The Dismally Happy Life of Samm Leal

May 15, 2013
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A Brief Look Into The Happily Dismal Life of Samantha Leal

I came into the world with big green eyes and open mind, uninfluenced by media, family and my peers. I developed a deep fascination about the things around me. Little by little I learned about how seeds became plants and why there were white balls of puff in the sky. I realized I had an age and that, that age would increase with time. As I grew from toddler to a little kid, I was enrolled in St. Steven’s Pre-School, a tiny private school in Houston, Texas a mere 3 blocks from my suburban home. That was the first time in my life that I became aware of the concept of friends. The idea of meeting and befriending strangers was alien to me and caused me to recluse into myself. But due to the fact that I was merely 4 years old, the classmates that I would not say hello to, instead said hello to me. I found that in fact, I liked this concept of friends. I liked knowing my peers and feeling excited about what they may bring me each time I woke up. It was a year later when I was placed in Kindergarten that I developed my first crush. Tan and clad in a pair light up Buzz Lightyear sneakers, I was as aroused as a 5 year old could be. It’s no surprise that in my naïve state, I decided to plant a kiss on one Aidan DeLauney one day at recess, near the second biggest Oak Tree on the playground. We didn’t speak again until a few weeks later when we were appointed partners on a field trip to a local Black Berry Farm. Whilst hiding beneath a table loaded with treats, and freshly picked blackberries, we decided to keep “the kiss” a secret in fear of my slightly overprotective father. After that things between Aidan DeLauney and I were never really the same.

The first time I can actually remember that I found myself abroad came at the age of 7. Due to my British heritage my Dad decided to send me to Europe to visit my family and absorb the culture my ancestors derived from. My cousin, Gavin, who worked at British Airways got me a first class ticket to Heathrow. Once I’d landed in destination I was enthralled at the differences between America and this foreign land. The accents, the attitudes, the placement of the steering wheel. I stopped and talked to everyone who wasn’t in a rush to be somewhere.

I’d always been a fairly carefree girl, but that all changed one day in one of London’s pharmacies. I was with my two cousins, Lisa and Gavin, their daughter, Olivia, and my Aunt Nicki. My aunt dragged me along with her to the basement level of the store to look at the abundance of various teas (we were in England, after all). My lack of patience drove me to ditch my Aunt and head for the second level of ‘Boots’ the Pharmacy. When I went upstairs, I realized that none of my family was anywhere to be found. I stood there for a moment, utilizing whatever critical thinking skills my 7 year old brain had developed and concluded that my family had abandoned me for some unknown reason. As soon as this occurred to me, I felt tears beginning to prick my eyes. And suddenly I was bawling and throwing a fit until a Middle-Aged African American man approached me. All of my parent’s warnings to “never talk to strangers” instantly left my mind.

The man crouched down beside me and asked “What’s wrong, love?”

“My name is Samantha Leal I’m here visiting some family and I can’t find them and I’m really scared!” I said in my frantic state of panic.

Fortunately, he did not kidnap me but instead chose to help reunite me with my family. As it turns out, they had not abandoned me, they just stepped behind a display in an attempt to clear a pathway for the other shoppers. I ran to my cousin Lisa, with open arms and massive smile plastered to my face.

“Oh my god, Lisa! I couldn’t find you anywhere I thought I’d be lost in London forever!” I said all in one relieved breath.

“Blind me, Samantha, all I did was take the trolley over ‘round the display. I didn’t want Olivia bothering any of the shoppers!” Lisa replied, annoyed with my naive mistake.

I turned around to thank the man who helped me find my family but he was already gone. After this incident I became scared of going off on my own for about a year or two, that is until I realized how fantastic independence is.

A few months after the trauma I faced in England, I was watching an episode of one of my favorite childhood shows, The Fairly Oddparents. The particular episode featured Tom Sawyer, who had magically escaped from the classic novel he was trapped in. He refused to go back into the novel, showing his hatred towards Missouri and then said “As they say in Missouri, I ain’t never goin’ back to Missouri”. Ironically, it was at dinner that night when my parents announced that my family of four would be moving from the big and diverse city of Houston, Texas to a small town in Central Missouri. Persuaded by Tom Sawyer’s negative opinion of Missouri, I was immediately distressed. But my parents did not care.

“But MOM! I don’t wanna go! Tom Sawyer said he hates Missouri!” I screeched.

“What? Tom Sawyer?” My mother said, furrowing her brow. She quickly waved the thought away and moved on. “You’ll make lots of new friends in Columbia! Our new house will have tons of land!”

“Can’t we just stay here, Mom?” I asked with pleading eyes.

“I’m sorry sweetie but the decision is made. We already bought the house.” She spoke.

Once I found myself in Missouri in late June, it was...okay. I befriended my neighbors and enjoyed myself for the most part. That is until, I began my first day of third grade. I was the new kid at a school with only 35 kids in each grade. Everyone had developed their closest friends long before I had arrived. I would sit through classes each day, talking only when Ms. Looten asked me to come up to the board. I was alright with being a loner, though. I would read Horrible Harry books or draw pictures of mice at recess.

One day in early October I was sitting alone on a swing set when a third grade version of Kylie Jacks sat down next to me.

“Hello,” she said. She was fairly shy at this age.

“Hi,” I said in reply to her. I saw her eyeing the deck of pokemon cards in my hand. “Do you play Pokemon?” I asked her.

“I love Pokemon, I have Diamond version on my Gameboy!” She said, her eyes widening with each passing moment.

