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Final Exam Week

My Dad’s job abruptly brought us to Buffalo from Illinois. Annie was on the scene from the moment we arrived. A blonde kid in play clothes met the car inquiring, “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” I got out of the car and we toured the neighborhood. It was the stuff of dreams to be under the same roof, sharing a house (duplex/townhouse) with a girl my own age. The basements were connected for trips back and forth. Early on, I demonstrated hanging from the ceiling by wedging my feet between the pipes over the stationery tubs. We played detective using the wringer on Annie’s mom’s washer to run things through R & I. (Records and Information according to "Dragnet," TV show at the time.)

Adapting to a new town and school was easy since Annie and I were starting 5th grade in the same class at Lincoln. After school, we played board games, hide-go-seek, tag, roller-skated, and ran wild over the neighborhood- — at least until the street lights came on. We made daily treks to the little store a block or so away for candy bars. After blizzards, we tied a cardboard box to a sled and made bread and milk runs for our moms. In summer, we camped out in the back yard.

Although it made little sense, teachers impressed upon us that our final grades Junior year would be the most important in our entire educational careers. We figured it was probably because Seniors got “senioritis” meaning “heads in the clouds” resulting in low exam scores.

At high school the year ended with exam week, involving two, three-hour exams per day. Classrooms were steaming-hot and the atmosphere so serious you thought twice before even coughing. The pain of exam week yielded a glorious summer vacation.

Over the years, Annie and I had studied together for tests. Junior year, two of our exams fell at the same time, same day maybe social studies, biology, or history? We had everything ready with new blue books for the dreaded essay questions, #2 pencils, and trusty ballpoint pens. We made flash cards, devised rhymes, and employed other gimmicks. With time short and confidence lagging, we made the decision to stay up and study through the night. We piled our books and notes on the kitchen table next to a wide-open window, where the sun was casting a red glow on things.

Engrossed in our work, we vaguely heard people at final tasks, preparing to turn in for the night. As time passed, the air through the window cooled, the only sounds an occasional distant bark of a dog or a car passing by. Sometime during the night, we made popcorn and opened fresh bottles of Coke. Coffee was yet to be discovered but, I have no doubt we warmed our hands around cups of hot tea. The idea of quitting never occurred to us, we wondered aloud of the dangers of overdoing it and having our everything backfire. We slogged on, the night growing darker, the air clammy and cool.

Dawn arrived filling the kitchen with clean, white light, bringing exhilaration and determination. We split up, got dressed and hiked it to the bus stop at the corner in good time. We felt grown up, our nerves somewhat settled with the knowledge we gave it our best shot.

How did we do on the tests? Honestly, I do not remember. We got into local colleges, went our separate ways, and ended up on opposite coasts. Just lately, after 63 years through Annie’s sister Missy, our friendship has rekindled. We laugh that we gave birth to boys the same year naming them Chad and Jeremy. We email and text, sharing memories of early days and who knows? One day we might visit and reminisce into the darkest hours of the night over something a little more potent than Coke Cola.

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