Working at my former high school, Ben Franklin, provides numerous opportunities for what is, essentially, time travel. I’ll be working busily on some boring spreadsheet when suddenly I hear a snatch of an Alanis Morissette or Tori Amos or Counting Crows song float by my office door – current students playing “retro” music, obviously, but it still transports me right back to the days when I could pull all-nighters and eat cheeseburgers as a snack. (These days, I’m in bed by 10, I pulled a neck muscle sneezing, and I gain weight if I even think about a cheeseburger for too long.)
Or I’ll walk down the hallway and see kids sneaking a kiss over in this little alcove by the English classrooms … a spot I know well and remember fondly because I sneaked a few kisses there myself back in the ’90s.
Sometimes the students play new music for me – I thought I was pretty hip because, you know, I do listen to B97 after all, but I hadn’t heard a single thing they shared with me, and I later lost any music cred I had by referring to Cage the Elephant as “Put the Elephant in a Cage.” Still, though, it brings me back to my own teen days when my friend Josh was forever coming up behind me and putting massive headphones over my ears and playing me a new song on his Discman that I just had to listen to immediately: Blind Melon, Weezer, Fiona Apple, Smashing Pumpkins, Beck.
Likewise, being a mom also provides many chances to both relive my own childhood and be extremely humbled.
A few weeks ago, I attempted to do a TikTok dance to impress my two daughters.
The older one, Ruby, rolled her eyes and said, “Mom, how can you be so bad at that? Do you know they taught sea lions to do it at Sea World? It’s not hard!”
My younger one, Georgia, was even harsher: “Stop dancing right now! You’re embarrassing yourself, and you look like an off-brand Teletubby!”
But those moments are balanced by watching my kids eat beignets and end up dusted in powdered sugar. By chaperoning them on the same field trips I took in third grade. By riding the City Park train or the carousel with them or laughing as they roll down Monkey Hill. By showing them “New Orleans sledding” aka sliding down the levee on a piece of cardboard. By listening to my eighth grade algebra teacher teach Ruby algebra during virtual school.
And now my two worlds are about to collide, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it – Ruby took the Franklin test in November, and we just learned that she made it in and will be a part of the Class of 2025.
Her testing experience was very different than mine. I took the test with a massive group of kids in the auditorium, and I sat next to a boy who:
A. Brought his “lucky squirrel scrotum” to take the test and rested it on his desk the entire time. (It probably wasn’t genuine, but I believed it at the time.)
B. Chewed old gum stuck under the auditorium seats on a dare.
(He got in, too.)
Ruby, on the other hand, took the test in a pandemic-mandated small group, masked-up, and it was completely computer-based. Absolutely no one attempted to chew old gum either, for reasons that are always obvious but are somehow even more obvious in the middle of a pandemic, even to gross middle school boys.
Although if her testing experience was different, I know enough about the current state of the school to know that her educational experience will be much the same: great teachers, incredible peers, overwhelmingly intense workload.
The only difference? My mom didn’t work there, didn’t send daily emails to my friends and mess up the names of bands and dance worse than a trained sea lion. She definitely didn’t know the hiding spots around the school.
I like to think that working at a high school keeps me young. But I suspect that my working there is going to age Ruby dramatically.