March 8, 2012


It is not fair to move across states and make a girl start school all over again, especially when the lilacs start to bloom. Starting school is dicey business, even if you do it the proper way, which is in the Fall when everyone else has to start school,too.  Fall starting stinks enough, even when you start with kids in your own neighborhood, because you still don’t know which kids are going to be in your class or who you’re going to have to sit next to or if you’ve gotten that blond teacher who’s a yeller.  But at least with a Fall start, you know which teacher is the yeller and that sure, it is unfortunate if you get seated next to Herbie Shroeder but it’s not as bad as being next to Jay Grover who eats salami for lunch every day.  At least you know that kind of stuff so you’re only about halfway ready to jump out of your own skin on your first day of school.

Starting school across states in the Spring? That’s bad business, bad business, I’m telling you, and I don’t understand why my sister doesn’t seem to have an earthquake in her stomach as we walk the five blocks to the new school. Every limb in my body feels like a fault line and I’m pretty sure I’m going to break wide open when we get there and my guts will spill all over the playground like a second-grade pinata.  But with guts, not candy.

My sister doesn’t have an earthquake at all. The wind whips her long dark ponytail as we walk–I’ve never felt wind like this, it’s crazy–and her hair whacks my cheeks, which is super-annoying but I’m sticking close to her no matter what.  She’s even smiling a little, that weirdo, and I’m not sure whether it’s because she knows her hair hurts my face or whether she doesn’t mind starting school all over in Springtime.

Mama wonders about it too, about why my sister’s not nervous. I know this because last night when I couldn’t sleep I heard her talking to Daddy, wondering why C. didn’t seem upset about it and he said something about how birds who shit in their own nest never mind leaving for a new one and he and Mama laughed really hard but I didn’t get it.

I don’t know anything about birds and I don’t know anything about nests but I do know that I feel like I might pee my pants, that actually, I am veryveryvery afraid that I am going to pee my pants because I have something called a weak bladder, which is why Mama grounded my sister for a week after she gave me the nickname “Leaky” this past winter.

I cannot pee my pants and I do not pee my pants thankyouGod but the school building is nasty, gunmetal gray like a prison or a factory and smells like Band-Aids inside.

My sister agrees to help me find the bathroom but refuses to go in it with me, preferring to lean on the wall outside and sneak glances into the gymnasium, where a few rowdy, sweaty boys are up to no good.

I lock the stall, pull down my white, padded undies and study the ugly, black-and-white saddle shoes that Mama insists I wear because I have feet with a high arch or some such garbage, and I wonder how long it’s going to take before someone gives me heck about them. And believe me, they will, because they are seriously weirdo ugly shoes.

I kick the stall door a little, angry at my ugly shoes, and release maybe a tablespoon of pee. Sheesh, what a waste of time.  I wash my hands, exit the bathroom and am shocked to see my sister still standing outside; I expected immediate abandonment.

“Come on, dorkus,” she says to me, smacking me a bit too hard on the arm. “I’ll walk you to your class. Don’t get used to it, though. This is a one-timer.”

I follow her lead, but I feel so wobbly that I wonder if my legs will really get me there, so I look down at my weirdo shoes and count steps, count the steps to get there, remembering Mama telling me this morning to “just breathe.”

My sister deposits me outside the room that reads: Mrs. Van Gundy and Mrs. Yancey.

Now this in itself isn’t right, having two teachers, because if you have two teachers, you’re pretty much guaranteed that one of them’s gonna be a yeller.  It’s just stacking the deck, you know? I peek inside and there are about a bazillion desks in there.

“Knock yourself out, kid,” my sister says, tucking my hair behind my ear. Grinning wickedly, mimicking Mama, she inhales deeply, eyes closed and says, “Just breathe.”  Then she startles, nose wrinkling in revulsion. “Jesus. Does it smell like Band Aids in here?”

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

bryan March 8, 2012 at 5:41 am

See this is what we like about your blog! Everybody has these moments but you tell it so well it is like we are there.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes March 8, 2012 at 5:52 am

I so feel for you. I had to move continents right before the beginning of the school year. So yeah, I too am familiar with the Fukushima-stomach. Still have it sometimes.


TKW March 8, 2012 at 7:06 am


So THAT’s what it’s called! :)


Sherri March 8, 2012 at 6:35 am

Oh – I’ve moved so many times… changed schools so often…. This really resonates. Band-aids…. Again – you crack me up.


TKW March 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm


No, I’m serious–the whole time I was at that school it reeked of Band Aids! It was so weird!


koreen March 8, 2012 at 7:42 am

Oh yeah. Been there, done that. Spring moving sucks. Love your story though. Your sister doesn’t sound like such an ass in this one. What’s up with that?


TKW March 8, 2012 at 9:53 am


I know. Sometimes she did have her moments.


Jennifer March 8, 2012 at 8:56 am

That photo is so perfect for this post. She looks ready to take on the world, and you look like you want to hide.

