My Ugly Blue Poncho

Name a piece of clothing that you have found to be beneficial.

My old poncho is an absurdly bright shade of blue. It has the uncanny ability to turn anyone who wears it into a baggy, rather ridiculous-looking blob. This poncho holds a special place in my heart. When my mom first gave it to me as I was entering eighth grade, I tried my hardest to refuse bringing the hideous thing to school. At her insistence that I not be left unprotected “in case it rains,” though, I stuffed the poncho into the bottom of my backpack and prayed I would never have any reason to use it. But one February day while I was in Latin class, disaster struck. I was taking AP Latin at La Jolla High, although I officially went to Muirlands Middle School, because I had taken Latin privately for two years in elementary school and was ready for AP by eighth grade. The high school was close to Muirlands, so leaving Latin a bit early every day to walk up the hill to middle school was not a problem. Everything was fine – technically. The real difficulty lay in the fact that my AP Latin class was an extremely close-knit one, having had one teacher for all four years of Latin. It came as no surprise, then, that my classmates had never really accepted the “middle school kid” who had joined them a year earlier. Sure, they were outwardly nice to me, but I never had conversations with them about anything other than Latin. I was definitely still an outsider. So, on that fateful February morning when it started pouring and I was caught without an umbrella, I was petrified by the realization that I would have to don my poncho in front of the entire Latin class – that is, if I didn’t wish to get soaked to the bone on my way back to Muirlands. Five minutes before the end of class, I sneaked off into the corner of the room, took out the poncho, and draped it over myself, trying to make as little noise as possible, praying that no one would notice. Alas, notice they did. I heard the first snickers before I had even finished putting my poncho on. I turned around dejectedly, confident I would find a room full of scornful faces. I could not have been more wrong. My classmates were laughing all right, but their laughter was not at all malicious or humiliating. They were simply amused by my utterly ridiculous appearance. As I walked past the Latin room on my way up to Muirlands, greatly relieved, the whole class stood by the window and waved at me, still giggling. The next day, I came into class unsure of what the other students would say to me but was immediately met with “Eighth Grader, where’s your poncho?” “Eighth Grader” – the nickname stuck, as did an increased friendliness of the class toward me. Wearing that poncho gave me something to talk about with my classmates. For the first time, I was discussing a topic other than the scansion of the Aeneid Book VI, line 287. These initial conversations about my poncho led to many other unrelated but equally interesting conversations throughout the year, and I made several good friends during my last few months in AP Latin. From then on, every time it rained, my classmates clamored for me to bring out “The Poncho.” I only wore “The Poncho” once more in front of that class, but I left AP Latin in June having bonded with what may be the most interesting and intelligent group of people I have ever met. And I owe it all to my ugly blue poncho.

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