Spartan Cheerleader Turned Funeral Director
My reflection growing up as a Spartan in less than 2,000 words is more challenging than writing my college essay. But, the parade boss (Rick Reynolds) has trusted me in doing the impossible for you, my Spartan family!
Eleven years ago, Mrs. Wheeler, my International Studies teacher, asked me, “Why don’t you take over your family business, Glenville Funeral Home”? Her words of encouragement have sat in my brain even after all these years. Yes, it would have been a lot easier to just jump into something that was already waiting for me, but what’s the fun in that? In short, going to Mortuary Science School right after high school was a HARD “no” for me; I hadn’t even lived my life yet, nor did I want to become my father at age 18 (sorry, Dad!). Well, after a lot of soul searching and growing up, here I am Mrs. Wheeler! And if Burnt Hills School District isn’t the best educational program in the Capital Region, please let me repeat that there was an INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS program 11 years ago.
THE POLAR BEAR YEARS
Shout out to Pashley! We Polar Bears are really cool!
I don’t remember what I ate yesterday, but can proudly chant the school’s theme song in it’s entirety today, specifically after a drink with classmates at Glenville’s renovated Friendly’s. And even though I love present day Neon Sushi, nothing can replace Friendly’s waffle fries.
In elementary school, we had these awful things called Agendas. Well, awful for me, because my teachers loved writing “notes” about me and requesting my Mother’s signature… uhh ohh. My most famous note was by Mrs. Pelegi, the school nurse. It read, “I found Brittany doing cartwheels in the hallways, again. She is an energetic girl, but please have a conversation with her.” Let’s call my agenda what it really was: an EVALUATION.
My Mom’s parenting skills were unique to say the least. One time, she dropped me off in front of the Charlton School for girls then made a U-turn just far enough down the road where I really believed she enrolled me. I’m probably the last generation you could get away with those kind of parenting skills. And hopefully the last generation where Mother’s give their daughters bowl hair cuts!
Well, if my Mother didn’t scar me for life, my Father’s embarrassing body building photos sure did. In 5th grade, Mrs. Eddy was teaching our class about the muscular system. Long story short, my Father wanted to help, so sent me to school with his body building photos from the early 80s. As far as I know, those photos were used for the curriculum until she retired. I hope this was just a rumor, but I’m sorry if it isn’t.
The Awkward Years
Middle School is exactly that—thankfully it gets better in High School. It’s when we go through our biggest growth spurt and the elementary schools come together. For me, it was the ideal time to swap out my “Daughter of the Town Mortician” ‘stereotype’ for another. I chose cheerleader! After the 2001 hit, “Bring It On”, didn’t we all want to be cheerleaders? In all honesty, I chose cheerleading because I could dance before I could walk, and most importantly, I was athletically incapable of doing any kind of sport with an instrument. Thankfully, baton twirling was not something the ‘modern day’ cheerleader did.
I vividly remember studying Egyptian history in 6th grade; it was fascinating! I created the most detailed King TUT mask out of paper machete. I like to think my mask is still being used as an example today. In reality, my King Tut was probably dethroned years ago by some sixth grader from Generation Z who used fiber optics or Star Trekie galactic material; maybe it’s the same kid who erased my name from the Pashley history books as record holder for the 50-yard dash.
As an adult, I complain about not having enough time in the day to accomplish everything, but compared to 13-year-old Brittany, I look like a bum! I’d wake up at the crack of dawn, learn something at school, try to not fall asleep at school, expect to be athletic in P.E., visit orthodontist Dr. George to replace my braces with fresh maroon and white rubber bands (I went all out as a Spartan cheerleader!), then go to an after school program like Drama Club, Pop-warner cheerleading or Dance class, come home to do homework, all while having to remember to shower before bed. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
My favorite events in middle school were Monopoly, Push Cart Fair, and REC nights; my Mom made sure whatever it was, she would be the ‘mom-ager’, I mean ‘supervising adult’. I swear before there was Kris Jenner [Kardashian], there was Donna DeMarco.
above: actual footage of my Mother, Donna, being a stage mom
Instead of reminiscing on my worst years of school pictures, can we please remember the smell of the Old Homestead’s biscuits. I feel bad for anyone that never got to experience this once upon a time TREASURE right where CVS is today.