Kylie and I became fast friends and soon we were inseparable. We alternated whose house we went to each weekend for sleepovers and spent countless Saturdays in her pool. After we became friends, she introduced me to her group of friends, and for the first time since my move, I felt included. I was glad to have people to get into groups with at school and invite to my house on the weekend.

In the fourth grade, I discovered the true meaning of being a fangirl. The Jonas Brothers were beginning to gain popularity and I soon became obsessed. Posters of them covered my walls and their badly written, cookie-cutter pop music was constantly running through my CD player. I even joined the internet fanclub where I could openly express my psychotic love for three boys in peace. One of the best surprises of my life occurred in near the end of fourth grade when my mom announced that she’d managed to get ahold of two field seats for their St. Louis concert.

“Mom-I-ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” I could not conceal my delight.

A few weeks later my mom and I were headed to the Verizon Center, and I was bursting with excitement.

Once we arrived at the concert my mom stopped walking towards the arena.

“What’s wrong?” I questioned. Her face began to twist into a grin.

“There’s one more surprise,” she said.

“What?!” I asked.

“They were predicting rain tonight so a lot of people got refunds for their tickets. I managed to find new seats for us. We’re in the seventh row.” She said happily.

“Oh my gosh, THANK YOU MOM!!!” I said quickly.

A few minutes later I was seated next to my mom, anticipating the opening act, Demi Lovato, to take the stage. It was mid July and the concert was held outdoors. It was sweltering but I couldn’t focus on anything except the happiness pulsing the through me. It was still light out when Demi Lovato walked on stage and sang a few of her latest songs from Camp Rock, a terrible Disney movie. I watched her, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before the real concert started.

Shortly after Demi’s set, Avril Lavigne took the stage. I’d never seen someone wearing more black eye makeup and pink in my life. I didn’t really know any of her songs, but her time on the stage successfully built up my anticipation of the next act.

When Avril Lavigne finished singing “Girlfriend” crew members began setting up the stage for the Jonas Brothers. I was sitting next to my mom telling her everything I knew about the band over and over again.

Soon it was dark and I noticed the almost every seat in the arena was full. The opening chords to a very familiar song began to play. I was beside myself with joy. I was screaming at the top of my lungs as I saw three brunette heads emerge from an elevator under the stage. The beginning of “That’s Just The Way We Roll” was blasting and every teenage girl in the stadium was screaming her head off. My mom was smiling at my happiness despite all of the chaos surrounding her.

The night ended with two encores and by then I had lost my voice completely. It will be remembered as one of the best nights of my life.

A few years after I attended my first concert, I was sitting in my bedroom on a mid-November night reading a Percy Jackson book when my dad came into my room and said that he and my mom had to talk to me about something. When I entered the living room, I saw that my mom and sister, Hayley, were both sitting and waiting for me.

“Samantha, Hayley,” my father began in a grim tone. “Your mother and I love eachother very much and we love you two more than anything in the world.”

I knew what was coming next. For weeks I’d suspected it. I’d caught accidental slivers of conversations about the inevitable, I’d noticed my mom sneak into the guest room each night before bed instead of retreating into her own room with my dad. I had told myself it was rough patch, that nothing would come of it. But even as I told myself those things, I knew what was coming. And now it was finally here. There was no more denying it or wishing for them to mend their broken relationship. Reality hit me with a slap in the face.

“And even though we love each other, and always will,” my dad was beginning to tear up. “We’ve reached a place in our marriage where we need to take break.”

My mom sat silently in an armchair, looking past the walls, at memories of our family’s past. At this point everyone in the room was crying, even my dad. Despite the fact that I’d known this was coming, it didn’t stop me from feeling completely caught off guard and depressed.

Almost two years from the day my parents announced their dreaded separation, I found myself sitting in what was now my mom’s house, with my little sister and my dad. He’d told us he had something important to tell us.

“You’re not in trouble, don’t worry, but it is important and you both need to hear it.” My dad said before bringing us down to our basement. He had been acting strange, eccentric, and even hostile lately when we were with him. I sat and wondered what it could be. A few months prior he had told us that when we lived in Houston, he’d been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and that he had been struggling with it for most of mine and my sister’s lives. He didn’t normally take his medicine though, and anyone with half a brain could tell that he was a little off.

“Well, as you both know, I have Bipolar Disorder, but there’s something else that I need to tell you.” He said in a somber way that led me to ponder all of the possible outcomes of this conversation.

“For a few years now, I’ve been struggling with alcoholism. I am an alcoholic. A few months ago I was arrested with one of many DUI’s and was given the option to either go to jail or join a program designed to help me with my alcoholism. I can’t drive for the next year, and I’ll be going to AA meetings. I want you both to know that I love you and that I’m trying to get help for your sake.”

This didn’t surprise me as much as one might think it would. It all added up, my dad did always act like he was either drunk or crazy. Between this and his bipolar, it all made sense. I was glad he was trying to get help.

This and the many other problems I’d faced with my family led me to become more independent and analytical. I thought about what I did and who I surrounded myself with. Overall it helped me. I became stronger and wiser. It taught me about the world and myself at the same time. Through the good times and the bad I’m loving life every step of the way. The bad parts are remembered as experience and added to my knowledge or wisdom. And the good things are just that--good. They remind me that even it the worst of times, I’ve got it pretty good and that with the right friends and supportive family I can get through anything the universe decides to throw at me with ease.

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