June 4, 2009

The Beginning

Talking about starting over and actually doing it are two very different things, and I haven’t realized it until this moment. Now, as I sit in my mom’s car staring out the window at South Haven Middle School on the first day of eighth grade, the realization hits me hard. Great timing, I think, frowning.

“Don’t be nervous.”

“I’m not.” I lie. Mom raises her eyebrows and looks down at my lap, where my hands have twisted the end of my t-shirt into a wrinkled rag. I let go. “Ok, maybe a little.”

Smoothing my shirt with my sweaty palms, I look back toward the imposing three-story brick school. It sits in the center of a lush green field, with delicate white sidewalks curving through the grounds. A line of yellow buses idle in a concrete semicircle in front of the tall front steps. But all of this is simply a hazy backdrop to the hundreds of kids my age – kids who I don’t know, kids who I’ve never seen before – who are pouring out of cars of buses and crowding the doors, waiting for the bell to ring.

By my request, Mom and I have driven by South Haven Middle many times since our move to Connecticut two weeks ago. We even went in over the weekend so that I could practice making my way around the strangely unfamiliar hallways. I was secretly hoping that seeing the school would instantly make me feel like I belong here. But that empty building with its quiet classrooms and echoing corridors in no way helped prepare me for this hectic, overwhelming experience.

“Like I said, this is the worst moment, because everything is unknown.” I barely register Mom's words as she continues her pep talk.

“Uh huh.”

She smiles encouragingly. “You’ll feel so much better once you go in and meet one new person.”


“Everyone will love you. How could they not?”

“Ok, ok Mom.” Her reassuring tone is making me more nervous. “I’m going.”

I take a deep breath and step out of the car onto the sidewalk.

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