Leaving the Cocoon (Part 2)

Co-Captains, James Lick High School Varsity Baseball ~ 1981

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 4: Leaving the Cocoon

Outside the safe confines of Viewmont Avenue, I lived in two different worlds. While in class in high school, I was with the smart kids, learning about algebra, geometry, biology, and Shakespeare. After school, I was either working part time at Kinney Shoes or running around with my best friend Rudy and the guys. At first, this arrangement worked out just fine as I figured out how to straddle the different social circles. But, I began to feel like I didn’t fit into either. To avoid looking like such a geek to my neighborhood friends, I did homework less frequently and didn’t walk everywhere with my books under my arm. Fortunately, I was good at taking tests to keep my report card slightly better than average. To maintain my place with the popular quad dwellers, I focused on basketball and baseball so I could be one of the “big men on campus.”

My substandard performance in the classroom finally caught up to me when I met with the school guidance counselor during the spring of senior year to discuss options after graduation. His name was Russell Bailey. Mr. Bailey was a portly Irish man in his late fifties with piercing blue-green eyes, thinning black hair slicked back so it looked like it was stuck to his scalp, and a large head holding thick jowls that hung from his face. Sitting behind his desk and talking in a booming voice, he looked and sounded intimidating as he opened my file and began to lay out my options. He told me that my poor study skills, a mediocre 2.72 grade point average, and an average SAT score left me with few options other than trade school, work, or maybe community college. I sat in front of his desk stunned, scared, and confused. Everything had always worked out for me. I told Mr. Bailey that my parents, friends, siblings, everyone, expected me to attend college. I quietly listened as he bluntly told me that community college was the only option.

Later that evening at dinner, while sitting around the round kitchen table, I shared the results of the meeting with Mr. Bailey with my parents. Mom looked at me with a puzzled facial expression. Dad continued eating without looking up from his plate or saying a word. I went to bed that night with a huge lump in my stomach trying to figure out how I was going to avoid my parents in the morning.

The next day at school, during the midmorning break, I was at the table with the guys when a voice over the public address system directed me to go to the office immediately. As I nervously walked to the office, the boys at the table playfully teased me because it looked like the schoolboy had finally gotten into trouble. When I arrived, the secretary motioned toward Mr. Bailey’s office, where he was standing by the door waiting for me with a forced smile on those heavy jowls. Walking into the office, I found my dad sitting in the chair I had sat in the day before. His face beamed with the same smile that had attracted my mom so many years before. I was more confused and nervous than ever. Dad never took a day off work. I stood motionless, trying to figure out what was going on. Mr. Bailey explained to me that my grade point average and SAT scores met the minimum requirements to apply for acceptance to San Jose State University. He was prepared to help me with the application process. Once again, the cocoon saved me. I was on my way to college, but with major chinks in the armor that had protected me throughout my life.

Next Time: ~ Chapter 5: Hail, Spartans, Hail!

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