Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When I Was 13 Years Old


When I was 13 years old, I lived in Indiana for about five months with my mom and my three brothers at my grandparents’ house.  They lived on a farm and they had two or three cows and they grew corn.  We had just left Japan where we had lived for about 4½ years.  We went to Indiana was so that my mom could see her family and the family could see my brother Kerry who was about two at the time.  Our stay there was temporary and then my dad would meet us at the end of the year and we would drive to California.
Living on a farm was an interesting experience.  It was big and there were lots of places to walk, but it was also lonely.  There were no stores within walking distance and I didn’t know any other kids yet, except for Uncle Ray and Aunt Judy and my cousins Tammy and Robert who lived in the house next to us, about a quarter of a mile away.  Because we were all young, and because everyone was younger than me, I didn’t care much for my cousins at the time.  Every other weekend we would go to Chicago and spend the night at my Uncle Roger and Aunt Marie’s house.  They had five kids at the time and with my three brothers and me, that was nine kids.  Though it was better than being in the country, because at least we could walk to a store, it was overwhelming because of the number of people. 
The worst part about being in Indiana was not being able to go anywhere on my own.  In Japan, we lived on a military base and I was pretty free to roam where I wanted.  Best of all, there were two places I could go to buy comic books.  I preferred to walk and I would do so happily for hours, usually alone.  Sometimes I’d ride my bicycle.  Either way I had mobility and freedom.  In Indiana I had neither.   Worse, there was nowhere to get comic books.  Occasionally however, my grandparents or my mom would go the Rexall’s Drugstore in a nearby town and this store had comic books!  I was usually allowed to purchase one or two, so I was quite happy. 
We arrived in Indiana on August 8, 1973.  I remember this because the very next day was my brother Jimmy’s birthday.  That evening we had fresh corn from my grandfather’s field.  Summer was beautiful in the Midwest, especially on a farm when one is eating fresh corn-on-the-cob with melted butter.  So that was my summer.  Midwestern food, nowhere to go, biweekly visits to relatives in Chicago and the occasional new comic books. 
School started on Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day.  That’s how it was done in the Midwest and in much of the country. North Newton High School was one large building and we never went outside, except for P.E.  It was a new school with a swimming pool and other amenities. Unlike my previous school, where each class had a different combination of students, this school kept classes together for the whole day.  We were class 2B.  Mrs. Newton was our homeroom teacher.  Mrs. Storey was our math teacher.  Mr. Davis taught science and my favorite teacher, Orland Eck, taught U.S. History.
For the tenth time in my life, 8th grade now, I was the new kid at school.  Usually that was a little traumatic, but I fit in pretty quickly.   Most of the kids were nice and everyone got along fairly well.  Most of the teachers were nice, too, though they were allowed to administer corporal punishment.  I received this, three swats with a paddle from Mr. Gregory, for being late three times to study hall.  The other odd thing about the school was that every single person there, except for one African-American student, was white.  Coming from a school with a 40% African-American population and 20% Asian population, that just seemed odd.
Other than the paddling, the lack of diversity and having the flu one day, my four months at North Newton were good.  Four months.   I was on my way to being the new kid in school for the eleventh time.  Our time in Indiana was temporary.  On my last day, Class 2B threw me a surprise party.  I’d never been given a party before and that was one of the nicest moments of my life.  It was one of the first times I remember feeling special and loved by a group of my peers.  That was the last day of school, because the Christmas break was coming.  My dad joined us from Japan and soon we would leave for California.
But that’s another story.
What does this autobiographical information have to do with my usual blogs or with Purpose?   Inherent in my Purpose is writing.  It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I do my best.  Also inherent in Purpose are fun and healing.  I find writing about my past to be both.   It was fun to do something different and though I don’t have many painful memories of those times, it’s healing to revisit, like smelling flowers.  It heals my soul.  It helps me to Get Started and Keep Going…even to the past sometimes.