Wilton Warrior Words — Textbook juju

Olivia Vitarelli

Olivia Vitarelli

Hearst Connecticut Media

As the new school year begins, so does the annual reception of class textbooks. These textbooks contain unapologetically honest accounts of the year ahead. This year, some pages in my calculus textbook were dog-tagged and decorated with coffee stains. I hoped that my textbook predecessor was an unhinged procrastinator who required coffee to supplement late-night cram sessions, but the realist in me knew this class would entail many arduous nights of studying for even the best student.

The first step I take in knighting my textbook is warning it that I will, at least once, fall asleep on it and stain it with a tear of defeat. I will slam it shut in pure frustration because it does an impossibly poor job of explaining conic functions, and, five minutes post-breakdown, I will open it gingerly and beg it to tell me about hyperbolas.

After concluding our informative briefing, I begin phase two by opening its inner cover and glancing at the ever-anticipated “This Book is the Property of” rectangle. Perhaps I am tragically misinformed, but I would venture to say that the only redeeming quality of receiving a textbook is the possibility that Kristine Lilly owned it in 1988. This has yet to happen to me, but as any sixth grader with Kristine Lilly’s copy of Treasure Island will tell you, it is well worth the wait.

In any case, I strive to forgive my textbooks for their lack of gold medal decoration and make them feel loved. Typically, I know at least two names residing in the “property of” rectangle. Maybe they are an alumnus who I met through theater and looked up to, or maybe they are the older sibling of my randomly assigned partner from Spanish class. The latter is always optimal to break any awkward silences in forced Spanish class conversations. “Yo tengo el libro de texto de tu hermano” always solicits an unenthused “bien” from said partner.

Regardless of who my textbook’s previous foster parents were, I am met with the inevitable truth: I will be impacted (for better or worse) by textbook juju. The cynics and non-believers might scoff at the notion of it, but textbook juju is real, and it impacts my livelihood and well-being. For example, one year ago the beloved, Ivy-bound executive board president bequeathed to me his government textbook. From that point on, my junior self knew I was guaranteed success in the class.

Some call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, I call it fate. If my textbook has previously belonged to a brainiac, I know that when the going gets rough I can trace the interior pages with my fingertips, manifesting an adequate grade for myself from the spirit of their advanced frontal lobe. Phase three of my introductory process is claiming the textbook as my own. I grab a pen, or in a pure act of rebellion, a pencil (erase my name and replace it with yours, I dare you), and inscribe my legacy onto the page.

This year, as I completed phase three, I wondered what the future recipients of Campbell’s Biology textbook #16-37 will think when they read my name. Will they feel excited at the prospect of receiving my karma, irritated about owning the same textbook as someone who believed in textbook juju, or, even worse, wonder who I am? I hope to leave a high school legacy complete with motivated, well-rested, hydrated, stress-free, successful and hardworking textbook juju. Is it likely that I will also leave the juju of a panicked and overwhelmed student who strongly wishes to throw in the towel and watch the most dramatic episode of the Bachelor? Yes. But, future beholders of my textbooks, even though I am not a World Cup champion, I promise that I will strive to leave you the purest juju possible.

Phase four then consists of me raising my arm and flamboyantly tapping the right and left side of my textbook. The knighting process is complete.

Olivia Vitarelli is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with three classmates.