Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Back to school

As a general rule, I'm not an enormous fan of the meme-as-blog genre.

It's not that I don't adore the process of answering six dozen questions about what I enjoy for breakfast and what I wear whilst eating said meal of champions.

I do. So much.

But there's something about putting it all out there for the world (or, in my case, a half-dozen haplessly loyal friends and family members) to read. Because, well: why would you care?

Tonight, however, I fling aside my concerns for your well-being. Because when my sister sent the following meme to me, I just knew it should be shared with the blogosphere.

It's fun. It's compelling. And above all, it's a marginal fit with the alleged reflections-on-home theme that I'm hanging on to by the most gossamer of threads.

It is (wait for it... ) a recollection of your ninth-grade year.

Now: when you read those words, did you squeal with glee and clap your hands?

Or, perchance, did you visibly squirm and feel perspiration bead upon your forehead?

You squealing clapper types, with your perfectly aligned teeth and bouncing-and-behaving hair: bless your hearts for feeling any positive association whatsoever with what many recall as an awkward age in their lives. Now go sit down.

The rest of you? The ones who barely survived with your dignity intact, and who still, years later, involuntarily check the mirror after a meal to ensure that you don't have entire spinach leaves stuck in your braces?

Welcome, my friends; this is a safe haven for us.

As I've mentioned, my high-school years were somewhat nomadic. But the ninth grade was an extra-special time, because smack-dab in the middle of the year, we moved to a different state.

OH MY WORD at the angst as I was moved, against my will, from a lush and sleepy southern town that I absolutely adored to a stark, small city in west Texas that, I was convinced, resembled the terrain of Mars.

So, the answers to my meme are noticeably schizophrenic. Don't be alarmed. And by all means, feel free to play along.


Who was your best friend?
Debelah Stallperson. (No. This isn't really her name; I have taken minor liberties herein to protect the innocent. Or the unwitting. Not that Debelah falls into either category, of course. Debelah, honey, feel free to step in and defend yourself at any point in time.)

Who did you "go out" with?
We didn't go anywhere at all, of course, but for about sixty seconds in my first semester, I "went with" an utterly adorable boy named Wade. And then, stupidly, broke up with him for no good reason.

Toward the end of my second semester, I went steady with a tall Texan named Lucas, who towered over me by a full twelve inches. At no point in my big-boned life have I ever felt so petite and precious.

Did you have a crush on anyone?
Consistently, yes, and always on older, slightly nebbish boys who were none the wiser of my existence. This ensured a steady stream of bitter tears and unbelievably bad poetry.

What sport did you play?
Not a darn thing in the first half of the year. I didn't even take p.e.; we were given the option of taking art classes instead. (Seriously: volleyball? or cross-stitching? badminton? or wood-carving? I LOVED THAT SCHOOL.)

After we moved, I played tennis. Not well. Badly, as I recall. Nevertheless, I was allowed to join the school team, and thus spent many an hour riding a bus along dusty roads to places like Iraan and Notrees for dismal tennis matches that I consistently lost.

Did you buy your lunch?
Honestly, I don't remember either school even having a cafeteria, although I'm sure they must have. I do recall thinking that foods like pita bread, alfalfa sprouts and kiwifruit were terribly exotic, so they made frequent appearances in my lunch box.

Did you skip?
Ooh, no, ma'am. And I'm not just saying that because my mother will read this; I was definitely a by-the-rules girl. Until my senior year, anyway, but trust me when I vow that there will be NO MEME OF ANY SORT ABOUT MY SENIOR YEAR.

Did you get suspended?
Never. Ever.

Were you in any fistfights?
Good heavens, no. YAWNSTRETCH, I was dull. Although I did get caught in the middle of a zany-but-dangerous Bible fight in my second semester, when I attended an itty-bitty Church of Christ-affiliated school. Interesting place, that school. Very interesting.

What was your favorite class?
Well, I loved English, of course, but in both schools, I pledged my undying loyalty to Yearbook. An hour a day was not nearly enough.

What was your school's name?
My first semester was served at Trinity Episcopal Day School, which boasted a graduating class of, oh, I'll guess fifty. Probably fewer.

