"Out of the Woodwork" by Peter Scharer '17

In eighth grade, the golden age of my athletic ability, I tried a new sport: football. I was the second string tight end on the middle school football team, which sounds pretty good until you consider that Uche Ndukwe, who will be a football captain this fall and has played on varsity for the past three years, was the first string. Our standard formation included two tight ends on the field, so I got a lot of playing time, but most games I ended up feeling like the bell that rings at the end of assembly, which is to say I accomplished nothing and only disrupted others’ performances. My first reception came in a game against Fessenden one rainy afternoon about halfway through the season, and I got flattened into the mud by a linebacker approximately 2.4 seconds after making the catch. After prying myself off the ground and stumbling back to the huddle, I thanked quarterback Jack Maroni for finally targeting me. He laughed and thanked me instead for coming out of nowhere to save him from an interception. He had intended to throw deep to Uche but the ball had slipped mid-throw.

Football was new to me that year, but when I entered Nobles in seventh grade, I had been playing baseball, soccer and basketball for a while, and I thought sports were going to be my thing. In a seventh grade “letter to my future self” I just got back, I wrote that Nobles would be a good fit for me because of the strong athletic program.

As someone who just did three seasons of theatre, has not played in a sports game since sophomore year, and was thoroughly winded after playing one game in the three on three basketball game earlier this year, I can safely say that I did not live up to my seventh grade athletic expectations. But my athletic standards had already begun dropping in middle school.

On the first day of middle school boys basketball practice in seventh grade, I wore my brother’s old high top bright red and white basketball shoes that made me look like either a clown or an astronaut, depending on your angle. After an hour and a half of air-balling threes and layups alike, I dejectedly walked back up to the middle school and sat in Mr. Gifford’s office with a couple other seventh graders, eating candy and rice cakes as I came to grips with the realization that professional basketball wasn’t in my future. The girl I had a crush on was in the office too and started talking to Mr. Gifford about how she was doing the middle school play. I thought to myself, what a great opportunity.

Long story short, I ended being the only guy in the middle school play that year, and although it didn’t work out with the crush, I enjoyed my experience in theatre and continued being in plays and acting classes for the next few years.

But, I ended up abandoning both theatre and sports briefly when I attended School Year Abroad Italy junior year.

I could talk for hours about the nine months I spent living with an Italian host family while taking classes at an American school. I could tell you about the time my host brother’s soccer team got rowdy in a pizzeria and knocked over a medieval banister, or the time I spoke with a café owner in a Sicilian hill town about his opinion on the nearby immigrant camp, or the time I went to a scooter and motorcycle convention, or the time I almost got sent in front of the school’s disciplinary committee for an incident that involved coupons for free gelato, an open window and a bad suggestion. But those are all stories for another time. I will tell just one tale today that I think best embodies my experience as a whole.

One cloudy February morning in Verona, a couple friends and I were leaving an Airbnb apartment we had stayed in for the weekend when a man standing outside the building’s garage greeted us. We briefly said hello to him and continued towards the street. Then, almost out of nowhere, he asked if we wanted to see the collection of nativity scenes he had made. I stopped walking and turned around, recognizing the Italian word for “nativity scene” from a poster I had seen during the holiday season. Italians take their nativity scenes very seriously, so I knew these were going to be good. I said yes, or sí, enthusiastically and followed the man into his garage, where four different nativity scenes were organized on a shelf. He explained that except for a few figurines here and there, everything we saw was handmade. The different depictions of Jesus Christ’s birth included woodworking, painting, rubber carving, and welding. Some had rotating platforms; others sparkled with flashing lights. Caught up in the beauty of the man’s craft, I didn’t realize at first that neither of my friends had entered the garage with me. I went outside and told my friends to come in, to which they responded,
“Why did you go into the garage with that strange guy?”

My year in Italy as a whole was kind of like me entering the garage that day. I traveled to a foreign place, spoke a foreign language, and engaged in a different culture. I took a risk by leaving friends behind and entering a new environment, but ended up enjoying the program very much.

As I close up this speech, you might be thinking, “How random that he ended up catching the misfired football that day” or “How crazy that he never would have done theatre if he hadn’t had some crush in seventh grade” or “How random that some guy from Verona showed him a collection of nativity scenes.”

But in reality, nothing is truly random or lacking context. Nothing can come out of the woodwork of life that isn’t already inside. Like in the case of my only reception on the middle school football team, I ran dozens of passing routes that season before finally catching a pass. There is only so much space on a football field, so odds were decent that the ball would eventually come my way, whether by intent or accident. All I needed to do was keep running my routes.

Members of the Class of 2017 have run all sorts of different metaphorical routes during their time here at Nobles. I am amazed daily by the scope of different interests and personalities that I see among my classmates. Everyone has found their own path, accomplishing things that they couldn’t have possibly imagined when they arrived on this campus. This is a testament to our parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors who have supported us along the way. But it also shows the character of each and every member of our class that we forge our own paths in the world. Thank you all for being on this journey with me; I love you guys. However your path in life may change, keep running your routes and taking your risks. You may be surprised by what gets thrown your way.

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"Out of the Woodwork" by Peter Scharer '17