One day while rummaging through things I’d left behind at my mom’s house, I found our FFA scrapbook. I remembered how hard we worked on that thing so we could compete at the regional level. Yes, the FFA had a scrapbook competition. Still no milk tasting contests though.
In our junior year we had entered the scrapbook competition with what we thought was a great project. We were wrong, so wrong. The book looked good but we’d missed many of the small requirements like having each person in every photo named, captions, page numbers… point by point until we didn’t stand a chance to win. By senior year, we knew what to do, we were going to make the most epic scrapbook our chapter had ever presented. On the weekend before the book was due, Jenny had come to pick up Mary and I in Bloomington. She’d driven Ms. Kneeland’s Honda Accord from east Riverside, she told her she had enough gas to get to Bloomington but she’d need to fill up before heading back. She did not factor in her time in peak traffic in her calculation. Jenny picked us up and after a couple blocks I felt the car do a small jolt, I asked Jenny if she felt that but we both had no idea what caused it. We drove south on Cedar Avenue near the old quarry, the street has a slight slope up the hill and then quickly slopes down at the railroad tracks. The car went over the hill easily but as we came down the slope it had no power, “we are out of gas!” I told them. Jenny freaked out a little, I’m pretty sure Mary screamed in the back. My instincts kicked in and I told her to steer to the side and stop the car. We swapped places and I got in the driver’s seat, put the car in neutral and told them to push until we got to the shoulder of the nearest corner. Jenny got on the phone. We were there for less than 10 minutes before a lady in a lifted truck with quads in the bed drove by. People who ride quads carry extra gas. I waved her down and asked her for help. She gave us enough to get us to the nearest gas station. That was the first and only time I’ve ever been in a car that ran out of gas. We stayed up all night in Ms. Kneeland’s scrapbooking room and finished the book. We placed first that year.
By the time I was a senior in high school I thought I knew what I was doing. I was fully invested in the FFA. I ran for president of our chapter and won. My friend Celina and I had run against each other (but it was not drama) so she got to be the vice president. Our advisor the previous year was our teacher, Mrs. Burdi. Although I got off on the wrong foot with her because I was busy being bitter about moving to Fontana, she would end up being my favorite high school teacher. She always encouraged us to do our best, she was easy going but called us on our bullshit when we needed it, and she gave us solid life advice. The other ag teacher was Mrs. Z, at first impression she portrayed herself as easy going and fun. Rumor was that she’d been fired from her previous teaching job for embezzling money.
Back to that day when I’d found that FFA scrapbook in my mom’s garage. I looked through it and quickly had a realization. We did not finish our senior year in FFA. At the time, it had been maybe 4 or 5 years since we’d graduated high school. I quickly called Celina and asked her “did we quit FFA in our senior year?!” she took a minute to recall, but yes, we had quit. I have a vague memory of walking out of class angry and determined to never step foot on the farm again. I wish I could tell you the details as to exactly why we quit, the turning point in the entire debacle. All I remember was that Z, as we’d refer to in disdain, was our advisor. She was giving us, the leadership team, failing grades to bust our senior year G.P.A’s while she knew we were actively applying for colleges. I remember the meeting with the vice principal in which I insisted to be removed from her class, but that’s all.
I have asked Jenny and Celina and till this day, we have no exact recollection. Even as a group, we have trouble putting the pieces together. It’s a traumatic experience that we collectively erased from our memories. We’d go on, transfer to other classes. I would become my German teacher’s assistant for the rest of the semester, mostly sitting at a computer next to Michael Meyer and laughing at the ridiculous websites he somehow always found. We’d watch our favorite English teacher, Mr. McAdams, go down his spiral of depression because his marriage had fallen apart very publicly. He’d leave us to fend for ourselves with a teacher’s aide. I’d give up the idea of going to a four year university, with FFA out of the picture my plan to get into Cal Poly Pomona with a soil science major no longer made sense. I had always loved making rooms look pretty, HGTV was in my top 3 favorite channels at age 11. I threw around the idea of going to school in San Francisco, but honestly I was scared to go so far away to a city where I didn’t know anyone. At a college fair I was introduced to the Fashion Institute of Design in Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles. Just like that, I was going to FIDM to study interior design, my mind was made up.