I always went to the same school all the way through except for like two months in kindergarten that I don’t even remember. Just that it was a half day and my old one was a full day. I loved school so I thought that was kind of lame. Oh, and there was pea gravel on the playground instead of grass. Who wants to play on pea gravel? Even if they did have the better slide.


TKW March 8, 2012 at 9:55 am


Miss M’s school has pea gravel. She likes to lie down in it, flail her arms and legs, and make “dirt snowmen.” She arrives home filthy every day.


Jenna March 8, 2012 at 9:09 am

Oh man, your words always get me. Like “Every limb in my body feels like a fault line”–you’re an amazing writer.


Barbara March 8, 2012 at 9:36 am

Leaky? :)
You do look scared to death in that photo.

We didn’t move around a lot but I went to boarding school pretty young. I can tell you I was so glad to get away from home that I’d have gone anywhere. Probably the reason I got married so young too.
We made a big life change when my kids were 9, 10, 11 by moving to Florida after the divorce. It must have been tough on them, but I never asked. (I will now) We all had to make a new life for ourselves so we were all in the same boat. Trauma for 4.
Oh well, we all managed to live through it.


TKW March 8, 2012 at 9:56 am


Trauma for four still seems friendlier.


Peg March 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm

You had me enthralled from the beginning… so …. how bad was it? Tell me more!


TKW March 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm


It got worse. Prepare for episode 2.


Jane March 8, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Yes. Changing schools sucks. I, in all my 9 year old glory, was very popular at my old school. I expected it to continue when I moved to my new school. Rude awakening #1. Then, I met the Mean Girls, who were the popular girls that ruled my new school. Rude awakening #2. So, I became a popular nerd, instead. Honestly? I preferred the nerds. They were much nicer to be around.


TKW March 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Me lovva the nerds. They’re good people.


Arnebya March 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I am giggling at your sister imitating your mother. Also, what is it with Band Aids having a distinct smell when there’s a lot of them? Like a whole buncha latex. Ew. And I wonder sometimes if when I know our kids have overheard an adult joke if they remember it.

We’re considering moving our middle girl this year. It’ll be the start of the school year (fourth grade) but an entirely new school where she will know only one other person. I’m concerned. We aren’t doing it out of necessity, but convenience and practicality. I so hope it’s the right choice.


TKW March 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm


I honestly think it depends on the confidence level of the child. I was dead meat, but my sister thrived every time we moved. At least she knows one other kid, right?


Dawn March 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm

We moved during the Thanksgiving break. I was 10. It was horrible. Would never move my kids (if I had kids) between schools in the middle of the year if I could help it. My parents’ theory was that if we moved in the summer we wouldn’t have any friends all summer till school started anyway. And I think my Dad’s job started in November and we couldn’t afford to live apart the rest of the school year. Made sense I guess. Still. It was horrible.


Tiffany March 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I love, love, love your flashback stories. I had to move in the fall for my freshman year of high school…and it was awful. Because there were 3 different junior highs that filtered in, NO ONE knew I was new. It was terrible. I’m glad your sister looked out for you that day. Really glad.


SuziCate March 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Funny how we remember those smells…I remember that pink crystals they used to pour on vomit…I thanked God all the time that I never threw up at school because those who did never heard the end of it!


TKW March 9, 2012 at 7:57 am


We didn’t have those pink crystals. And yes, the fear of vomiting in school or peeing your pants. I remember the name of every kid who ever had that happen to them, it was so harrowing.


Katrina Kenison March 8, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Oh you are SO good. Just love your willingness to remember it — and tell it. Maybe all schools of that era smelled of BandAids. This brings back so many memories — your details are excruciatingly wonderful. In my experience, most people who follow writing prompts end up with things that sound as if they were just following writing prompts. YOU do it, and you get something glorious. Please, keep it up! Love the sisters in that photo, too. (Do you know about Marion Smith’s memoir blog:


TKW March 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm


I don’t know about Marion, but you never steer me wrong, so I will be there.


Velva March 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I had a pair of those Sears black and white saddle shoes. My mother thought they were practical, I hated them. I wanted the sandal platforms so bad. I thought that if I told her that I lost my shoes, she would buy me new ones. Do you know what I did? I pitched my brand new shoes over the bridge while walking home on the first day of school. I feel guilty to this day because she could not afford the first pair.
First day of school does stink….Starting in Spring would have been worse.

Great post. You made me think of my saddle shoes (laugh).


P.S. My mother did not believe it for a second that I lost my shoes.


TKW March 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm


My momma never believed I lost mine, either. #uglyshoesisters


hilljean March 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm

This was heart-wrenching! I felt like a little kid again–especially with the insecurity about the shoes. Brought back memories reading this!


idiosyncratic eye March 9, 2012 at 2:16 am

This a great piece of writing, I love your descriptions and despite the nerves and tension and relationships it still remains warm and witty. :)


rebecca @ altared spaces March 9, 2012 at 8:02 am

“Every limb in my body feels like a fault line and I’m pretty sure I’m going to break wide open when we get there and my guts will spill all over the playground like a second-grade pinata. But with guts, not candy.”

