Thursday, August 19, 2010

Major Change at 14 -- Chapter 11 in the Story of My Life Part A

Besides my infant and toddler years, I think the age of 14 held more changes for me than any other.  The world I lived in and knew at the beginning of that year was a lifetime away from the one I knew at the end.

When I celebrated my 14th birthday just over a week after the birth of my sister Abby, I got a special birthday present: contact lenses!  Enter me into a whole new world, appearance-wise.  Combine with that running for track and basketball, and all the other physical activities I enjoyed, and here I was starting to fill out and build a bit of muscle, and not look quite so scrawny as I did in junior high.  I grew quite a bit.  That summer of 1992 were the Summer Olympics in Barcelona Spain, and my friends and I were all about "The Dream Team" -- America's amazing basketball team comprised of professional players for the first time.  In honor of the Olympics, there was this Michael Jordan sandwich at McDonald's that I would order and eat the WHOLE thing with fries -- it was THREE burgers with bacon, cheese and bbq sauce.  Looking back that cracks me up, since I've now been a vegetarian for the past 12 years!  I was really in a growth spurt then!

With growing like this, I started making guy friends and realizing that guys were noticing me.  No boyfriends or anything like that, but it was nice to sort of be on a less intimidated level with my brother's friends, and their kid brothers. It was like the light came on -- just be friendly and most likely they will be nice back.  In Montana, we had girl's basketball in the fall instead of during the winter with the guys, so as the summer came to an end, we started practicing with our team.  We all named ourselves after favorite players on the Dream Team, and I picked David Robinson -- not because I was especially tall, but because he was my fave and a Christian.  Anna picked Charles Barkley because she thought he was funny because he would have a bad attitude and stuff!  We had a great time being on that team, and getting our new uniforms (I was #32).  We were not good, though.  Seriously NOT good.  Our first game we lost 59-ZERO.  Yep.  Some cruel team thought they would just shut us out!  I was on the starting lineup, and I only made one shot the whole season, if that tells you anything. In my defense, I only played for part of the season, because. . .

Dum dum DUM!!!

. . . we moved across the country again, this time to central Illinois.  Once again, I did NOT want to move, only much much more so this time. In Montana, we had such a great community of friends that were homeschooled with us, and Nathan and Anna and I enjoyed our team sports and other recreational activities.  Nathan was able to get his driver's license at age15 in Montana, so we were already enjoying a relative level of freedom and independence like older teenagers (I'm sure it made it easier for my mom not to have to drive us to practices with a newborn baby and 3 year old at home!).  Being a little older at this move, I was WAY more emotionally attached to the places and friends I had in Montana.  The only bright spot I could see was that there were no rattlesnakes where we were moving, and we would now only be a few hours from Cincinnati where our grandparents and other relatives lived.

For a few weeks before moving, we once again stayed at that same lovely hotel with the waterfall swimming pool.  It was like a little vacation at the end of our time there, because our friends came over all the time to swim and hang out with us.  A whole bunch of friends came to a going away party for us at our tiny church in Billings, and then stayed for the church service that night.  We were having special meetings that week, and the speaker did this thing where he would pick 2 members of the congregation each night and have a contest to see how many people they could bring the next night.  Then he'd ask them to "stand up" for the person they'd been invited by.  Well, wouldn't you know that that final night, I was one of the contestants, and here were all my friends, and my siblings' friends gathered there with us.  I had a huge group stand for me, and I remember being overwhelmed with happiness as I walked up to get my prize.  I thought I could never be so happy as I was right then, and I'd never ever forget it.

The very next day was moving day.  We were scheduled to fly out on a tiny plane that would hold just our family, however, Anna and I had a basketball game that same day.  We begged our parents to let us play our last game, even just to half time and they agreed.  At the game, we begged to stay through the 3rd quarter, and since time allowed it, we could.  Finally it was for sure time to go, and all around we were being hugged and sobbed on by bawling faces.  I remember hugging everyone and loving everyone fiercely, and feeling like my soul was ripping apart to walk away from them! It seemed to be the most emotional goodbye imaginable.

When we arrived at the airport in our sweaty uniforms, it was surreal to change into regular clothes and get on the plane.  It seemed like there could be no reality apart from the one we had just left.  And that plane was so strange and tiny!  Our cat and dog rode in the cabin with us in their kennels, and my seat was on top of the little refrigerator, so I was in charge of getting out drinks for everyone.  My dad told me to offer some to the pilots, and since they were just inches away from me, with only a curtain between us, I did so.  I felt so strange looking into the tiny cockpit!  The 3 of us older kids were pretty miserable during that flight to Champaign, Illinois.

