Saturday, October 4, 2014

Coming of Age

(If you're just joining us, the beginning of this series starts here. Thanks for reading!)

This is me playing with the "daycare kids." I was probably about 5th grade here

My fourth grade year I was in Mrs. Walker's class. This class also met in a portable building outside the school in the parking lot and near the playground. Mrs. Walker was feisty but I thought she taught well and I remember that I finally started to understand math this year. I had a great class with lots of friends that made me laugh. My best friend in class that year was Serena.

The back of this picture says: "To Shana B/F/F/A!" This was the first year I knew what BFF meant and Serena was the one that taught me the expression. We sat beside each other in class.

This was also the year I started to listen to and like country music because that's what all my friends liked. We all started wearing colorful jeans and cowboy boots to school. I had a pair of red Roper boots. I remember learning the line dance to the "Boot Scoot & Boogie" at recess with Blake and JW. I still think it is so hilarious that I had a "cowgirl" phase.

Oh and there was this!

I remember Greg singing this song at the top of his lungs and Mrs. Walker getting mad. I LOVED "Reading Rainbow."

I remember Greg got me in trouble another time: Mrs. Walker stepped outside the classroom and we were supposed to be working quietly. Well Greg was making me laugh and she came in and made us both go outside and run. Greg was a great baseball player and super athletic, and I was uhh, not, and so he lapped me but was kind enough to slow down a bit and wait for me. Sometime later we were at recess and the boys were throwing dirt clods at us and it hurt so I picked up a big one and chunked it at Greg and it hit his face. He laughed it off, even though I know it hurt, but some other kid went and told the recess teacher that I threw a BRICK at him and I was horrified that I was going to get sent to the principal's office. Greg defended me though and I just sat on the curb for the rest of the recess. 

Fifth grade was the first year I played softball. Daddy decided he wanted to coach me and a team of friends. Our name was "The Sandlotters" because that was the year that the movie The Sandlot came out. Our uniforms were super cute with some bright pink in them. Playing softball though was hard for me. I had danced and swam, but had never done anything where I might really get hurt. I found myself afraid of the ball and wearing glasses did not help me at all. I was clumsy and slow and hyper aware of that because Daddy pushed me really hard. I remember getting worn out and crying a lot because I just didn't feel like I was good enough. I definitely wasn't as good as the other girls on the team and I was painfully aware of that fact. I gave it my all though and I continued to play softball through 7th grade.

The one in the glasses? That's me. Growing up is so awkward.

I want to also add though that I loved my Daddy so much. I have such amazing memories of him coming to eat lunch with me at school or checking me and Spencer out of school to take us fishing or to the state fair. He was very involved in my life and even though he could be harsh, I never doubted his love for me. Daddy was an expert tickler and I was so super ticklish. I was so afraid of him sneaking in and tickling me in the night that I always slept with my arms down and my feet under the covers so he couldn't tickle the bottoms of my feet or my arm pits.

During fifth grade there was a lot of change in my life. First my mom decided to take her in home daycare to the next level and make it a full time daycare. This required us to renovate our home and actually move out so that she could accommodate more kids. We moved into a mobile home a few miles away from our house. It was tiny but we made it work. I was in Mrs. Cates' class and it was a split 5th/6th grade class. Mrs. Cates' was super creative and we actually learned to make movies in her class. We read a lot of great literature in that class too. It was also the first year I did "Alpha" at school which is basically an elementary version of gifted and talented classes. Alpha was hard and I liked being part of it because I knew I was smart enough, but I never really made the connection between what we did there and how that was supposed to challenge me or make me smarter or whatever.

As I look back, fifth grade was sort of a "coming of age" year for me. I remember girls starting to shave their legs and get their periods. I begged to shave but my mom made me wait until that summer. My parents also decided to take in an exchange student that year: Xavier. Xavier was from Ecuador in South America. He and Spencer shared a bunk bed. I loved having a "big brother" because I had always wanted one.

Our family with Xavier on Easter Sunday

We had been attending church regularly since I was in 3rd grade or so and we were there every time the doors were open. We actually took Xavier in because some other families in our church had exchange students and he needed a sponsor family. I definitely had a foundational truth of who God was and understood the Bible. I believed it too. I also remember feeling pressured to accept Christ as my Savior because those around me were doing it. I rarely dug my heels in about anything, but I just did not feel like the time was right for me to do that and I wasn't going to do it until I knew in my heart it was. I would say that has been true for me my whole life. I don't ever do something important until I feel in my gut that it is the right thing to do.

