not even sure we knew what “as if” meant. No matter: we still used “as if” with gusto. We scrawled it on our notebooks along with that weird “smile” made out of bubble letters.

And oh, the feather pens. They were one of the strangest trends to ever hit Arlington Elementary School. A feather pen is exactly what it sounds like: a pen with a little marabou pouf on the end. For a good portion of fourth grade, I wanted nothing more than a feather pen. However, my lack of income made that a problem. You could only get feather pens in one place within a 30-mile radius of my house, and that was at Maurices in Brookings. Every time I visited my grandma in Brookings, I begged her to take me there. Maurices was THE store: if you got your clothes from Maurices, you were SOMEBODY (according to Arlington Elementary standards). I would gaze longingly at the feather pen display, wanting terribly to have one of my very own. Oddly enough, I never thought to actually TELL anyone that I wanted a feather pen. I’m pretty sure they were five dollars, and had she known, my grandma certainly would’ve purchased one for me. I have no idea how I thought I would get a feather pen without anyone being aware of my desire for one. ESP, probably.

For my tenth birthday, I had a sleepover at my house. We had pizza and listened to “MMMBop” on repeat: ten-year-old heaven. The time came, as it usually does when birthdays are involved, to open presents. When I saw a small cylindrical package, I immediately knew what was in it. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but in the package was a lime green feather pen. My life was complete.
Yes, after nearly fifteen years, I managed to find
my old feather pens. The middle one is, obviously, the
lime green birthday pen. The other two were purchased
by me with my very first Maurices gift card.
Life was good.
Lime green was THE color of 1996/1997. I have no idea why: it just was. Everything had to be lime green. When my grandma took me back-to-school shopping, I got her to buy me a pair of lime green overall shorts, a t-shirt with lime green flowers along the neck, and a pair of lime green Keds: you’d better believe I wore them all at once and ALL the time. 
Sadly, this is real.
When I got braces, my first set of rubber bands was lime green. I begged my parents to allow me to paint my room lime green (believe it or not, they declined). Anything and everything that could be lime green, was.

Along with the Clueless vernacular, a number of 1960s catchphrases made a bizarre comeback amongst the fourth grade crowd. We began to call things “groovy” and doodled little peace signs on our homework. Each and every one of us had grand plans to purchase a Volkswagen Beetle as soon as we had our learner’s permits. Yin yang signs were also big, even though I’m fairly certain no one knew what they meant: we just knew that they were easy to draw.

Looking back on the fourth grade, it’s almost pitiful. I thought I was the epitome of cool with my non-ironic John Lennon glasses and my lime green wardrobe. At that age, I was astonishingly easy to please. It only took a ridiculous feather pen to make me happy for months on end. Ah, simpler times. Now, instead of a feather pen I can’t live without, my tastes have gotten a little more expensive. I’m fairly certain I can’t live without a new car. However, unlike my desire for a feather pen, I have made my desire for a new car well known amongst my family and friends. Something tells me they stopped listening a long time ago, so maybe I will have to revert to the simple pleasures of my youth to fill the void (sigh). If only I could find my Tamagotchi…


  1. I've been thinking about this time recently and the feather pens. Nice.

  2. Ugh, those feather pens. Yet another indication of my questionable taste! :)