I had the privilege of taking photos at the Howar Junior High eighth grade spring formal dance on Saturday night in Centerville. The dance used to be known as the eighth grade graduation dance during my eighth grade year.

Lately I’ve been a little under the weather and work and stress have been piling up. Attending that dance was just what I needed to get me back on track. It may seem strange, but just being around those students in that atmosphere can only put you in a good mood.

Volunteers did a great job with the decorations. The theme was “Sunset Dreams” with photos taken in front of a sun setting on a sandy beach with palm trees. A nice touch was a computer slideshow that was projected onto the wall, showing pictures of the students from their younger days. The students gathered and laughed as some of the funny photos popped up on the wall.

Several times during the evening my mind started to wander while I was daydreaming of my Howar Junior High days – it seems like only yesterday. One parent approached me and commented, “It probably wasn’t that long ago when you were in here.”

She’s right. It’s been almost 15 years to the day that I was that nervous eighth grader escorting my date to the dance.

While posing couples for photos I would recommend that the young man put his arm around the lower back of the young lady. Most guys had no problem and seemed very comfortable with their dates. But there were a few guys that got that sudden look of fear and panic in their eyes. After a few seconds of awkward silence the guys finally put their arms around their dates before breathing a big sigh of relief. Then I noticed a small grin as I could tell the guys were thinking to themselves, “That wasn’t that bad.”

As the band Nirvana once said, it smelled like teen spirit in the gym as nervous and anxious energy filled the room. It didn’t actually smell but there was a feeling that warped me back to my school days.

Speaking of smelling like teen spirit, I remember silk dress shirts were all the rage when I was in junior high. But dancing in a hot and stuffy gym during puberty with a silk shirt on was a terrible idea. I remember my shirt was soaked and there wasn’t enough cologne in Appanoose County to make it smell good again. I think I had to burn the shirt after the dance.

Anyway, my eighth grade graduation dance plans got off to a slow start as I didn’t have a date with only a few days left until the event. It’s not that no one would go with me, I just really didn’t care and hadn’t gotten around to asking anyone. So my mom took it upon herself to arrange a date for me.

My mom contacted one of her friends that had a daughter my age who also didn’t have a date to the dance. So without asking, the mothers went ahead and set us up.

I’ll probably never be as nervous as I was that night – going on an arranged date to a junior high dance. I tried my best to play it cool although I was sweating bullets. But once I got that first slow dance under my belt, I loosened up a little and ended up having a great time.

My date and I ended up becoming great friends and will always have that night to remember forever and laugh about at every reunion.

You need reminders like that to cheer you up. Life can fly by, so you have to enjoy it while it lasts. Take the time to stop and smell the roses even though it seems like your life is an endless “to do” list. Just being around all those energetic eighth graders put a smile on my face and took me back to the “good ol’ days”.

I have a little bit of advice for any eighth grade students that might read this column. I know Saturday night seemed like just another dance, but it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your lives, so cherish it and enjoy the junior high experience while you can. You only have a few months left until high school, which is a totally different chapter in your life. You might not think so know, but you’ll miss those hallowed halls of Howar Junior High when you’re trying to figure out which floor your classroom is on at CHS.

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