I was at the YMCA Lifeguarding during the evening swim lessons thinking about how my life has changed since the beginning of the year.
I would turn 16 in July and then I could get my Driver's License. I would not be dependent on my Parents or Devin for rides anymore. That was another thing, Devin, it was hard to believe that just two short months ago Devin and I became boyfriends. Our parents had been true to their word and had supported us in our relationship. Although they did set some of the usual ground rules, such as what we could and could not do in public. They were concerned about our safety and we took their rules to heart.
The night when Devin and I came out to our parents as boyfriends, I asked him out on our first official date as Boyfriends. We decided that dinner and a movie would be safe enough and would not raise any suspicions. I was beside myself with all that week and Devin and talked on the phone every night to fill each other on the day's events. When Friday finally came, Devin picked me up at Dad’s place. Dad invited Devin in and reminded both of us to be careful and not to do anything that would draw attention to us. He then pulled out some money and gave it to me and told us to have fun. We had decided to go and see Highlander with Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery at the Christiana Mall. We could eat in the food court before the movie and then go to the theater and see the movie. When we arrived at the Mall we look around at the food choices and decided to wait and find somewhere to eat after the movie. Even back then Mall Food Courts weren’t known for their culinary selection.
We went to get out tickets and then went to the concession stand to get our drinks and a tub of popcorn to share. When we got to the theater that the movie was going to be shown in we found seats in the back row by the wall where we hoped we would have some privacy. We made a good choice as there was no one else in our row. Devin and I held hands and leaned into each other during the movie. We both enjoyed the closeness we shared that night. As we exited the movie we were laughing and joking around like the other teenagers shouting “There can be only One!” as we walked to Devin’s car.
Since we were able to go to an earlier movie then we had planned it was still early. Both Devin and I were hungry I mentioned that I knew a restaurant on the way home that served really good food and had been designed like a New York Bistro with dark high backed booths that offered a lot of privacy. Devin said that sounded perfect and off we went to H.A. Winston & Co.(1) We got to the restaurant and it was packed. We waited 20 minutes to be seated in a booth in the main dining room. The host, Brad, to us to our table and as we were seating ourselves he looked at us and smiled, handed us the menus and proceeded to tell us what the specials were. He then turned and left us to look over the menus. We saw him go over to one of the waiters to let him know that we had been seated and a few minutes later Bryan, our waiter, came by and asked if we wanted to order anything to drink and maybe an appetizer. We ordered 2 cokes and an order of Onion Stings, Bryan left us and entered our order. He returned with our drinks and asked if we were ready to order our meals. Devin ordered The Winston - It was a 7-ounce burger with sauteed onions, peppers & mushrooms and I ordered The All American a 7-ounce burger with American cheese, bacon, lettuce & tomato. Both entrees came with Coleslaw and French Fries with a sourcream dipping sauce.
While Devin and I were talking our Onion Strings arrived and we started to chow down. Devin was telling me about his conversation with his band teacher about the All Youth Jazz Band and how he wanted to audition for it. His band teacher told him that it wasn’t a good idea since it was not a sanctioned organization with the Wilmington Roman Catholic Dioceses. Davin went on to say that when he pressed the band teacher as to why, and he said that the Dioceses did not approve of the music that the group performed. Devin told his parents about his conversation and this just reinforced their decision to have Devin withdraw from St Thomas. By that time our entrees had arrived and we dug into our burgers.
After we had finished our entrees Bryan returned to see if we wanted to order dessert. I said that we would look at the menu. Devin and I decided that we would share the Death by Chocolate which came with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. Bryan gave us a knowing nod and went off to place our order and then returned a few minutes later with our dessert, along with 2 spoons. He told us to enjoy and let him know when we were ready to pay the check. We sat and talked for more than an hour, learning more and more about ourselves and what we hoped for the future. Devin loved music and was a very good saxophone player, but he was being suppressed by the band teacher at St Thomas. But his real passion was electronics, he loved to take apart broken Radios, TVs and VCR to see how they worked and try to fix them. He was following in his Dad’s footprints and would go far if given the right motivation. As for me, my love was the Travel Industry, whether it was Hotels, Restaurants, or Tour Guides, I loved the thought of working with people who just wanted to have a good time and enjoy their time away from home.