For my second semester, I attented Midland Christian Academy: class of six. SIX.

If you could go back, would you?
Sure, for a day. Maybe two. And then I'd come running gratefully back to my life as a grown-up with all its responsibilities and challenges and sweet, sweet freedom.

Where did you sit at lunch?
Usually in the lunchroom, but sometimes in the parking lot. None of us could drive yet, but it seemed the thing to do.

Was there a smoking lounge?
No. The following year, I attended a much larger public high school and was shocked, shocked, I tell you, to see kids with cigarettes dangling from their lips.

Who was your science teacher freshman year?
Well, at Trinity, of course, it was Mr. OHMYGODWHATWASHISNAME? How in the world have I forgotten his name? The one? With the crazy eyes? You know! THAT guy! Yeah.

At Midland Christian, I had the distinct honor of being in Mrs. Isenberg's science lab. I'll never forget the care with which she introduced me to the class on my very first day, explaining to my new classmates that I'd just moved from Mississippi and would, naturally, be going to Hell because I was a Methodist and wore nail polish. Hi; nice to meet you, too.

Who was your English teacher?
I cannot believe that I can't recall one name from either school in what was, for all practical purposes, my favorite subject. This early-onset dementia really doesn't mess around.

Who was your history teacher?
The adorable Gina led our history class at Trinity. She gets special props for teaching us the chronological listing of our country's presidents, set to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Also: a song listing the Greek alphabet, which served me well in my exceptionally short-lived career as a sorority girl.

I'm sure I must have learned a few nifty historical tidbits in my second semester, but from whom? The mind reels, but does not click.

Did you think you were cool?
No, because I so desperately WANTED to be.

Describe your outfits in ninth grade.
The overarching theme, as I recall, was Things That Are Big: big paisleys, big vests, big chunky sweaters from the Limited, big Tretorn tennis shoes, big BIG hair, big letters on our shirts (FRANKIE SAY RELAX), big jewelry.

It was all big. Except for gloves. Inexplicably, gloves were small and fingerless.

Did you even have a cell phone?
A what? A who? If you had a dime, I suppose you could use the pay phone in the lobby.

Who was your favorite teacher?
Joe came to Trinity from New York with almost no teaching experience. The girls in the class all thought he was a stone cold fox, and somehow preyed upon him to allow us to watch Purple Rain in lieu of our Latin mid-term final.

What? I wasn't asked to name the BEST teacher. Just my favorite. And Joe was my favorite. Because, well, have you SEEN Purple Rain? It's, like, totally awesome. And Latin's a dead language, anyway. Veni, vidi, vici.

What's your most memorable moment?
I'll grant you: it's hard to imagine this now. But at Trinity, it was absolutely accepted that on Serf Day, each freshman would be kidnapped from his or her home sometime before sunrise by a senior. We were dressed in outlandish and embarrassing garb, paraded through school and around town, and generally forced to do the seniors' bidding for laughs.

It was definitely memorable. It was mostly fun. It was a blessing that Debelah's big sister, Sus, whom I utterly adored, kidnapped me and took it pretty easy on me. 'Cause otherwise it might have resembled something like this.

What were your best accomplishments?
Bouncing back after the complete and total emotional devastation of that mid-year move. And then managing to kiss the impossibly tall Lucas.

What action do you regret the most?
Oh, that's easy: taking every tiny thing so friggin' seriously. Thank goodness I learned my lesson. (Note sarcasm. Which, as I recall, was not appreeeeeeciated by our art teacher.)

What did you spend the most time doing on weekends?
Afternoons would be frittered away at the mall, either in the video arcade with our friends Q*bert, Frogger and Ms. Pac-Man, or catching the newest John Hughes flick at the two-screen mall cinema.

Time also would be dedicated to shopping for high-fashion accessories at Claire's, with special priority given to Duran Duran buttons and anything from Madonna's Borderline video.

Evenings might be spent cruising around town with Debelah in Sus's Herbie the Love Bug with the top down and, ideally, Rock Lobster playing at maximum volume... so that all might share our joy.

