Children see life very differently than adults do. But at some point in our lives we stop seeing life as simple and it becomes complex, confusing and incomprehensible.
I remember the point in my life where everything changed. Everything just changed overnight. It was not the day my sister and I were taken away from home and thrust into foster care. It wasn't the day we were separated and placed in different homes. It wasn't the first time I testified in court against my step dad or visited my mother in prison. Oddly, those events weren't the ones that would change my vision on the world. Through all of that I stayed an upbeat, positive, go with the flow, child. I didn't understand it, but I somehow recognized that there were big people in charge and I had to do what I was told.
Until the end of third grade. It all changed that year. Everything changed. I realized I wasn't normal.
Eh. Normality. The word gives me the heeby jeepies. What is so great about being normal? As a child normality was everything, to be different meant you were singled out. No one wants to be singled out as a little kid.
The beginning of third grade was amazing. I had been placed in a new home before the start of the school year and I had a foster mom and dad who told me I had found my forever home. And they bought me a kitty cat. Actually, they bought me THE kitty cat, a Persian to be exact. I had a foster sister, their daughter, Judy. Judy was handicap. She was blind and deaf, she was wheelchair bound, she was mentally retarded, but she was my sister and I loved her. My foster mother, she was neat. If I was upset she would give me a huge container of ice-cream, a spoon and tell me to eat away my sadness as I told her all about it. Yes, not the greatest coping method, but at the time it was pretty awesome to cure sadness with chocolate ripple ice cream.
That summer I discovered girl scouts and Amanda B. Amanda B. was my twin sister from another mother. From the second we met we were best of friends, inseparable. Her mother was a stay at home wife and mom and had plenty of time for Amanda and me. So while Gail worked I would be playing with Amanda who happened to live within bike riding distance from my house. We started third grade together and found out we were in the same class! I discovered the Little Mermaid with her and we would go around school singing on the top of our lungs. We were competitive, but in a good way, wanting the best grade and the best reading scores. We ruled the playground. And Amanda shared with me. I'd have free hot lunch every day and she would have these extensively packed lunches with homemade soups in thermoses. We'd switch and share and giggle. We'd plan our shirt colors for the next day so we could be "twinies". My first report card was all "E's" for excellent and under comments it said, "needs to take more pride in her work and talks too much in class." Turns out Amanda's also said "talks too much in class." Who would have thought? The teacher separated us into different sides of the classroom at one point in the year, that's when we discovered note writing.
It didn't matter that I had a ridiculous haircut. It didn't matter that my clothes were all hand me downs, it didn't matter that my notebooks were the ten cent plain colored ones. It didn't matter that I was new to the school that year. I never felt the "new girl" awkwardness because I had Amanda. She knew everyone and because she knew me they all accepted me. Everything was good.
Yes. The state.
Here is where things get choppy, hard to write. Tears fill my eyes as I write this, and even as a twenty eight year old adult, this silly, trivial point in my life makes me cry. Makes me bawl like a baby, makes my heart break into a billion pieces. This little moment, this one day, reshaped my entire life, the way I would see people, the way I would act for the rest of my life.
It all started with Indiana.
Our end of the year third grade trip was to Indiana. I was a ward of the State in Illinois. I couldn't go to Indiana without a specific permission slip. Gail couldn't just sign this one. It had to be signed by my state appointed guardian.
Our class was headed to Indiana. To a frontier village where they made candles, and horseshoes, and dressed up in old time clothes. We were going to make food over a campfire, learn dances and spend the entire day having old fashioned fun. We were so excited. Amanda and I made matching friendship bracelets to match the shirts that everyone in the class had to wear. Before the field trip as we planned and studied, we were broken into groups of four. Each group would have a parent volunteer with us. Of course, Amanda and I were in the same group. Each group made our own names and designed our own logos. It was going to be the best day of our lives.
Until the morning of Indiana.
We load the buses. Amanda and I sit together. They were cool buses with huge black seats. Amanda and I have turned completely around and are looking over the top giggling and talking to the girls behind us. Oddly, I cant remember another kid in the classes name but Amanda's and I remember her last name too. Cant remember my teachers name, but I remember Amanda's name. And I remember in crystal clear detail what happened next. It would change my life.
I found out I wasn't normal.
I lost my acceptance.
Worst, I lost my best friend.
And I lost my balance.
Right now, I have to get dressed and head to the gym. Which is good because if I keep writing at this moment I wont be able to see through the tears that will be pouring down my face. So, punching out some of this anger, taking it out on the machines, will do me good. I will continue with this memory sometime today, when, I can stomach the pain. And I can get it out of me and onto paper.