The crowd in the restaurant was thinning out and I looked at my watch, it was 10:30 and time for Devin to drive me home. When we got there Devin turned the car off and we shared some private time together. When we finally said good night I told him that I couldn’t wait for him to come to Concord so he could see the potential my High School could offer him. He then told me that his Parents had scheduled the tours of Brandywine and Concord for the following week. He would let me know what his Parents thought of both schools. I gave him one final kiss and told him I would see him tomorrow afternoon. As I entered the house my Dad asked me how the movie and dinner were. I told him that both Devin and I had a great time and we would have to go to Winston’s again in the near future.
I found out on Sunday that Uncle Leo had made arrangements for Devin and his parents to visit both Brandywine and Concord High Schools. While Devin had the desire to attend Concord, my Uncle thought it would be best for them to visit both schools and make an informed decision. Uncle Leo thought it would be a great idea for me to conduct the tour of Concord and I readily accepted the role of School Ambassador.
When they toured Brandywine, Jason our friend from DelVets Swim Club, conducted their tour. While they were impressed with the Academics of the school and extracurricular activities that Brandywine had to offer, they felt the school was a bit too stuffy and high brow for their taste. They explained that as they were watching the students move between classes they could see how the different cliques interacted with each other. It wasn’t a positive reflection of what they wanted to expose Devin to and was one of the reasons they originally thought that public high school would not be an option for him. It was not just that, but Devin was really not impressed with the Band Teacher. He said that he reminded him of the Band Teacher at St Thomas.
The day that they came to Concord I was prepared to wow them. I met them in the main office and we toured the entire school but paid close attention to the subjects I knew Devin was interested in. Paul was very impressed with the fact that not only did the school have the traditional wood and metal shop classroom but also had an electronics and computer shop class. While he was talking to Mr. Garver, one of the Shop Teachers, Paul offered to join the school’s Mentor and CoOp Program. After that conversation, both Devin and I knew where he would be going to school that September.
I had reminded Devin to bring his Saxophone to the tour as we were going to be spending some time with Mr. Spencer, our Band Teacher. When we arrived in the Music Office I introduced Devin to both Mr. Curry and Mr. Spencer. Mr. Curry joked that if I kept bringing ‘strays’ to the Music Department they would have to put me on the payroll. Devin and his Parents explained that Devin was going to transfer to Concord from St Thomas HS in the Fall and that Devin wanted to try out for the Jazz Ensemble. Mr. Spencer thought that was a bit odd until Devin explained that he was in the Jazz Band at St Thomas and was tired of the way the school dictated what they were allowed to play. Mr. Curry, being the accomplished Choir Master and Department Manager he was, told Mr. Spencer to let him audition, so Devin ran out to the car and got his case.
I left Devin and his Parents with my teachers and went to the Main Office to let Uncle Leo know that Devin was granted an audition for the Jazz Ensemble. Uncle Leo said with a laugh, “Well I guess we know what their decision will be”. As we were talking my Uncle’s secretary handed me an envelope with “To the Parents or Guardians of Aaron Carter” on the label. When I saw the return address was from the Delaware Music Educators Association (DMEA), I became really excited. I asked my Uncle if he thought it would be OK for me to open the envelope. He went into full Principal mode and said that it was addressed to my parents and not directly to me. He then handed me another envelope that was addressed to Mr. Curry and asked me to deliver it to him when I went back to get Devin and his Parents.
When I returned from the office I gave the envelope to Mr. Curry and he said “I have been waiting for this” and proceeded to open the envelope. When he read the contents he smiled and told me how proud he was of his choirs and especially the 9th Grade Women’s Choir. He then got up and told me to follow him into one of the choral rehearsal rooms. He often did this when he wanted to have a private conversation with a student. Mr. Curry handed me the letter and I saw it was the full listing of those students in the state that had been selected for the All-State Choir listed by Part and then Score. I did a double-take when I saw my name at the top of the list of Baritones. I had tears in my eyes when I looked back up at my Director, Mentor, and friend and then choked out “is this for real?” He said that he would have told me my score the day after the audition, but all of the Music Teachers were sworn to secrecy. After I set the document down I jumped up and gave him a hug and thanked him for all the help he had given me over the last year. He told me that I had earned the first chair position and that he was very proud of my accomplishment.
