I’ve been in a nostalgic mood today.
Perhaps it was the brief conversation I had with a young military wife this morning about their next duty station or perhaps it is my approaching birthday that has me introspective about days gone by. Regardless of the reason, I pulled out my old yearbooks, turned the pages and remembered…
Without a doubt, my most traumatic transition growing up was when my father was transferred to Hawaii. We had been in Alabama for almost four years and my heart had taken root. I had a large circle of friends and I loved school. Dad had gotten his orders, so I knew we would be moving in November, in the middle of my freshman year of high school.
I remember my first day of high school. I had already been in touch with my core group of friends about class schedules; I was relieved to see familiar faces in each class. While the school was big, in a matter of days, I had learned my way around the campus, plugged in with old friends, made new friends, and established a social routine. Soon I was fully engaged; I loved all my classes and had a full social life: chatting at lunch, passing notes in class and countless hours on the phone with friends talking about boys. A healthy competitiveness even emerged, both in PE activities, where I was no longer afraid to get the ball, and in academics, where my secret goal was to outscore my really smart friends on assignments and tests.
And then came November.
I started crying the week before we moved. I cried all day on my last day of school. I cried on the visit with my grandparents. I cried on the cross-country drive from Virginia to California. I cried on the flight across the Pacific. I cried when we checked in to the temporary base housing. Did I mention I cried?
Mom tried to encourage me, reminding me we had moved before and each time I had made new friends. But her words just weren’t cutting it this time; I was not going to survive this move. How could I when everything I loved was in Huntsville?
As Mom parked in front of my new school, my heart was full of dread and apprehension. My initial encounter in the office proved it: I was not going to survive.
The registrar, whose name I couldn’t pronounce, shoved a stack of papers across the counter to me. She then told me, and I remember it verbatim, to: “Jus fill out all da pukas and let me know when you all pau.” She saw my confusion and, somewhat irritatedly, translated: fill out all the spaces and tell me when you’re done.”
And it went downhill from there. Mom left and someone escorted me to my first class, Spanish I.
The campus is perched on a hillside, offering spectacular views, with the classroom buildings spread out on the spacious campus. The classrooms were only one deep, with wooden louvered windows above the doors and on the back wall. There was no air conditioning, heat or ceiling fans, so the windows allowed for cross-ventilation. As soon as I walked in class, I realized I was overdressed; my classmates were wearing muumuus, shorts and tee-shirts, and they all wore flip flops, or as they called them, slippahs. I didn’t say much, because I was very aware of my thick Southern drawl, but I smiled, desperately trying to keep my tears at bay.
When the teacher started the lesson, my tears spilled unchecked down my cheeks. My instructor was Chinese, who, when not sputtering off the pronunciation of Spanish words I couldn’t recognize, spoke a form of English I had never heard before: Hawaiian Pidgin.
It took months for me to even begin to immerse into the diverse culture of my new high school. As if trying to understand pidgin wasn’t challenging enough, I had to learn Hawaiian words and how to pronounce them! And boy, did I botch up those words, especially with my southern drawl. Who knew the Likelike Highway is not pronounced Like-like, but Leaky-leaky?
By the time senior year rolled around, this Haole girl had made some really good friends, who had become Ohana (family). I was fully engaged; I loved all my classes and had a full social life: chatting at lunch, passing notes in class and countless hours on the phone with friends talking about boys. One week after graduation, my family was on a plane headed back to the mainland to my father’s next duty station.
I started crying the week before we moved. I cried on the flight across the Pacific. I cried on the cross-country drive from California to Virginia. I cried when we drove up in my grandparent’s driveway. Did I mention I cried?
I was not going to survive this move. How could I when everything I loved was on Oahu?
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. ~ Psalm 56:8