Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?
The first coin I pulled was a nickel from 1964, so let’s have a good, firm chuckle about me not being alive and move on to this quarter I managed to find that was made in 1996.
I always have to think hard about what grade I was in school for each year, because through some trick of chance birth dates, they line up—first grade in 1991, second in 92. It’s easy to remember until I suddenly can’t think of whether I was entering those grades, or going out of them.
In the spring of 1996, I was leaving language immersion elementary school, where I had been with the same 23 kids for 6 years. I had been an exchange student to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, the fall before, and had my 11th birthday miles and miles from home, a pool party with my host family and a Hello Kitty birthday cake with white frosting peaks. There was such a big deal made of our leaving 5th grade, I think mostly because we were all like siblings to each other, in the best and worst ways. We filled out questionnaires about ourselves, snapshots of our likes and dislikes at that age, and some PTA parent or another had them bound together like a unique class-only yearbook. I still have mine—filled with revisions to my original answers that I spent the summer carefully writing and scratching out, unsure what my favorite song was but pretty confident that it got frequent rotation on the local oldies station.
Transition to middle school was a different game—surrounded by a whole universe of new people who hadn’t learned the names of human bones in Spanish. I remember taking other language classes by a quarter system (hey!) which meant the course was broken down into half-semester increments. I took French and German and liked them both for different reasons. I met Zannah, who sat behind me and was quiet and funny, and is living in New Zealand now. I met Judd, who had a disposable fountain pen, and somehow that changed my life. A girl with hair pulled back so tight I thought she must have had a permanent headache tried to bully me, threatening to jump me at my locker for some reason I don’t remember now, and I don’t think she lasted more than a year at that school.
There were good things and bad things, and I don’t like the number 1996 as much as I liked 1995, with its paradoxical evenness, but 1996 was alright.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Buffalo Nickel.”