I had a list of all my friend's addresses, and when we settled at the hotel, I began to write them letters.  I decided to write every single person once, and then continue writing based on whether or not they wrote me back (side note:  I chose to write them on brownish recycled paper and envelopes, which was a sort of new thing then.  I liked how it looked all earthy and natural).  I got lots of letters back.  Our hotel in Champaign was rather weird and it had this huge parrot that talked in the breakfast area.  But the room was large with an upstairs, which made sense for our family.  We were bunking there waiting for our stuff. . . once again.  I guess that is how it works when you hire moving companies.

We were excited to move into our big old house in the country.  It had 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and a gameroom with a pinball machine in it!  The day our movers came to move us in was a real treat.  One of them was named Lonny and had a long mullet and was REALLY funny.  Anna and I agreed that he looked just like Billy Ray Cyrus, who was extremely famous at the time.  We thought that possibly it WAS Billy Ray incognito working as our mover.  Our suspicions were further confirmed when Lonny sang "Achy Breaky Heart" and told us he loved that song!  I accompanied my mom down to a convenience store in a nearby small town-- bigger than our VERY small town -- because there were no fast food restaurants, and we wanted to provide lunch for the movers.  It seemed so very small town-ish picking up white bread and lunchmeat, including pickleloaf.  To this day, when I see pickleloaf at the store, I think of the day we moved into that house!

Me, my cousins Steve and Josh and sister Anna, 1992
At first our life was very quiet and solitary.  I wrote stacks of letters to my Montana friends, and received stacks back.  It seemed like it would be forever before we'd make friends. We visited churches in Champaign, but couldn't find a fit. I disliked visiting new churches, but as we slunk into Sunday School or Youth Group, at least I had my brother and sister to sit with.   I remember to this day what my mom told us during that move -- that we would always have our siblings as friends, and no matter where we moved, we were going together, so we'd have friends we could count on and we should treat each other well as friends.  So wise and good for our ears to hear!

I'll write part B later -- about the changes that came in our life in Illinois!  I'm linking up to Mommy's Piggy Tales, as with all stories of my youth.  I'm sorry for the lack of pictures this time -- I know I took many in that era with on fantastic 110 film, but all those pictures are packed away who knows where in the house in Illinois.  The one above is the only thing I could find.


Anonymous said...

LONNY! LOL We were like "OH MY GOODNESS HE'S SINGING ACHY BREAKY HEART!" The SADNESS at moving from Montana overwhelmed me again when I read this! I guess it's a good thing though, otherwise there would be no Cede, Susie, or.....Rogue? ;0


Ginny Marie said...

Oh, it would be so hard to move to Illinois after living in Montana! Especially when you were in high school! I lived just a few miles north of Champaign when I was growing up, before our move to the suburbs!

I have thought about trying to write my mom's story, or my dad's story while he's still with us and healthy, but I don't seems like it would be a really hard job! I would love to read about your mom. Thank you so much for your comment on my post about my mom...I miss her so much! Thank you for sharing your mother with me. It helps to hear other stories, and to know we're not alone!

Steph said...

Can't wait to read on...this is where the story gets good! (maybe that has something to do with the Benzing's finally being with us!:)
PS-"ROGUE"????? :)

Emma said...

Things I remember about this post:

1.When we left Montana I remember being sad, but not really knowing why. I cried, but mostly just because you guys cried.

2. The plane. I remember it being small, and I liked watching the little tiny people out the window.

3. The hotel here with the parrot. They also had cheese danishes, and that was where I first tried grapefruit juice. Mom told me I wouldn't like it becuase it would be too sour, but I drank it in spite of the taste just to prove to her that I could.

I can't imagine what a toll that must have taken on you to move at age 14. I would have had a COW! Still, I sure am glad you did. I know my life is a LOT different because of it. :)

Gretchen said...

Steph -- Anna's cat is named Rogue.

Anonymous said...

hee hee hee. I was kidding..of course there would be a rogue, because her mother was still a cat that did not depend on me for life, however, there would probably not be a rogue STILL as she would have been put down at the animal shelter had I not rescued that sweetie beastie.


Janette@Janette's Sage said...

Enjoying your journey...also seeing the great change of youth groups from keeping everyone busy to daughter played basketball!
Continuing on the journey with Mommy Piggy Tales

Janna said...

I enjoy your extra details like recycled paper and dream team names! I remember getting recycled grayish notebook paper around this time too.

Your description of leaving the game to get on the plane was really good and sad!

gianna said...

You were so brave! I would have hated moving at that time of my life, too!

Anonymous said...

that tiny plane was a corporate jet and was the icing on the cake for a division president to use. I was so caught up in my promotion to Champaign that I don't think i realized your feelings Dad