Day Eleven: Size Matters (In Sentences)
Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you? Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.
This has been a hard prompt for me to write about for the simple reason that I lived in five different houses during the year I was 12! To say there were huge adjustments involved would be an understatement. And now that I have it all on here, it feels very clunk and awkward. But then that’s the way that whole year felt! So here it is, just kind of a list of what happened. Too much info to go into anything deep or interesting. C’est la vie! It is what it is…
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C’est la vie
The year surrounding my 12th birthday was one of upheaval and instability. My family moved four times and ended up halfway across the country. AND I attended four different schools. Where in the world shall I start?
Dad was transferred from the Marion, Ohio Army Depot when the government shut it down to the Columbus Depot. He had just BARELY moved the five of us into a small apartment while house hunting when he came home from work one night, opened the front door, and threw a cowboy hat at my mom. She was ready to shoot him (appropriate since we were moving west). She definitely wasn’t ready to move to Utah and leave her family behind. Neither was I.
But move we did. And while we were waiting for our house to be finished in a new subdivision in Ogden (subdivisions were all the new rage then), we rented. My folks’ best friends had moved with us having been transferred as well, and the two families shared a three-bedroom house. There were five of us kids in one room. It was wall-to-wall to beds. Not all was bliss, but we survived the three months till our houses were both ready then moved just three doors down from each other.
That fourth move into a small bungalow home turned out to be a disaster. The water table in the subdivision was so high it warped the floor boards in all but the kitchen. The contractor, to keep from being sued, traded my folks straight across for a split level down the street. A larger, and much more expensive house, it had three bedrooms and a bath up, kitchen and living room on the ground floor, and a big family room with a bath in the basement. Finally, after four houses, we were settled in. I ended up sharing a bedroom with my 5-year-old sister. One of the biggest regrets of my growing up years was that I never got to have a room of my own during those growing up years when kids start wanting a little privacy.
The Glitch in the Works
I had started the whole adventure with a rather large handicap. While being a show-off and riding my bike with my feet up on the handle bars, the bike tipped and I tried to put them back on the pedals. I missed! My right foot slid into the spokes on the front wheel turning my foot and ankle to the right and my knee to the left. It was called a green tree split. And so I made the move with a cast from toe to hip. Cumbersome comes to mind.
Though leaving the family behind was hard, changing schools so often was even worse. I started that year at Edison Junior High. In my home town, 6th grade was included in the middle school. I knew the kids from my neighborhood, of course, but there were tons of kids from feeder schools at the junior high. Instead of being the ones on the top rung for that 6th grade year, we were all the babies of the bunch again. I hated it. Here I was not only horribly shy, but saddled with this damn cast that made me walk like Peg-Leg Pete. But at least I didn’t have to deal with recess.
I don’t remember anything about the school in Columbus except that it was back to elementary again. I’d barely gotten registered when the hat incident took place. I tended to keep to myself, nose in a book. Couldn’t do anything on the playground anyway, so I usually just found a corner and took a seat. I wasn’t at that second one long enough to even learn names.
The third school was a three-month layover. I can remember exactly one girl from that school. Her name was Diana. The reason I remember is because a) she was a ballerina and she and her brother (who was also a dancer) performed for us there, and b) for the very first time I noticed girls have hair on their arms! Wonder of wonders! Heck, mine were blond. I’d never noticed. I came home from school the day of their program and announced to my mom I wanted to be a ballerina. She just looked at me for a long moment like I’d lost my mind and turned away. Neither of us ever mentioned it again.
The Last of the Cast
The last day I was at that school, my cast was taken off in the morning. Mom had had a hard time finding a doctor who would do that since it wasn’t their work. But finally we found Dr. Rogers, who ended up being our family shysician. I remember how the dead skin grossed me out so bad and would have loved to been able to wear pants to school that day. Of course pants for girls was still a few years in the future.
On the playground that afternoon just getting used to walking again without that clunky sucker on, the playground monitor insisted I play jump rope. I explained I’d just gotten my cast off and the doctor had said to take it easy for a couple days, but she was having none of it. Jump, she said. Miserable and a bit afraid of her, I asked, how high… (In a manner of speaking.) I was good at doing what other people told me.
First jump I came down on that ankle and ended up on the ground with one hell of a sprain. I don’t remember swearing when that happened, but my mom sure did when she had to leave work to take me to the doctor’s again to have that sprain wrapped. That next weekend we moved into our own house in another part of the valley, and the next week I started school at Edison Elementary. I’d been demoted! But it was good. I quickly made friends with two neighborhood girls, and for the first time that school year I was happy.
Finding the Beat
That first half of my birthday year I also discovered music. Not music in general, mind you, but MY music. My dad had always had his own band. I’d been raised on songs of the war years and swing, but now I was discovering what other kids were listening to. For Christmas (1963) I got my very first stereo record player. It looked like a tan and white suitcase. The body folded down to reveal the turntable. The ends came off to reveal detachable speakers. And by January I was in the middle of a hot and heavy love affair with an older guy, Steve Lawrence and his “Go Away Little Girl.”
Then in February our house was invaded by those four funny looking guys with the bowl-shaped haircuts – the Beatles. They’d just released their first 45 rpm record to the radio stations. “Please, Please Me” and “Ask Me Why.” I actually survived the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan’s show (February 9, 1964). It was touch and go for awhile though. The show turned out to be a whole family affair. We all watched. Dad, mom, my eight-year-old brother, and my six-year-old sister. That night I officially became a teenager.
The rest of the year was blessedly uneventful compared to the first half. At least as far as “kid” things go. In January (1964) George C. Wallace was sworn in as governor of Alabama, and in his first address stated “segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever!” I was blissfully unaware of the events those words would trigger. Nuclear testing continued at the test site in Nevada, leaving Utah, down wind from the fallout, with one of the highest cancer rates in the country. And in April my mom’s favorite soap opera began – General Hospital.
I had survived! In May I turned 13 without a lot of fanfare, and another new adventure awaited as I dealt with my first real crush and junior high school. But the year I was 12 will always be a real red letter year for me.