Great stuff. I’ve felt that.


Biz March 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I have a twin sister and because I was born 30 minutes before her, I thought it was always my responsibility to take care of the both of us and make decisions for us. Thankfully our parents had us in separate classes, but even as early as kindergarten, I always had to make sure she was doing okay and would raise my hand every so often and say “can I just go check on my sister really quick?” Sometimes the answer would be yes, other times the teacher would say “Biz, I’ll let you know when you can.”

I didn’t have to talk to her, just look through the side glass window next to the closed classroom door, to make sure she’s okay.

Fast forward to college when we went to separate schools. I got back to my dorm after field hockey practice and my roommate says “some girl who sounds like you wants her to call you back.” I called her back and she cried “I had no idea how much you took care of me!”


TKW March 10, 2012 at 8:11 am


How lucky she was. So lucky.


Katybeth March 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I have never been good at breathing and have never found that it does not makes a bit of difference when I do breathe. I recently went to a breathing circle (I can be talked into most things once) and the leader said that it was really impossible to breath wrong which took some of the angst out but I don’t think it made me a better breather.
So how did school go? Did you make it through reasonable well? Did you make friends? Did they laugh at your shoes? Was one of the teacher a shouter. Let’s have coffee…inquiring minds want to know!


TKW March 10, 2012 at 8:12 am


VanGundy was a yeller, alas.


pamela March 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

you never fail to knock my socks off with your writing talent. damn girl. and you break my heart in one fell swoop.


Kat March 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Can I just tell you I am a HUGE sucker for stories that go full circle? When you mentioned the place smelled like band aids and then ENDED WITH THAT SAME LINE!?! I’m a giant nerd…it actually gave me goosebumps. :)



Stacia March 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Band-Aids or powdered eggs. Every one of them smells like that. Why??


TKW March 11, 2012 at 8:09 am

Or Swiss steak. Ugh.


Privilege of Parenting March 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I just give you a virtual hug, and throw one in for myself for good measure, thinking back, prompted by your vivid imagery, to my own perpetual nervousness even though it was the same damn school year after terrifying year. Maybe there was some sort of mix-up about the arches as I seemed to have had no arch and needed special shoes with a “Thomas Heel” that were so ugly and uncool that having tattooed “loser” on my forehead would have at least been a little bit subtle in comparison, as no one ever looked at my forehead except that iron pole that held up the basketball net that my shots never reached, the iron pole that kept kissing me on the forehead. It’s all a concussion to me now, but instead of arch-enemies at least I now know how to make archly funny and compassionate friends. You’re a high arching bridge over all manner of troubled waters.


TKW March 11, 2012 at 8:12 am


I wish you’d been my classmate. We could have hung out with Velva in our ugly shoes and swapped lunches.


Privilege of Parenting March 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm

That would have been very sweet and I would have loved it, only the other kids would have savaged our friendship in that Lord of the Flies way that maintained the social order that got us to this point. Now we get to swap virtual lunch and I consider myself blessed to have you as classmate in the alchemical soul-school we call… well, we don’t really know what to call it, and that’s cool.


faemom March 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Great post. I’m not sure if I’m thankful I didn’t go through that; I went to school with demons.


Heather March 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I attended 3 different high schools in 3 different states after attending elementary school and junior high at the same school in the same small town. I got beyond butterflies in my stomach every single time I started somewhere new. And it sucked that I moved in high school because I never had time to make good friends. And I lived too far away from those kids I did go to school with for the first 9 grades of my school career to keep those kids as close friends. Yep… growing up sucked!


Not a Perfect Mom March 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

um, my kids eat salami sandwiches everyday…
maybe time to switch up lunch…
great story…love it!


TKW March 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Not a Perfect Mom,

There is nothing inherently wrong with salami sandwiches, but Jay Grover had asthma and was a mouth-breather. That was the problem. :)


Paula March 13, 2012 at 6:25 am

The shoes! Yes, how could I forget about them? My mom made me wear corrective shoes in 7th grade . Is that not the worst timing? I can totally relate. But they were beige oxfords. I still blame her for any weirdness I may have. :-)

The birds and the nest thing is quite interesting. Never heard it before. Will be considering the truth of it for a long time.


TKW March 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm

With my girls, I am trying very hard to remember the importance of shoes. Who knew?


Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac March 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Oh I’ve been there too! One of our several moves was the last MONTH of 7th grade. My parents thought it would be nice if I met some kids before summer. It didn’t exactly work out that way.

As always, I love the imagery and detail you bring to every story.


Mary Lee March 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm

My daughter just bought a Gluten-free cookie book and says it has some fabulous cookies. I don’t pay much attention to those recipe, but I have to say that I saw a recipe on someone ‘s blog for a gluten-free, dairy-free Mounds cup that was quite intriguing.


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