After Mr. Curry posted the results for everyone else to see, that year Concord was represented by 48 out of the 120 students selected, we returned to the office where Mr. Spencer, Devin, and his parents were sitting. Mr. Curry asked how the audition went and Mr. Spencer said that as far as he was concerned Devin would be a part of, not only the Jazz Ensemble, but he was also going to have him audition for the AYJB (All Youth Jazz Band) the following week. Mr. Spencer then turned to me and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for one of the four vocal spots in the band. I said, “Yes I would, but I will need to check with my parents and make sure that it would be OK with my schedule at the pool this summer.” Mr. Spencer just smiled and said that he was sure that it would be OK with Jerry and George, but to let him know. I looked at him in confusion and then it dawned on me that I had been set up by my teachers and they had planned this already with the help of my Mom, Dad, and Uncle. I just said, “I smell a Rat” and laughed with the rest of them. Devin told me later that Mr. Spencer had told him about the Vocal position after his audition, but they were waiting on telling me about it when the All-State Results were released. He also said that he was all but assured to be in the band as well. This made me very happy. We walked back into the Main Office and I handed Devin and his Parents off to my Uncle so they could finish the registration process.
All-State Choir was a blast! Mr. Curry conducted rehearsals for the choir members in the school district every Tuesday night for 90 minutes and then we met up with the rest of the choir at Dover High School for 4 days of intense rehearsals with the guest conductor with the concert on Saturday Night. Our Guest Conductor had selected 12 pieces of music that tested the choir and he would not let us rest until he was satisfied we knew the music. He also had a surprise for us, on Wednesday evening he selected one choir member from each of the sections to participate in a fun P.D.Q. Bach piece called Good King Kong Looked Out with the rest of the choir accompanying us on the Kazoo (2). It was a great evening.
After the concert ended and we said our goodbyes to one another I went out to find my parents. To my surprise, Devin was with them. He had convinced his parents to allow him to attend the concert with my Mom and Day and then spend the night. Devin pulled me into a dark corner and gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, then handed me a single red rose and said how proud he was of me. We met up with my parents and there was another round of congratulating on the success of the choir. I told my parents that I was starving, so I excused myself and changed out of my Tux and returned it. We then piled into my Dad’s car and headed to a Mexican place on the way home. After our appetites had been sated Dad’s drove us home. Devin and I in the back and Mom and Dad in the front. I leaned over and gave Devin a kiss and fell asleep with my head on his shoulder.
About 2 weeks later Mr. Curry called me into his office. When I arrived there were 4 other members of the Chorale present. Mr. Curry handed us each an envelope bearing the DMEA Logo and told us to open and read the contents. When I pulled out the letter and started reading it I was shocked and by the looks, on the other 4 Choir members, they were reading the same message. At the recommendation of our All-State Choir Guest Conductor we had been nominated to the All-Eastern Choir and would have their rehearsal and concert on August 15, 1986, at Nathaniel Hall in Boston, MA. I looked at the date and then looked at Mr. Curry and Mr. Spencer, while this was a fantastic opportunity I would have to decline the invitation. I told Mr. Curry “While I am honored for being nominated to the All-Eastern Choir I will have to decline the nomination.” Mr. Curry understood that with my commitment to the AYJB and Timber Oaks SC that my schedule could not handle any more programs. He told me that he figured that would be my response and told me not to worry. The DMEA had a backup for my position and would send them in my place.
Devin called me a few days after his Parents had told St Thomas that Devin would be withdrawing for the school at the end of the school year. When the school asked for a reason for Devin’s withdrawal, Devin’s Parents said that they felt that the school was not providing a strong academic base for their son. To say that the administrators at St Thomas High School weren’t pleased would be an understatement. They told his parents that the security deposit that they paid when Devin first started to attend would not be returned since it was so late in the school year. Paul was prepared for this and with the help of my Dad’s legal team, Paul explained to the Headmaster of the school that if they did not return the deposit they would sue the school for not following the State’s Minimum Academic Standard Requirements. Paul's threat was taken very seriously and he had a certified check for the full deposit by the end of the week. Paul immediately deposited the check into Devin’s College Fund to make sure the school did not try and stop payment.
