Monday, September 29, 2008

Moving In

My childhood was filled with sudden relocations, city to city, school to school. Dad was in the military, and as an adult there isn't a single childhood friend I can contact to share memories. I can look back and pinpoint a dozen individual days where I faced a new school in a town or city far from our last post.

A recent gift subscription to The Sun Magazine, a quality publication filled with amazing pieces written by professional and amateur writers around the globe, filled many hours with pleasure and introspection. Near the back of the volume, there was a section entitled "Readers Write." In an offset box, it listed the the rules for publication of the short non-fiction pieces on the pages that followed, along with the topics for the following months. Due November 1st was "Moving In."

Could anyone understand the joy and angst of 'moving in' more thoroughly than I did? Most likely someone can, but from my point of view it seems unlikely. Our own experiences always seem more clear than those of others. I took a couple of days searching through my memories of being the new kid in school—being uprooted from one set of friends and driven cross-country to a new home, a sea of strangers. I chose fifth grade.

There were many reasons for my choice. First, it was the only time I remember deliberately complaining to my father about the situation before heading off to school. He had problems of his own, and I got no sympathy. Second, it was the first time I had decided not to even try making friends. We would only be at this location for a short tour, and the school year was more than half over. The circles would be tight, and I would already be on the outside.

I learned so much from our travels that, as my mother recently said, I wasn't damaged. "Just changed," I told her. She agreed with that, saying that we all were, but that she liked to pretend at the time that it didn't bother her. Maybe she should have let us know. Maybe not. Too late now, anyway.

I'm not sure what the rules are about posting things on my blog if I'm entering them for publication, so I won't put it up now. However... once they decide whether or not to publish it, I'll be allowed to post it. When I do, I'll put a link back to this piece. It will be several months, as they don't decide until February or March, and then publication will be in May. Don't hold your breath that mine will be there. I'm sure they'll have thousands of entries.

Some memories reside like permanent companions, warning or comforting as we trek along our daily paths, making choices and climbing from the valleys to the hilltops. Others slip away. So many school days have vanished in the mist, and that's a good thing. The ones with the most important lessons hang around. Which school days do you remember?

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