In the autumn of that year we went to Northwest Arkansas to visit "The Great Passion Play." I remember this being the first time that I really saw the story of Jesus play out in my mind in such a way that I "got" it. God made me a creature who loves the arts and that has been true of me since I was small: music, drama, visual art, dance, etc. all speak loudly to me and move me beyond words. As I watched this reenactment of Jesus' life, my heart began to pound. This is true. This is real. All the words I had heard and read began to solidify. As Jesus was nailed to the cross I was sobbing. He did that for me. He did that for me. My sin put Him there. And then when he spoke the words "It is finished" three falling stars, one right after the other fell behind the cross and I knew God had finished writing it in my heart. He was calling me. The director stood up at the end and told us that the falling stars was something he had never seen happen before and there was a universal awe among the spectators that something like that had happened at the exact moment it did. I don't believe in coincidences. Never have and never will.

When we came home I told my mom that I felt like I wanted to ask Jesus to come and live in my heart. And we prayed together. We went to my pastor to ask if I could be baptized and they told me I needed to work through a book first. I have never worked through something so diligently. The night of my baptism I knew something powerful was happening. As I stepped into the water and our pastor asked me "Do you want to now confess Jesus as your Lord?" I said with boldness and looking out at the audience, "Jesus is my LORD!" And as I went under the water I felt a literal change happening in me. When I came up out of the water I was sobbing and everything seemed brighter and different. The old was gone. The new had come. (2 Corinthians 5:17). I knew at that moment that I was marked for something different because no one I knew had ever had a baptism experience like that. And truthfully when I shared it with people around me, they looked at me like I was crazy.

That was also the year that I lost my Prissy dog. One day I went out to ride my bike and I saw her laying in the road. Since we lived out in the country, there weren't many cars that passed through there and so it wouldn't be unheard of for her to lay on the warm pavement. I called to her though and she didn't come. So I walked closer and closer and kept calling. As I reached her, I put my hand over her belly to feel her breathe and she didn't. I immediately started screaming and crying and ran to get my parents. They came out and Daddy went to her and he knew she was gone. Someone had run her over and did not stop to tell us. Daddy and Xavier dug a little grave for her between the two pine trees on our property. And I cried and cried. I wrote about her in my journal and grieved her loss because she was my friend and buddy.

The mobile home we lived in had a long gravel driveway. Daddy would come pick us up from Mom's daycare and take us home in the afternoons. We started playing a game while getting the mail at the end of the driveway: usually I would get out and get the mail and then race back to the truck to try to get in before dad took off down the driveway and I had to walk all the way home. Sometimes Spencer would do this job and one particular day I said, "It's Spencer's turn to get the mail." On this day we happened to be driving Mom's car. Little five year old Spencer got out to get the mail and then raced back to the car. He started to get in the back seat and I think Dad thought he was in all the way and he zoomed off. Suddenly we both heard a blood curdling scream. I looked in the back and Spencer wasn't there and my heart sank. I stepped out of the car and saw Spencer before Dad got to him . His leg was caught under the tire and there was a gigantic hole and lots of blood. All the blood drained from my face and immediately guilt took over: "It's my fault. If I hadn't made him get the mail today..." Dad came around the back of the car and picked him up. I asked if he wanted me to run in and call 911. He said there was no time. He had me sit in the back with Spencer and hold him. He took his shirt off and had me cover up his leg with it. I held my baby brother as dad drove as fast as he could, not to the hospital but to the daycare. I think shock took over for all of us. We were going to get Mom. Dad had me run in to get her and then she sat in the back with Spencer while we drove to the hospital. Spencer started convulsing and they told me he was in shock. I was so scared he was going to die. When we got to the hospital Daddy carried him in and the medical people took him behind a curtain. Mom stayed with him while a nurse took Daddy and me into someone's office. I heard Spencer scream the worst blood curdling scream I have ever heard. Daddy sat in the chair and put his face in his hands and sobbed unlike I have ever seen a man sob before or since. My heart broke in a thousand pieces. I told him I was sorry, it was my fault. He grabbed hold of me and told me it wasn't, it was his fault. I wanted to comfort him but there was nothing I could do.

