Several years ago, while reviewing the altering events that happened in my life, I came to realize that they all happened in an “11th” year. The first event, when I was eleven, involved a huge family migration from New York to California. I admit; at first, I was excited to go to this far away land that my father spoke of so enthusiastically. But as time went on (and I listened in on more of my mom’s phone conversations with her friends), I realized that the only reason he wanted to move was because his sisters and father wanted to move…and they only reason they wanted to move was because their famous brother had just moved there (he was Frank Sinatra's comedian, Pat Henry). Everyone was enamored with a vision of endless celebrity encounters and the promise of a more glamorous lifestyle (at least, that’s what it seemed like to me). I will admit that the thought of leaving for California with my cousins (even down to taking the plane flight together) made the event all the more bearable. But once we actually got there, we ended up moving to different towns--my cousins to Calabasas, my family to Thousand Oaks. Although I got to see them often, I wished we were going to be in school together.
The harsh reality of moving to California for me was that, although it was indeed beautiful, I was at the worst possible age to move to a place where I felt as if I didn’t even speak the language (and was reminded of it every single day of my life by my peers). From the very first day of school, the other students taunted me. At recess, a dirty-blonde, long-haired, tan-legged typical California girl walked up to me with her accessory Barbie friend and told me that if I wanted to fit in with anyone, I would have to actually look like I lived in California, and not on Mars. She informed me that “We don’t wear nylons here.”
Of course, I was forced to go to school every day anyway. I would stand on the lunch line listening to the strains of “NEW YAWKA-PAWKA!!”, or my all-time favorite, “GIMME A KWAUGHTA FOR A CUP-A-WAUGHTA!!” I cried every single day for several months. Then a funny thing happened…I hit puberty in the middle of sixth grade, along with a few other awkward girls. We became friendly, and by seventh grade, I was feeling as if I could finally fit in with most of my peers. I created a couple of close friendships (I still talk to one of those friends every couple of years), and life went on. By eighth grade, I was totally adjusted to my California lifestyle. And of course, as fate would have it, as soon as I felt comfortable I was told that we were moving back to New York.
I don’t remember much from the final few weeks in Thousand Oaks. I can’t even remember packing up my room, or what I did with my beloved Elton John poster in his jeans and short fur jacket. But one memory that’s always been crystal clear to me is the car ride up my street, leaving my house for the very last time to go to the airport. It dawned on me that I didn’t feel as if I were leaving home; I felt as if I were going home. And I was happy.
Next week I’ll post about my second decade “Eleven-Year Glitch”—stay tuned!