Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The New Girl Comes Home

The little red-haired girl .... top row, second from left. Drasa Avenue Primary School, Fiji - 1977.

Max is almost eight. By the time I was his age, I had already been to three schools. I can't imagine uprooting him now, taking him away from all of his friends and the connections he has made. At a parent/teacher interview recently, I was gobsmacked at his teachers words: "He is the most popular boy in his class, if not the whole year. Children scramble to sit next to him ... I only hope he uses his immense powers for good."

I went to nine schools. Nine. Schools. And I resent the hell out of it. I started kindergarten in a country town called Cooma ... living with my grandparents at the time, as mum had not long left our real father. I didn't even complete the first year .... mum met "our new dad" who got a job in Fiji, so guess who dragged her three young daughters to follow him? My grandmother was livid, and told mum she would "rue the day" she took her daughters away like this. Mum always scoffed at that. Years later .... long after the last drunken dinner party, after the suicide of our stepfather, I realised that my grandmother had been right. To this day, I wonder if mum "rues the day" she took her kids away.

Some schools were pretty cool .... the one in Fiji was an eye-opener. We were there for a year, wore green dresses and shoes were optional. We would buy cups of hot crunchy peas at the tuckshop. Whites were in the minority ... I remember being loathed and bullied by the Indians. The Indians hated white people. They would break the rubber off the tops of my pencils, make me cry. But my teacher was wonderful. I forget her name, but she taught me how to read. She would draw a little red wagon on the board to carry the "e" over to the word "rat." Rate ... a brand new word. I understood it so well, I think she made me fall in love with words and all of their meanings.

The following year we came back to Australia, and I went to a Catholic school in Sydney. I would flash all the boys my underpants, every single day. And try to kiss them. Then, we moved into the house that held the most of our childhood. Our brother was born ... we stayed for eight years. We became filthy rich overnight, and started going to private schools. Then we moved to England, and I went to school there. I was sixteen, and PAINFULLY DORKY. The world's biggest plastic glasses did not help. How confident I was and how I looked at the time ... were the two biggest factors in what group I was in at whatever school I went to. Sometimes cool, sometimes nerdy. Always the new girl. For three years in a row, I started a new high school. Remember how painful being a teenager is? I had to walk in to classes and stumble over my words and go crimson with shame. I was often very shy, thought I was ugly, and never had a boyfriend. We were soon flat broke again ... my chameleon training had begun. I always slipped through the cracks .. at home my mother called me stupid every day of my life, and at school I thought I was too stupid to try. Except in English .... I always kicked arse in English, especially in creative writing. The one thing I didn't need to study for, could just use my imagination.

So. It has been twenty years since I was at school. Twenty! I have avoided every single reunion from every single school ..... I have been so angry, I missed out on "proper" friendships with people. It's not as cool as it looks in movies ... being new in school SUX. I missed out on graduation and the debutante ball. I fit in everywhere and nowhere. One thing that hurt me deeply was at my dads funeral ... I was in between schools. So my sisters had a whole heap of their friends there, yet I had none.

Ouch. Still stings, after all this time.

There was one school that I attended for four years. A PB. The twenty year reunion was last Saturday night ...... and I went. It was the best damn fun I have had in years. Even though it's a rich hoity toity school and they served up pathetic barbeque chicken which I paid twenty bucks for .... even though I do not drink, therefore had no lubricationary activities to take the edge of my intense nervouseness.

It was amazing .... to see the familiar faces, twenty years on. I remember when they had the ten year reunion, and I couldn't go because I was institutionalised. *ahem* ... And people knew, I knew they knew. My stepdad used to be Head of the School Auxiliary or some shit. Which is laughable, considering he couldn't really give a fuck about us at home. He just liked the power and attention that came with it.

People asked, "Eden! What have you been up to for twenty years??" It's a tricky question, and I always think and censor myself. But on Saturday, I was unusually honest about myself .. spoke frankly, and didn't really mind what people thought. We went out afterwards .... I proved to myself, yet again, that I do not need alcohol to have a good time. I was first on the dancefloor (Sa Sa Sa Sa Sa Salt and Pepa's here!!!) ... and pretty much stayed there until 3.30am, the latest I have stayed out in ten years! I did not want to go home. Ever. I played the air guitar in front of horrified, nubile, eighteen-year-old blonde things .... drank three Redbulls in quick succession and thought I would have a heart attack .... and grabbed my friends cigarette and took the biggest motherfucking drag. FREEDOM.

My stepsons friends were everywhere ... and a few texted him, with reports they had seen me out.

We all laughed and talked and danced and let our hair down. Spoke about kids and divorce and addiction and cancer and love and hope.

I belonged! Until .... I told some really dark tales of where I had been and what I had done and what happened last year ..... and they looked at me with love and compassion, and I belonged even more. The Truth really can set you free. Who knew?

It was one of the best nights of my life. Even though I am still painfully shy ...... see?

I drove into my driveway at almost 4am, got out of my car, and it was so peaceful and quiet. All the boys were asleep, and I looked up at all of the trees, realising they had been there all along. Rocco woke me up at 5.30am, and I didn't even mind. It was like he had been training me like an athlete for over a year now .... if sleep deprivation were an Olympic event, I would win gold.

Everyone met for brekkie the next morning, we all laughed at each others sunglasses. Then we all drove off, in a competition to upload party pics on facebook first. I totally won ..... because I live around the corner from that stupid hoity toity school and drive past it every fricken day. I'm like Klinger, staying in Korea after the war is over.

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