My daughter started sixth grade today. I keep telling her it's going to be all right. She doesn't believe me. Fifth grade left her a little gun shy. And I say, it's always like that. Fifth grade is painful and sixth grade is fun.
At least that's the way it was for me. And then I throw the punchline at her: "It was fun because of baseball cards."
That always gets an eye roll. But for me, that's what put sixth grade over the top. We had a lively teacher, we did all kinds of interesting activities. Contests. Auctions. Class elections. Free periods. For some reason, we were always sitting on top of our desks. I can't even remember using a text book in sixth grade, although I'm sure we did.
On top of that, just about the entire class collected baseball cards. In fact, in 1977, it seemed like the whole world collected baseball cards. There was my friend down the street. And his friend. There was my other friend down the other street. And his reluctant sister. There were my brothers. And their friends.
For me, sixth grade was what the card blogging community is now. A group of people who love cards, trade cards and talk cards. My sixth-grade class was 32 years before its time!
I wish I could remember all of the kids in the class who collected cards. Some, like me, were diehard collectors. We didn't have a lot of cards, but we were into them more than anyone else.
Others seemed to have unlimited resources and brought stacks of 1977 Topps to school. I couldn't have been more jealous.
Still others collected simply because it was the thing to do. Everyone else in the class was doing it, and they didn't want to miss out.
My good friend Mario was the Yankees fan. Another friend, David, was an Oakland A's fan. He was the one who convinced me that cutting up the 4-player rookie cards into mini-cards was a good idea.
There was Randy and Nancy, both Yankees fans. There was Tanya, the smartest girl in class and a great athlete. She was a Reds fan. There was Gina, who sat next to me. She only collected because everyone else did.
When school ended for the day, my brother and I would go to our friend Jeff's house. His family had moved from Kansas, and he was a big Royals fan. We would receive overinflated reports from him about how Tom Poquette was going to be the next Royals star.
It's funny when you look back now. The Royals, Reds and Pirates were the teams to beat. Generally, if a kid wasn't a Yankees fan, he was a Reds or A's or Royals fan.
Our teacher, seeing how many students were into cards that year, would fashion contests around getting a pack of cards. Those were awfully popular contests.
But there was friction over the cards, too. Much like the friction you see in the blogging world from time to time ...
There were allegations of card stealing. We had those flip-top desks in sixth grade and if you brought cards to school, you had to stash them carefully, because it was nothing for a kid to sneak into class and open up one of those desks. Some cards disappeared from my stack.
As you can see, these cards are well-worn specimens. I haven't upgraded more than a handful of 1977 cards. So all of these cards are the same ones that I swapped and talked about endlessly with my sixth-grade classmates.
In fact, each of the cards I just showed has a specific sixth-grade memory attached to it. And, like the 1975 Topps set, I may upgrade them all one day, but I'll never dispose of the original '77 cards.
They will always remind me of Mario and David and Tanya. Nancy, Randy and Gina. I have no idea what ever became of any kid in my sixth grade class. But I think of them a lot, especially when I'm trading with fellow bloggers.
I remember more from that grade than just about any grade before high school. As weird as it seems to say, I have baseball cards to thank for that.
So, if my daughter was willing to sit still for all of that -- which she isn't -- that's what I'd tell her about sixth grade. Don't worry. Everything is going to be just fine.