I swear that I don't remember leaving the house in Midland until the end of the school year.

Got invited to any proms?
There was Trinity's Homecoming Dance in my first semester, but nothing at Midland Christian, because, of course, dancing was for sinners. Those kids were crazy 'bout watching Footloose.

However, I did attend the athletic banquet with Lucas and wore a perfectly lovely Gunne Sax frock.

How many years ago did all this transpire?

Mercifully, this draws to a close my recollections of this special time in my life. And now I need a nap.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Homeward bound

"Home, Jeeves!" ordered Fussy.

Oh, so I paraphrase. What Eden Marriott Kennedy actually said, was: if you're the masochistic (or foolishly optimistic) type who's looking for a reason to blog every day for a month, I'll give you a theme.

This month, she dictated, the theme will be home.

As luck would have it, it just so happened that I was, in fact, looking for an excuse to start clacking away at the keyboard again. I may not make it for thirty consecutive days (taking my prior failed attempts into consideration), but the goal of breaking through my self-imposed writer's block, even if it's short-lived, seemed achingly achievable.

And home: well, lately, I can't stop thinking about the subject. Where it is now, where it was, what it will be and who I see there: my mind's just been a-churning as I've both metaphorically and literally been reconnecting to my home bases recently.

So: if you're so inclined, follow along as I spend the next few weeks sifting through the good and the bad, the absurd and the awkward, the sweet and the tangled musings I have on the topic at hand.

C'mon in. Pull up a chair. And make yourself at home.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mis hermanas

Thanks to Tracey by way of Jenny, this is the song that's been running in a constant loop through my head all the livelong day. Can't make it stop. DON'T WANT TO. Love you girls.

And fresh off a showing of Sex and the City on the big screen, I'm thinking in all seriousness that fab red sequined jumpsuits are poised to make a comeback any second now.

By the way: the sweet Sledge sister who's stuck in the back, trying desperately to hide the fact that she alone wasn't blessed with the family dancing gene? Yeah: TOTALLY ME.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

From the beginning

"So, where are you from?"

It's an utterly innocuous question, a standard ice-breaker, a door to potential familiarity and friendship... but it gets me almost every single time.

Almost every single time, I stammer or stutter, trying to deliver the goods as succinctly as possible.

It seems misleading to answer, "Oh, all over... " because that makes my childhood sound far more exotic than it really was.

To my sister's and my disappointment, we weren't members of a carny family. Yes, our father was in the military, but by the time we came on the scene, he'd earned the luxury of staying in one place, which meant that we had no need for passports until our early twenties.

For two girls with wanderlust, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

So, no: there was no especially fascinating reason for our moving hither and yon. And really, it wasn't even all that hither or terribly far yon; for the most part, I grew up in only two states: Mississippi and Texas. But within those states, we danced a little jig.

Vicksburg to Jackson for a while, then Natchez. A side trip to unincorporated Mendenhall. An enormously abrupt change of pace, to the dusty Texas town of Midland. Back to Vicksburg: specifically, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it suburb of Bovina. And for me, at least, Austin.

Ultimately, I met and married a long tall Texan, which cemented, I believed, my citizenship in the Lone Star State. Of course, the Texan had actually been born in Philadelphia to a man from West Virginia and a woman from Georgia.

So I devised my own label: I was, I proudly proclaimed, a Texsippian.

That suited me just fine for some time. But then we moved from Houston to Chicago, and pretty soon, the Windy City felt like home. It was settled, then, once and for all: we were Chicagoan Texan expatriates.

My identity crisis sprang anew when we moved back to Texas, this time to Dallas. And, as I was reminded on our sojourn south last week, my self-imposed label should really be expanded to incorporate Florida, home of my birth, into the mix, too.

Thirty-eight years. In thirty-eight years, I've inhabited approximately eighteen dwellings in ten cities and four states. More than many, I like to imagine, with no small sense of pride, but fewer, I'm sure, than others.

And still I manage to stumble and trip over any sort of efficient explanation of where I'm from.

But that's never once stopped me from asking the question in kind.

So. Where are you from?