‘The Day Jack Played’

By Dana Glaser

Let me introduce you to my little brother, Jake: Jake started 7th grade this year, he’s half my height, wears glasses, plays the guitar and can solve a Rubics cube faster than anyone I know. In the past year I’ve noticed symptoms of living vicariously through my 12-year-old brother:

When the class schedules came in August, I opened his first.

When my parents ask Jake if he has done his homework, I, regardless of his response, will invariably sigh and say ever-so-sagely “Jake, you don’t know the meaning of work. Just wait until junior year…” At which point I advise him not to let “them” pressure him into a burdensome course load. I suggest taking AP Biology in junior year instead of AP Physics B. Or dropping out of school after ninth grade. He ignores me.

When my brother chose his 8th grade classes in February, I encouraged him to take Chronicle.

I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with these confessions. They are a strange combination of bitter regret and loving nostalgia. I’m not going to sugar-coat my Harvard-Westlake experience: there are ways the school could have been better, ways that I could have been better. Most of what I remember though is, well, perfect: I remember marker wars in the Spectrum room, Jeremy Michaelson’s second period English III Honors class and Katherine Holmes-Chuba’s fifth period History/Art history class, Dupars and Monday layouts, Grease in the art studio, winning Mock Trial, Biochem study parties and an awkwardly choreographed dance to “Pop” by N’SYNC. I want Jake to avoid the turns where I crashed (literally and figuratively), but I also want him to know there will be a time, or many times, that he would easily give a few all nighters for.

Which is why I was sitting on my brother’s bed, decked out in pajamas at three in the afternoon on the day we will all remember as “The Day Jack Played.”

“So today, this guy in my grade — Jack McFadden-Talbot,” I began.

“McFadden?” he laughed (I’m sorry about this next part Jack). “Do people call him that? In my grade people would totally make fun of him.”

“No,” I said shortly. “Shut up a minute.”

I told him about that morning. I told him I went to my last class meeting with the only hope that it would end early. I told him I brought my 20 lb Biology textbook and a highlighter to get in a last minute scan before my test the next period. I told him that all around me Blackberries were clicking and friends were chatting. And then Jack played. It wasn’t immediate, but after the first few notes conversations petered off, people squirmed a little and then settled into their seats. I realized I had read over the functions of the cerebrum three times with minimal absorption, and I stopped trying. Even though classical music, tasteless and barbaric as I am, usually lulls me into a doze, I actually listened. We actually listened. We were absorbed. Then we were moved. In the smattering of applause that followed, one person stood up near the front, and then a few more, until we were giving him a standing ovation and through the heads of my classmates I could see Jack smiling and I clapped harder, happy to be part of something that could make him so happy, happy to be in a class with so many brilliant members and happy that even though I didn’t know all of them (and that it was too late to try), we could come together for one arguably perfect moment at the end of a class meeting.

All of this I told my brother.

“Cool,” he said. He turned on his computer.

I was disappointed at first. He didn’t get it. It’s all right though, because I guess he will soon enough.