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Peabody School runs from Kindergarten through 8th grade. As part of its candidate assessment regime, the school requires that Kindergarten applicants take a test that measures brain capacity. I suppose my five-year old brain must have radiated some promise of qualification, as I was one of the eleven chosen for the grade. The other ten, Mason, Henry, Evan, Sabin, Colum, Rachel, Tessa, Laura, Olivia, Kirsten, and I forged a tight-knit family within days. We spent Monday through Friday, 8 o’clock until 3:00 o’clock together, and often gathered for play-dates on the weekends. Day by day, our actions bred individualities that we would end up carrying with us throughout our time at Peabody. I was tardy almost every day, Tessa was always perfectly put together, Sabin was constantly joking around, Colum was sent to the principle’s office daily, Evan never knew what was going on, Kirsten was too nice, Laura thought she was smarter than the teacher, Mason believed he was cooler than everyone else because his dad could build things with wood, and Olivia and Henry (twins) only ate beans and rice. For my nine years at Peabody, my class stayed more or less the same, besides losing Sabin to public school after fourth grade. His absence ultimately led to a unified thrill throughout the faculty, as Sabin embodied “troublemaker” to a tee. They thought their relief was clandestine, but we all knew. Anyway, Sabin was quickly replaced with Seven, a 5’10 fifth grader sporting a green Mohawk that he spiked with eggs whites. Needless to say it wasn’t long before Seven was another distinct, yet complementary bloom to the middle of our Peabody flower.
To the eleven of us, Peabody was simply the place we went everyday to learn together. To the other kids living in Charlottesville, Virginia, Peabody defined us. People outside of school always liked me, right up until that mundane, irrationally significant question would be asked, “What school do you go to?” Once it was asked, I was doomed. It happened the same way every time. Horror would immediately strike my acquaintance’s visage as the three-syllable proper noun sounded through my naïve lips, “Peabody.” Then, his or her eyes would fearfully dart across our surroundings, to make sure nobody else had seen this embarrassing exchange. To be seen with a Peabody kid, was almost as bad as being a Peabody kid. When I was invited anywhere, to one of the University of Virginia football games, to a movie on the Downtown Mall, to Chaps for it’s famous mint chip ice-cream, to a birthday party, it was always by one of my fellow “Peabodians.” That was what the other kids called us. Peabodians. In 6th grade this categorizing began to gnaw away at my dignity. I condemned my parents for placing me in such a state of social immobility and pictured life as a “cool” kid. Oh, what bliss it must be.
On one Friday night every month, the Peabody middle school held a dance. We dressed up, acting as though we were going to the prom, hopeful that this dance would be better than the last one. It never was though. It always hosted the same 30 kids, the same bad music, and the same awkward Frankenstein-armed slow dances. We heard about the “crazy,” “mad fun,” “wild,” parties that went on at St. Anne’s Belfield, Henley, and Buford middle schools, but we were never invited, even though we always invited them to ours. On one miraculous Friday night, a boy from Buford showed up to Peabody for the dance, apparently unaware that it was against social code to do so. After only five minutes of it he pulled up his hood, ran down the corridor, and called his mom begging her to retrieve him “immediately.” Besides that, no one ever came.
We were the “outsiders”, but we were a family. Peabody was our refuge and our home; it was a place where eleven peculiar children learned in harmony. I cursed the alienation Peabody brought me, until it was time for me to leave. As I stood in line at my 8th grade graduation, I realized how lucky I was to be part of the extraneous, and how I wished my Peabody flower could live on forever.



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