Fun note: That’s also where I got my first cell phone: a tiny, Nokia; it was “so fetch” at the time—can you tell what generation I’m from?
“As we go on we remember all the times we had together”
The highlight of high school for me was definitely square-dancing during P.E. I can do-si-do in circles around all my friends from Niskayuna and Saratoga High. They are secretly jealous to this day.
Update: The Nokia phone was confiscated and taken to Mr. Brunson’s office at least 5 times by Sophomore year. I took up the old trade of passing notes before I was really sent to a boarding school. At least, Trooper Sparks didn’t know me, so I wasn’t all bad, right?
WRONG: When it came to gym class, with the exception of square dancing and bowling at Burnt Hills Lanes, I did everything in my power to NOT participate in gym. I guess that’s why I never had the same gym teacher each year, besides Mr. Kline who got stuck hearing ‘DeMarco’s excuses’ two years in a row. I don’t think Mr. Kline even knew my first name. He would literally just call me “DeMarco” ALL THE TIME. If you are reading this “Kline”, the name is “Furman” in a few months, haha!
The most memorable person from High School has to be the G.O.A.T , Coach Shell. I don’t think anyone can disagree that he has made the Burnt Hills - Ballston Lake Varsity Football team into one of those Texas High School teams you see in movies like Friday Night Lights. Given I was a cheerleader and was EXTRA with the pep. Still, those games were the true highlights of my Spartan Pride. All besides this one game where my mom-ager Donna, made my best friend and I sing the national anthem before a game because we didn’t show up to cheer practice earlier in the week. Instead, we snuck off to Sam’s Chinese for some noodles. I am NO Mariah Carey, so this was punishment. Parenting skill #49.
The most impactful individual in my life from High School was the late Mrs. Smrstik. Helen truly believed in me and kept me in check with reality. I hope she knows how grateful I am for her.
There will be many people who inspire you throughout your life, sometimes you don’t even realize it until 10 years have passed. The people you meet or met in high school really do stay with you forever. For example, I’m getting married this summer and 6 of my 8 bridesmaids are BHBL graduates; you would think I’ve made ZERO social skills or friends after high school.
why the cheetah dress?
jersey shore was a thing back then
My last reflection is both the scariest and most beautiful memory: September 11, 2001.
I was in 5th grade when the Twin Towers were attacked. I look back on the television footage today, and still can’t believe how our teachers kept it together. I was too young to understand what this meant, but old enough to pick up on body language and what FEAR was. And I don’t remember feeling it; I felt safe. Of course, things went a little different that day, but our teachers stayed strong for us. Every year on the anniversary of 9/11, I think specifically of Mr. Gershon, my bus driver from the CAT bus. Instead of stopping at the entrance of the funeral home at 9 Glenridge Road, he pulled into the parking lot, parked the bus, grabbed my sister and my hand and walked us into the arms of our wet-eyed mother and grandmother. He was our protector until we were in the arms of our family.
Even though I’m only newly 28 years old, I appreciate reflecting on my life so far. I did not think I was going to stay in this area. But as many of us know, life is special that way; it’s only after we grow and learn, when we start to appreciate the things that were always there. Today, as a funeral director in this community, it brings me great honor to learn about individual life journeys. My mission is to make sure their stories are told with creativeness, dignity, and above all, love.
And, when my fiancé and I decide to start our family, I hope it’s within the Burnt Hills School district. If not, I NEED to hire that Generation Z genius who can photoshop my zip code into the district’s system, because I want to be a Spartan mom-ager!
And while I have all your attention: If anyone finds big, Audrey Hepburn looking sunglasses at the bottom of Ballston Lake please return to me.
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