A small brick house with the number 25 on it sits hidden cleverly behind a tall tree. It’s not a free-standing house, but it’s still roomy enough for my mom and I. A giant curtain cascades from the ceiling onto a little blonde girl hiding in it to “scare” her mother. The blonde girl carefully runs up the stairs to her room, which is skillfully decorated in yellow and blue. One of her favorite things is her Lion King rug, the one with baby Simba and Nala. She runs over to her mother’s room and admires the round pink lamp hanging from the ceiling over her bed.
Her mom calls her downstairs to eat dinner. They sit down at the yellow table in the small kitchen dining area and laugh about something that happened that day. The girl refuses to eat cucumber, and dinner concludes. She flops down on the green-and-white-striped couch and props her feet up on a round papasan chair. She daydreams about what America will be like. She tries to imagine away the boxes that surround her and the feelings she’s having. She’s very excited. But also nervous, and almost a little sad. She has so many friends, something she doesn’t ever believe will change. She glows with joy to think about the email address her mom allowed her to get to keep in touch with her countless companions.
On her last day of school, she proudly goes from classroom to classroom with a poster of two red cats for the teachers to sign, a Dutch tradition for when a student leaves school. She knew the whole school knew her as the girl moving to America, and everyone thought she was so cool. She couldn’t help but grin. It was bittersweet, saying goodbye to the students she grew up with, but she promised she’d come back one day.
Her Lion King rug had disappeared to somewhere, and eventually the young girl and her mother boarded a plane. A plane to America.
I’ll never forget the feeling of stepping outside of Pittsburgh international Airport that August of 2005. The air was warm and welcoming, a feeling I’ve happily associated with that airport and landing there in the summer months. It’s something I often look forward to when flying; feeling that welcoming, warm, American feeling once more.
I know we drove “home”, but I don’t remember too much of it anymore. I wish I could put smells into words better, because that’s really all I remember. The scene is this: a big white house on a corner of an intersection in a small neighborhood.
The young blonde girl opens the door to her new house, and is immediately overwhelmed. She was excited, but she wasn’t sure how to feel. “The doors are really hard to open”, she thought to herself. She went exploring in this new, unfamiliar place. There was a small, enclosed space on the front of the house that captured her interest. It was incredibly warm, and smelled like an old book store. She immediately started fantasizing about turning this space into hers, her playroom. She ran up the stairs and pulled doors open. The door to the right was awkward to open, and probably the hardest in the house. Inside was a room with the ugliest carpet you’ll ever see. Red clad the floors, with some sort of pattern of black color sprawled across like it was natural. The only furnishing in this room was a black couch bed thing- something the girl later learned was called a “foo-tawn” and to stay away from it because she could get her fingers caught in it. She found her room next door to the weird red room with the strange bed-couch-thing. A closet with squeaky doors greeted her, looking over a tall twin sized bed dressed in pink flowery sheets.
Fast forward some time, and our little girl starts school. She starts in Second Grade, with the knowledge that she’ll probably do it twice because of her age and her lack of any English speaking almost whatsoever.
The little girl proudly, but nervously, walks into her new school building. She knows what to expect a little bit, because she’d been given a tour the week before. She even got to ride a school bus for the first time ever, and that was super cool. She read the numbers on the walls of the school building carefully. She stopped at 38… and went inside. That was her “homeroom”, whatever that meant. She went inside and sat down, keeping her head low and staying quiet. Other students were fascinated with the shy blonde girl who had just joined them. They’d never seen her before. The teacher introduced her, and immediately other students came up to her and asked her all kinds of questions about her home country- most of which she didn’t know how to answer. She quickly became friends with a girl named Erin, and the two young girls were soon inseparable. She befriended a few more people- to include Sarah and twins Taylor and Tiffany. Her first sleepover party was at the twins’ house, and Sarah became a close friend as well, often spending time with her at Truck Night with her father’s monster truck.
Befriending Erin (and the other girls) showed me that it was possible to move on, that I could make new friends somewhere else. I stayed friends with Erin pretty consistently throughout the duration of my general education, up until senior year of high school. I still don’t really know what happened, but genuinely I hope she’s doing well. She’s in the Army now, and I hope her life is going great. Throughout the years of being friends with Erin, one time her mother told me that when I first moved, she thought I was from “Neverland” and how excited young Erin was to meet a girl from Neverland. Sarah and I still talk occasionally, but I’ve practically lost complete contact with the twins. It’s funny how you grow up, and eventually move separate ways.
For the longest time I always blamed my mom for “ruining my life” by dragging me away from the friends I had in the Netherlands and moving me to this country. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I truly appreciated America for what it is, for giving me the opportunities I have today, and for allowing me to have some of the greatest friends. Opportunities, experiences, and friends that will actually last no matter where I go. Realizing the bigger picture, realizing that the world is a small place that with modern technology is easily traveled, and realizing that those who truly care will always be there helped me close the door on this chapter of my life. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t not relate to that Miranda Lambert song about the house that built her… and if I had the chance I’d absolutely go take a look at what my old house looks like now. But I accept that I’ve moved on- and I realize how happy I am where I am now.
January: Think back to a moment where you’ve come to the end of the road with something important in your life—a relationship with a lover; moving out of your childhood home; graduation from school; etc. Write a scene wrapped around that moment, describing how you felt (good and bad) and how you closed the door on that chapter in your life.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”