In April the Skating Club held its annual Skate Show which highlights all of the Club’s Skaters regardless of their skill level. This year’s theme was “Using your Imagination.” Both Rick and Maud cornered me one morning when I had scheduled private ice time. They asked if I would be willing to perform as part of one of the group numbers. I asked them why they were approaching me for this part and they explained to me that even though I stopped skating competitively I still had quite a following in the area. It seemed that my performance in Skate Philadelphia where I was robbed of a win had sent tremors across the region. The skater, Clifford, who beat me, you remember the one who fell twice during his Long Program and then went on to place last in the National Competition. Well, when Clifford returned to his Skating Club he was harassed by the other skaters and parents. Skate Moms can be really cruel if there is even a hint of scandal. It got so bad that he had to move in order to continue his training. I can’t say that I felt sorry for him since in my heart I knew that I had skated a much better program.
Maud’s protest at the time had no traction, but after the National Competition and Clifford’s last-place finish, it was discovered that two of the judges had conspired to move Clifford ahead in the competition. One of the judges was an old coach of Clifford’s and should have recused herself from scoring his performance. Once that news was released the International Skating Union (ISU) set new rules in judging competitions. This Included bringing Judges in from another region to score the skaters. The ISU investigated the competition and had a panel of judges from the Southern Region re-scored the Men’s Novice Long Program from the videos that were taken of each skater. Based on their scoring the ISU invalidated the original scoring and reposted the scores based on the Southern Region’s review. That was when I noticed that Rick was holding something behind his back. Rick then presented me with the Second Place trophy and a letter from the governing board of the ISU which included a sincere apology for all the pain and anguish the scandal had given me. Both the trophy and letter had been delivered to the Club earlier in the week.
Rick and Maud laid out the plan for the group number to me and I have to say I like what I saw. I was to play Willy Wonka and take the five winners with Golden Tickets around the Chocolate Factory. The six to nine-year-old kids would be dressed up as Umpa-Lumpas. I would also have a Solo Performance to the song “Pure Imagination” that Maud was already choreographing for me. They would also have five of the more advanced skaters playing the children that I would be taking around the ice. When I asked who would be playing Charlie Bucket in the number, Maud told me that they found a young skater in Washington D.C. named Michael Weiss. Michael had just started skating the previous year and was an amazing talent. Rick had agreed to play the part of Charlie’s Grandfather in the number and would choreograph a number that Michael and himself would skate towards the end of the number. 11 years later, in 1997, Michael became the first skater to land a Quad Toe Loop in Competition. After looking at the plan and what music would be included in our part of the show I agreed to skate in the show.
Maud was overjoyed and we started working on my solo number that week. I have to admit that I missed the performance aspect of skating and was considering returning to competition. When I told Devin about the Ice Show he was happy that I was doing something that he knew that I missed, but he had another surprise for me. He and Rick had been working together behind my back and Devin’s skating skills had improved enough that he would be able to have a part in the show. He would be dressed as one of the Umpa-Lumpas corralling the younger skaters on the ice. The Ice Show was a huge success and both Devin and I had a blast performing in the show. He later told me that he would love to continue skating, especially with me.
Marcy, the Deck Manager, walked up to me and asked: “A penny for your thoughts?” That shook me out of my daydream and I apologized for zoning out. Marcy said, “Hey I understand, how are you and Devin doing?” The shocked look on my face made Marcy giggled and she continued “I see how you two look at each other, and you’d have to be blind to not see you two are in love. It is the same look that I give my girlfriend when we get together.” This shocked me even more, not only had Marcy just outed herself to me, but she had also figured out about Devin and me. Marcy then told me that Devin and my secret is safe with her. She also hoped that her secret was safe with me. I just nodded yes and we both smiled in understanding. I left the Y that night feeling on top of the world and that everything between Devin and I would be OK.