Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Leif's Junior High School Yearbook 1988-1989

 While looking in a "tea box" trunk the other day, I discovered a couple of Leif's yearbooks, one from Northwood Junior High School in Highland Park, Illinois, where he attended sixth through eighth grades, and one from Antilles High School in Puerto Rico. I found myself wondering if he had others. Surely he would have gotten yearbooks for all of his high school years, but so far I have not found them.

I think that junior high was in some ways the best time for Leif. Although he was a gangly adolescent plagued by severe acne, about which he was very self conscious, I learned in later years, and he was a quiet kid without a large circle of friends, the friends he did have were good ones and he enjoyed them. He wasn't yet sadly disillusioned about his ambition to be an Air Force pilot because he hadn't yet discovered that his eyes would not pass the flight physical.

He did some of his very best school work in junior high because he had excellent and challenging teachers who offered him assignment possibilities that interested and engaged him, not the usual "report" stuff. It was in junior high that he built the huge chlorophyll molecule I already wrote about, and where he did such good work on medieval armor, loved reading and doing non-traditional reports on Douglas Adams' books and Orson Scott Card's Ender series.

He also showed his incredible mind for science, and did two complex science fair projects using his remote controlled cars (which he naturally built himself). I wrote about those before, too. His eighth grade science fair project went all the way to the state science fair, where it won an honorable mention. I think it deserved even better.

So, it was with interest that I discovered in his eighth grade yearbook that there was a science fair page with him on it as one of those who went to the state science fair.

It's a terrible shame that someone didn't take Leif under mentorship in science. He had a terrific mind for it, and would have made an excellent scientist. What held him back was the knowledge that math was necessary, and he didn't like it . . . probably because it was one of the two only things he actually had to work at (math and foreign languages), and the fact that no one gave him any kind of career guidance about what a science major could do besides get a PhD and teach or be a "lab rat," as he put it.

Perhaps if he'd had some good career guidance and found a new passion to replace what he had lost, he would have found direction in life.

What struck me about this yearbook was how really little of Leif is to be found in it. Some yearbooks are a rich source of information, in the activities a student pursued, in what friends write in the book, for instance. But only three people wrote in Leif's book, and they weren't even his good friends. This leads me to believe that Leif didn't offer the book to anyone, really, and that those three who did sign it must have seen it with him and asked to sign.

There's nothing in the book about the Leif we knew other than the science fair . . . nothing about how he played the electric guitar, was photographer, participated in the track and field events in shot put and javelin, how he played soccer (and was quite good in the back field), how he loved cats, cars and Cindy Crawford, Star Wars, and music. None of that is anywhere to be found. He seems only like a kid who didn't participate, sadly enough.

And yet, I don't think he ever did school work as creatively as he did in this school. I wish he'd had teachers like this in high school and college. I wish there were more of him to see in this yearbook.

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