Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?
I have a confession to make. I saw this challenge and thought it would be fun to do, so I stuck my hand in the bottom of my purse (a veritable coin graveyard), and pulled out a coin. This one. I looked at the year and thought, “Hum. I don’t like this one.” So, I threw it back in, rooted around again and pulled out…the same damn coin. Interesting. But, I still wasn’t overly thrilled with this year. “Let’s try again,” I thought. And yes, that’s right. I pulled out this coin AGAIN. I figure that the universe is trying to tell me one of two things. Either, A) I shouldn’t cheat on the challenge by throwing back the coin I first pulled out, or B) I should really write about this year. Either way – here goes.
1979 was the year I turned 13. My birthday is in August, so technically, I spent most of the year as a 12-year-old. The same age as Monkey #1 is now. I attended Conniston Junior High School in West Palm Beach, Florida (Go Blue Devils!). I sang in the school chorus and after school, I took ballet and tap. Sounds pretty average. But, I was pretty miserable.
In 7th grade (which I was in for most of the year), I was – how should I put it – an awkward child. Too tall. Too heavy. Too “smart.” Too misunderstood. I was teased by the “mean girls,” who questioned my talent and my intelligence. To make matters worse, I was at a school where very few of my elementary school friends had gone. My “home” junior high did not have a gifted program, so my mother had me sent to the one that did. It meant an hour long bus ride to get to school. We had many stops to make to pick up kids from all over. Kids in wheel chairs, “Special Ed” kids, and a few others in the gifted program (along with 2 others from my neighborhood). Yes, that is right. I rode a “short bus,” and once some of the others at school realized it, they didn’t let me forget it. So, here I was, an awkward, too heavy, shy, sensitive child, heading off to a place where I did not know anyone else. It has never been easy for me to make friends. It was really hard at the beginning. Luckily, I did establish a little group of friends who accepted me for who I was , but it wasn’t many.
1979 was a rough year for my family as well. That was the year my parents divorced. My parents separated the year before. At the time, Florida required a year separation when there were children involved. My dad moved out of the house while we were on vacation the summer of 1978. The night before we were to drive home, my mother sat my brother and me down and told us that my father would not be at the house when we got back. Oh, and she had him put the dog to sleep while we were gone. Big fun. And since it was a “separation,” my father hadn’t bought a house. He had instead towed our Airstream trailer to a nearby campground. My parents had decided to switch off weeks – one week in the house – one week in the trailer. And since my mother had primary custody (except for every Wednesday and alternate weekends), that meant my brother and I also had to move back and forth. It was insanity. The summer of 1979, my father bought a duplex a few miles from our house, so things got at least a TINY bit more normal. The fact remained, though, that my parents were divorcing. Granted, they didn’t have a wonderful marriage. I knew it. I was old enough to tell. But, these were my PARENTS. None of my friends had divorced parents (well, there was one, but her mother had left when she was a baby and her dad had been raising her since then). It was the end of the world as I knew it. And I wasn’t sure I’d be fine.
They say that every experience in your life leads you to who you are today. And that if you went back and redid anything, you wouldn’t be who you are right now. I understand that. I really do. Now. But then? As a shy, awkward, 12-almost-13-year-old? I wasn’t able to see the person I would grow to me. Oh, sure, I know some of my insecurities date back to then. But, I kinda like me now – insecurities and all.