A Stumble Down Memory Lane

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For anyone who hasn’t been keeping track of Bloomfield Hills Schools’ surprisingly colorful politics and complex policies, after multiple unsuccessful attempts to compromise on a way to sustain two high schools with increased or shared resources, the demographics of the district necessitated combining Andover and Lahser into Bloomfield Hills High School. During construction of the new school, everyone will be at Lahser — except the ninth-graders, who, in true Chutes-and-Ladders fashion, will all be at Hickory Grove Elementary School — with all  ultimately populating the new BHHS, on the site of the old Andover, in the fall of 2015, a year that sounds wildly futuristic.

Their new mascot? The Blackhawks. The bird, not the real-life 19th-century Indian chieftain who fought U.S. troops in a gallant, unsuccessful attempt to recover his tribe’s ancestral lands. Right up to the moment that student leaders announced the new mascot at a press conference — yes, they had a press conference to announce the new mascot; yes, I attended said press conference — I was rooting for the Chargers.

Since a brief stint early in the new century when they were the  Beavers, the schools’ combined hockey team has been the Chargers; my nephew Sammy is better known on (and, for that matter, off) the ice as Charlie the Charger, their entertaining equine mascot. Arguably, the role he was born to play.

Andover was built in 1955, and the architecture, technology and much of the lunch menu have remained lovingly unchanged in the decades since. The never-quite-hallowed, not-yet-hollow halls of my alma mater were open for alumni to stroll recently, and I was powerless to resist a stumble through my old stomping grounds.

Some observations from my 13 years in Bloomfield Hills Schools (the first being that 13 years is an entirely standard duration of time necessary to secure a high school diploma): Conant Elementary School taught me many healthy habits, with four notable exceptions:

1) An apple is nature’s toothbrush, or so the paraprofessional in my kindergarten class had me believe. This nighttime “apple brushing” contributed to eight cavities identified in one memorable dentist appointment.

2) “Conant Kids Care,” as demonstrated by binge eating at Burger King on designated nights when our illustrious faculty manned the fryers and the school received a cut of the proceeds.

3) Owing singularly to my inability to sit and reach more than 31 centimeters, I would never be presidentially fit in the eyes of George H.W. Bush.

4) Hunting grotesque excesses of buffalo and lesser game — more than would fit on a state-of-the-art wagon, let alone one with a precarious axle — would not lead to an increased incidence of dysentery en route to Oregon.

Perhaps the key takeaway from the hormonal haze of Bloomfield Hills Middle School (neither that I was talented enough to go on to star in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying nor lucky enough to go on to succeed in business without really trying) was that I had a knack for writing and, more importantly, a chance to succeed by really trying. Also, the “pantser” is ultimately just as degraded as the “pantsee,” except, of course, that he does not find himself mid-chin-up with his pants around his ankles.

At Andover — representing Andover on the Foresnsics team, rather — I competed, alone and without the aid of props or amplification, against other lonely unamplified propless souls, to tell the most compelling 6- to 8-minute children’s story, replete with a cast of cartoonish characters who learn a valuable lesson. This remains possibly the most valuable experience of my life, said the Bionic Bunny upon defeating Professor Origami.

Residual angst notwithstanding, attending Bloomfield Hills Schools, for an entirely standard duration of time necessary to secure a high school diploma, was a privilege. As motivated as I was to move on, much of what I have gone on to do has been informed by the tools and values I developed there. Go Blackhawks! The bird, not the Indian!

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