We had a long night at the hospital. The doctors thought Spencer leg was shattered in a million pieces and that he might lose his leg. When they went in to do surgery though they discovered that what looked like bone fragments was only gravel. His leg was not crushed but he had a gigantic hole that would require skin grafts to fix. Our whole church gathered around us and prayed that night and God answered our prayers. I remember my Bubba coming home on little crutches and I remember that I never looked at him the same way again. I knew God has spared him and that it was my job to protect him from then on. It was my job to love him even if he drove me crazy. It was my job to be his big sister and I was determined to do that with the best of my ability.
Obviously fifth grade was a weighty year for me.

In sixth grade I had my first male teacher ever: Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith became my  most loved teacher during all my elementary years. He was kind and affirming and I finally was able to memorize all of my multiplication tables and math became a subject I was much more confident in. He invested in me and he made our class so much fun. This was also the year that girlfriend relationships started changing. I started to see girls become "mean girls." Friends I had for years suddenly started forming cliques and becoming "popular" and gossiping. I remember there was a new girl in school who came from California. She was beautiful and everyone was fascinated with her because she was from another state. I remember the night a friend, K, had a birthday party at a hotel and the new girl, A, was there. A lot of girls started fighting and somehow A ended up telling everyone that it was my fault and I was talking about people behind their backs...except I wasn't. It was a miserable night and I realized then that this wasn't the group of people I was going to be close to anymore. I still hung out with them and we played softball together, but I started backing away because I felt betrayed.

I also became best friends with a girl named Becca this year. Becca and I would ride our bikes to each other's houses, which felt cool because she lived a few miles away, so we thought we were big stuff. We found trails that so that we could get there quickly. We also, with our twin friends Jennifer and Kimberly, formed a babysitter's club. We had meetings and plans and it was fun. I know I started babysitting some at that point and so I took it very seriously.
Getting Glamour Shots done was something popular back then. I remember that Becca and I went and did this together and I think it was during sixth grade year.

Also this was the year that my mom stopped doing daycare and we sold the house I had been raised in and built a new one. It was bitter sweet (and still is) to leave the house that was my mom's family's house and that I was born and raised in, but it was also super neat to watch a new house come together and to plan the decor of my room (sunflowers) and move in. I remember the night we could move into the house, Becca, mom and I decided to stay the night there and take a jacuzzi bath. Well we didn't have hot water yet so mom filled water up in pots and boiled it on the stove and we took a bath anyway.

Also Becca and I played with Spencer a lot. I had pictures of us dressing him up in girl clothes and also this:
this is Spencer. He really let us do this to him because he thought he was magic and could escape from any contraption we put him in.

Spencer thought he was invincible and would ask us to tie him up to see if he could escape. This usually happened when we babysat him because Mom would have never agreed to it otherwise. I think he was able to get out every time. And I won't lie and say I didn't like tying him up because he was still an annoying little brother. Ha!

At the end of sixth grade we had a "graduation" before we moved off to seventh grade. I remember getting some awards that I was really proud of and I felt so edified by Mr. Smith and my parents. I had done well academically in elementary school and I desired to continue into that as I went to junior high.

I know that was a lot of time covered, thanks for hanging in there! Tomorrow begins junior high. Wow all the memories I'm having!


  1. I just cried reading about Spencer's leg. You have a good daddy. He loves with his whole heart.

    1. I know I cried while I was writing it. Still so fresh. And yes my sweet daddy, God love him. He DOES love with his whole heart and I love that about him.

  2. I didn't realize y'all had already moved from Peters Rd when Prissy died. I've always pictured it happening there.

    The 6th grade clicky girls thing still makes me sad to this day. So many girls that I had been bff's with up until that point ditched me and I was never cool enough for them again. Girls can be so mean. :(

    1. We hadn't moved from Peters road when that happened but my brain is foggy. I know for sure Xavier was with us and that it happened in fifth grade and I also know fifth grade was the year we moved into the trailor on Davis Ranch Road. So i told it a little out of order but it's mostly because I can't remember the months of that year.

      Agree about the clicky thing. It is going to be hard for me moving forward because I feel strongly that I need to own my experiences and emotions about things that happened to me, but I also don't want to criminalize anyone because I know I wasn't guiltless. Yikes. Lord help!


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