By my father’s best calculations, scrawled on a legal pad one evening over dinner, my family moved seventeen times during the years before I graduated from high school.
Life lived out of cardboard boxes and doled out in U-Haul miles.
Vivid are my memories of the first day of school. New and endless corridors lined with artwork the other kids fashioned with exuberant and childlike abandon. Unfamiliar faces of teachers, some of whom cared enough to recognize my own unfamiliar and wide-eyed stare and welcome me with a smile. And the awkward trek through the lunchtime milieu, looking for a bench out of the way where things are quiet and finding only the din of idle chatter and set after set of gawking and mischievous eyes.
I reinvented myself every September; with new acquaintances come unfamiliar interests and I did my best to adjust accordingly. There were new teams to root for. Different shows to watch. Undiscovered books to dive into. And I learned quickly which kids to avoid on the playground. Which ones to pick on. Which ones to suck up to. And even though the dust of change eventually settled and routine took shape, the “new kid” mentally at both ends of every new friendship never wore off.
There are some who would find this a welcome situation. To be able to leave behind the conflicts and bruises of the past and start afresh. Yet gone is the comfort of shared experiences. The joy of “remember when” moments without having to explain everything. Instead there are uncomprehending blank stares. Waiting for the punchline. Crickets. And feeble “I guess you had to be there” sighs of resignation.
I watched my little ones climb on the school bus this week. Sure they were apprehensive; my oldest daughter had a hard time falling to sleep for a week prior to the big first day. But lacking was the fear of the unfamiliar. They quickly found seats with friends they’ve known for years. At school, meandering familiar hallways on their way to classrooms they’ve seen before, each one saw the teacher they had last year, and the year before that, and felt safe and welcomed.
They came home with smiles on their faces. And starving for brownies.
I don’t regret my upbringing. Those years of endless change molded in me a stockpile of rich memories and an adaptable personality.
But I am staying put now . . .