In every class at Peckham Junior High School on the North Side of Milwaukee, I sat behind Larry Axxxx. It followed that I’d sit behind Larry, as our classes were arranged alphabetically. I liked sitting behind Larry, and I think he liked having me behind him. We weren’t exactly friends, but he was a presence in my life.
Larry could get me to laugh. And he knew that. In fact, I think that’s why he liked having me as the person at his back. And Larry could not only get me to laugh – his antics could bring on a fit of giggles. Since I wasn’t a kid to get into trouble at school, I expect I didn’t get caught giggling when I should have been listening intently to the teacher. So I giggled and giggled, while Larry grinned at having brought me to this place again. And I kept up with my classes.
Larry was a fixture in my life in Junior High, a part of my surroundings, one of the kids I felt comfortable with. I was shy and mostly quiet in classes, a girl who could go unnoticed, since she didn’t cause any trouble. And through Junior High, Larry got me laughing. We were in a program of classes with the “smart kids,” which isolated us in a way from the other young people, since our curriculum was laid out for us, our classes, a year ahead than others our age, from the time we entered Junior High. I’d be in classes with the same group of kids in high school, too, although our group got bigger in number.
I said I kept up with my classes. I got good grades. I’m not sure Larry did, because he disappeared from the seat in front of me in high school. Word around the class had it that Larry’s father had placed Larry in a boarding school for boys, not far from Milwaukee. He’d been worried that Larry’s inability to stay focused on his classes would shape his future, and his father wanted another future for him.
I few years ago, I was thinking about Larry, and in these days of “googling,” I googled Larry’s name. I found his name on a business in northern Wisconsin, and I went to the website. There, I found a personal note from his family. Larry had passed, just a few months before I’d been looking for him. I sent an email to his family, who still owned the business, telling them about how Larry had made me laugh. The kind email I received in return came from his wife, who said that Larry had loved to make people laugh as an adult, too.
I think often of those people in my past who were present for part of my life, then moved on into their own lives, forgetting, I expect, that nice, quiet, smart girl who loved to giggle. My husband still likes to make me giggle, and his face lights up when he gets me to do that. He especially likes it if we’re in a public place and I can’t stop giggling.
And it’s fun for me to know I can still go to that silly place in me.