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.


  1. I went to stable schools- but I was absolutely Not Cool. You stike me as much, much cooler than I. Even with glasses.

    I out-coke-bottle you by a set of courdoroy brown trousers.


  2. I love this post. I thought moving to 3 different schools was bad...geesh girl! I was a TOTAL nerd, blushed if I even THOUGHT someone MIGHT be looking at me. When I went to my 20 year (that I almost didn't go to) it was wonderful to see and hear that I wasn't the only one that was screwed up back then. I only thought I was.

    (Oh and your comment about the rubber tops on your pencils.....an Indian doc I worked with once, walked up to me and asked me if I could give him a rubber. I almost died...you see over here, that is what we call condoms. I thought he was asking me for a frigging condom!)

  3. That is awesome! I am so glad you had a good time. You deserve it.

  4. That picture is quite hilarious - everyone looks so dour...except for the teacher (and a little red haired girl who appears to have a half smile or something).

    I only transferred schools in high school and college. I was a total dork, but made it out of my (ten year) awkward stage in that summer between when I transferred high schools. I feel so bad for my daughter - who looks just like me. She's going to be adorable right up to the point when her teeth start falling out, and then she'll probably not be very cute until after her braces come off. (Yep, she's not quite 3 and I already know she'll need braces).

    Glad you had a great time at the reunion, and that people were good to you.

  5. OMG Eden - my head is playing twilight music.

    By the time I was eight I was at my third school too and for moi, first and second grade were in ... Cooma. St Patrick's. What year were you there? We have some weird coincidences going so far.

    So glad you enjoyed your 20yr reunion, I had mine earlier this year - similar scenario, hoity toity private school (but in VIC) - had a complete ball. Also with the honesty and the freedom.

    Yay for you!


    And thx for the support over yonder. It means much.

  6. I can tell by that photo, and by every other one of you I've seen, that you ARE incredibly shy. Erm, yeah.

    I love that you told the truth. Motherfucking LOVE IT! And you, of course. You are my hero.

  7. Oh Eden! I'm so glad you went AND you had such a wonderful time! What great memories you made. Good for you, hon!

  8. I was in the same school system from second grade on...and never, ever cool. I was a total nerd, hung out in the library, got made fun of for the way I dressed and what I believed. Good grief, how I hated school. I like myself so much better these days.

    Your story is very powerful, so full of redemption. Just look at you now, baby! I'm so glad your school mates were able to hear your story and accept you as you are. You're an amazing woman, so strong and loving. Keep flashing those gang symbols (just not in LA!!!)

    Love you muchly

  9. I would never ever go back to high school...and I was lucky enough to be in the same tiny ass district my whole life. Everyone knew everything, and I was always the loser of the cool club. Sometimes I wish I was able to change schools and reinvent myself.
    I'm so proud of you for being who you are and realizing that you can have fun without illegal aides.

  10. Us redheads have a hard time fitting in anyway but I can't imagine switching schools so much!

    Looks like you had an effing blast! So was the air-guitar much better in the bar than alone in your bathroom???? ;)

  11. Aw Eden, so glad you had the experience that you should have had before. I'm really sorry that you didn't have it when you should have.

    The Daver moved around all of the time and I've always felt so sorry for him being uprooted like a plant like that. I live in the town I went to high school in. By choice, not necessity.

  12. Good for you! I don't even think I will go to any high school reunions. It just feels weird to see everyone after so long. But maybe curiousity will get the better of me. And maybe I will have a good time like you did.

  13. Good on you. I've studiously avoided all my school reunions and will continue to do so. I hated high school. Everything about it. Couldn't wait to leave. In fact, in my last year I spent more time taking classes at a local Uni than at H.S. I've never looked back and shan't.

    But I admire people who have the balls to go back.

    I've done the Red Bull thing before at parties as well. You know, in lieu of. Watch that shit though, it can give you a heart attack. We're not teens anymore, Eden!

  14. Between kindergarten and ninth grade, I went to five different schools. Which seemed like a lot, but it's certainly not nine. Wow.

  15. I loved this post. Loved, loved, loved it.I am so glad you had such a wonderful time. The past doesn't always have to haunt you. You decided to look it in the eye and make it something new. I dig that.

  16. Oh my. I love that you had such a great time. And that you were honest, and your honesty was greeted with love and compassion.

    You are WAY harder on yourself than anyone else will ever be.

    I am sorry that your childhood sucked the big one. But am so glad that you are coming through it and learning and healing. Awesome.

    Hey that dust storm was amazing. Apparently it's heading over here now so we might get some cool sunsets!

  17. I went to the same schools, but was universally REVILED and bullied. I hated recess and lunch, because no one would sit by me.I was the "smart girl" and kids were weirded out by my reading Moby Dick in the 4th grade.

    I love that my son, in day care, is the popular boy there. I hope he never goes to lunch and worried who will sit next to him.

  18. I'm glad you went and had fun and reconnected with people. It sounds like a fabulous evening.
    I was never really popular but I seemed to fit in ok until my parents moved me to another state during my Jr year of highschool. From then on I never felt like I fit in and I hated it. I can't imagine what it would be like to move that many times.

  19. Wow, primary school in Fiji. Even with the Indian death squad I am jealous. Other people's lives always look so glamourous. I went to 2 schools my whole life. It felt so boring.

  20. I'm so sorry, Eden. Family life really sucks sometimes. On the plus though, killing it at a reunion almost makes up for a shit schooling life...almost. love love love xx


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