By Kathleen, #7
If you’ve been paying attention to the names and numbers of our legion of siblings, you’ll know that I’m the seventh of us nine. I was the seventh to be allowed to stay up til midnight on New Year’s Eve, the seventh to read The Chronicles of Narnia, the seventh to finish eighth grade, etc. When your alter ego is #7, you’re not often the first at anything.
Truth be told, I’ve always been scared of taking the lead. Quite comfortable to watch people who knew what they were doing, I was content to follow on the well-tread paths of my older siblings. Things started changing around the end of eighth grade. I was preparing to be the seventh child to enter Cheverus High School as a freshman.
Things got tighter when Dad lost his part-time job. Both he and Mom looked upset when they told me that I should definitely be able to attend in the fall, but being able to pay future tuition wouldn’t be certain for a while. I promised I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
However, as the weeks passed and I started thinking more about Cheverus, I felt uneasy. Even though I knew my freshman year was secure, something didn’t feel right, and it took me awhile to figure out what it was.
I didn’t even want to go to Cheverus.
It doesn’t sound like a monumental realization. So I wasn’t excited for high school; a lot of teens aren’t. But for me, it was absolutely terrifying. Four of my six older siblings had graduated after four years at Cheverus, and the other two were well on their way as a senior and sophomore. I had watched with excitement and envy when they rushed out the door in their blazers with the Cheverus crest, ready to set the world aflame. Three months ago, I had all but squealed in excitement when I got to wear a plastic name tag saying Future Cheverian.
But even as I had looked closer and closer at Cheverus, eagerly observing and learning everything I could so as to have the best experience possible, I discovered other things.
I watched my siblings struggle to stand up for their beliefs in theology classes that were drifting from the traditional Roman Catholic faith we know. I found out Latin class was going to be eliminated from the curriculum entirely, making my goal of becoming a language interpreter that much harder. As time went on, more reasons surfaced, some personal and some as simple as that my favorite electives weren’t available.
I had no idea what to do. How would I tell my parents that, surprise, I didn’t want to go the high school the whole family had loved for years? How would I tell my siblings, who had these great memories of Catholic retreats, fall plays, and the English teacher they all agreed was the best in Maine?
Finally, one night, I cautiously admitted to my mom that I was worried about my future years at Cheverus, but it wasn’t about the tuition. I danced around it for a minute or so, bringing up all the reasons I had been thinking about.
Of course, my mom saw right through what I was saying and, in classic Mom-style, she cut straight to the chase.
“So, does this mean you don’t want to go to Cheverus?”
I nodded slowly… and started crying.
Instead of being struck dumb with disappointment, she instantly got out of her recliner and hurried over to the couch to hug me.
We then proceeded to talk about everything; she even asked if she could bring my older sister into the conversation. I gulped, once again on the verge of nausea.
Kelly, #3, had been class president her senior year, a champion debater while at Cheverus, and still liked to visit her favorite teachers when she was home. One of my favorite memories of her is at the podium during graduation, speaking so passionately about her wonderful experience. What would she have to say?
Needless to say, I was swallowing butterflies the whole time Mom was texting Kelly. I was so nervous that when we got the response “I’m so proud of you, Kathleen” a few minutes later, I burst into tears. Again.
The tears came now and again throughout the evening, but it was one of the best conversations I ever had. I got everything off my chest and sagged with relief as Mom and Kelly said they understood completely. During the next few days, I talked a lot with Mom, Dad, and my older siblings.
My parents and I eventually agreed that I should try a year at Cheverus and see if it improved. I agreed and was hopeful that it would be everything it had been for my siblings but worried that I would want to leave at the end of the year, only to find it harder.
I didn’t end up having to make the decision. My mom lost her job at Cheverus about a month later, and paying this year’s tuition was no longer a feasible option. I quickly became the first of us nine to be homeschooled during high school.
I start ninth grade next week. This year, I’m studying three languages to help bring me towards my goals, reading classic works I’ve always wanted to read, and taking enough online classes to more than make up for Cheverus’ academics.
It’s going to be an adventure, that’s for sure. But I’ve got my ever-supportive family; I was worried the most about Kelly’s reaction, and she’s checked in the most to see how I’m doing. Dad drives me to a Spanish-conversation group at the library every Wednesday in lieu of a Spanish club. Abby, #5, offered to dig through four years worth of work to find her projects on The Tempest for the self-taught Shakespeare course I’m taking.
They all have my back.
This year has been full of ups and downs. This was one of the biggest surprises of all, for me at least.
Who thought #7 would ever be a guinea pig?