Saturday 1 June 1996
As I went to work I realized the excitement and joy of the opportunity I have made possible for myself. I am going to France! I will be allowed to remain in another country for a time of two weeks! Chessie starts today. I hope she works out. If she does we’ll share hours at work. I just don’t know what to think. Tomorrow we will be going to Tulsa. Brad is going for a week. I will be going to the airport with Ann Monday morning. Wow!! My first plane, my first out-of-country experience and the first time I’ve gone East of Arkansas. I just cannot wait.
» 27 August 2007
In truth, this was not an opportunity that I had created for myself. Far from it. This opportunity was made possible by the generosity of my Mimi and Papa, as well as sizable donations from my parents. I had worked for a year and saved almost nothing. It was not me who got me there, but my family who realized that I really wanted to go.
I did know what to think about sharing my job with the new girl who was starting. I didn’t like it. I felt liked I had worked really hard to be important to the Villa, where I worked, and didn’t appreciate having someone come in to “help,” as it just seemed like she was cutting my paychecks in half, which she did. In the end, she did not work out and I worked alone until I left for college over a year later. Interesting side note: my one and only date with a girl was with Chessie. We went to the fair in September of the same year. It was actually a lot of fun.
» 27 February 2016
I’m so excited to revisit this journal after twenty years. I cannot believe it’s been so long! Recently, I was driving my nephew home from my parents’ house and it dawned on me that he is only two years younger than I was when I went to France. That seems so untrue and amazing that I hardly knew what to do with that information. It was during that talk that we discussed the concept of memory. He was asking me about the concept of time seeming to go by when one is older. I thought about that and hypothesized that perhaps what is at play is how our memories can stick to us, how things that happened decades ago can seem so clear still, as though those things might’ve happened yesterday. The older we get, the more of those memories we have and it all just starts to feel compressed as if life hadn’t been as long as it was.
I remember 1996. I remember it like I remember last month. I remember my feelings, my desires, my motivations, and my philosophies. I remember my secrets. I remember spending lunches with my friends buying CDs at the local music store, and how much I loved my time washing dishes at my job because it gave me time to drift away into my own thoughts. I remember the feeling of being caught between loving my family whose company I truly valued and needing very much not to be around them. I remember spending too much time with my friends. And I remember not being all that adventurous or daring, a trait I have always attributed to being very cerebral and lost in my own head. I did not have a wild side; it never seemed to develop, which has been disappointing at various points during my life, but ultimately, I’ve been satisfied with being grounded.
In my teens, I romanticized everything, and often wondered if others were doing that as well. At fifteen or sixteen, I didn’t have those words for my friends, didn’t understand the value of an open heart, and so I’d wonder about how people see the world for a long time. It wasn’t until I had nephews and nieces that I got to see other people who were experiencing the world in ways that seemed so familiar. My oldest nephew, the one with whom I discussed memory, has a tendency to romanticize his world. It’s nice to see things through rose-colored glasses — I still try to wear them as often as possible — but he will experience a fair amount of disappointment when the world reveals itself for what it really is, a feeling that nobody can prepare him for.
France stood as a fantasy world, somehow existing in our modern world as both very much a part of the 1930s, 1960s, and somewhat 1980s. To my sixteen year old eyes, it seemed not lost in time, but purposely wrapped in the past, a land joyously refusing to become something it did not want to be. I loved that about it and could not have cared less about how unlikely my notions of French life might be. I wanted so much for it to be that land I had invented.
The opportunity to go to France had been presented in 1994 in French class. I was only too eager to join the group, assuming that others in my class would go as well… friends. I looked forward to it from the moment I saw the green light in the eyes of my parents and grandparents. I was told I’d have to pay for half, which motivated me to get a job in 1995, but my youth would ultimately stand in the way of acting responsibly and saving money. I never really did. The trip should’ve been called off, but perhaps the adults in my life realized the size of this opportunity. Perhaps they knew its impact would last well beyond the two weeks we would be gone. Perhaps they knew that I had in fact worked hard at my job, in spite of my lack of ability to save the money, ultimately deciding to reward me for that. I’m not sure. What I do know is that I was allowed to go. I was not prepared, not mature enough, but I was going anyway.
Sunday 2 June 1996
I am at Ann’s. This morning we did not go to church but rather we went to Stroud. There I bought some new headphones, a CD, a get-well card for Mme Wright, and some stuff at the toy store. I got a Limber Louie, a marionette of an unusual looking bird. The sides control his feet so that he can appear to walk. I am having a hard time stopping my thoughts of what France will be like. I have absolutely no IDEA! Becky and Brad are going to a work camp where they paint houses. I also bought some Furr Balls lil’ stuffed toys with rubber faces. I have had quite a day and can’t wait — think, tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to Paris. Wow!
» 27 August 2007
Yep, spent a bunch of money BEFORE going to Europe. I honestly had no idea how dumb that would end up being. Blue and furry Louie lived in a box for years. I eventually lost him and now do not know where he ended up. I do not miss him.
» 27 February 2016
Sometimes things can happen in life and the impact can seem like it will be quite small, but it turns out the be huge. Shortly before leaving on our trip, the French teacher and our chaperone Mme Wright suffered a brain aneurysm. She would recover, but was unable to go with us to France. The parents met and decided to let us go without her. Money had already been paid — nonrefundable at that point — and most of those going were already eighteen. I was the youngest at sixteen. We weren’t going to be left to our own. We would meet up with another group on our way and their teacher agreed to keep an eye on us. That group was always going to be with us during the entire two weeks.
Kids should be educated on money and saving in school. It should come up throughout the twelve years of school and be a mandatory part of the curriculum. Add to that other everyday skills such as interviewing for jobs, interacting with others in public, how to wait in lines patiently, cooking, cleaning, how to apply for a loan, how to pay back loans. These are all very important life skills we forget to teach kids. I always had the things I wanted. Sure, I remember my mom and dad telling me I couldn’t have this or that, but I never felt like I wanted for anything. It was a cushy, middle-class life. Understanding money didn’t play much of a roll at that time in my life.
I was facing a major opportunity, an event so pivotal to my life that I would carry it with me forever. It would inform my future relationships, jobs, and where I would choose to live. It would be the thing I would revert to for comfort or when I wanted to remember a certain kind of emotional pain. And it would take as much money as I could hold onto to keep me going for the two weeks. Still, I thought it appropriate to buy toys at an outlet mall the day before I left. I had been doing a lot of fighting to keep the little kid part of me from going forward with me in life, and this is just one example of where I failed. As setbacks go, it probably seems somewhat inconsequential, but it seems like an important part of understanding who I was in that moment, who I had been until then, and who I ultimately was to become as a result of the trip.