Everyone was crowded around the trampoline,shouting and laughing, screaming and watching. I remember the rosy cheeks, facesflushed from running, hair fresh out of the pool and eyes brimming withexcitement.
Everyone was there - people I had played with since I wasfive, people I had met only that year, people who had dried my tears, peoplewhose tears I had dried, people with whom I had laughed so hard my stomach hurt,people who had taken risks for me, tried for me, cried for me, cried with me,gotten into trouble with me - everyone.
Everywhere I looked a differentbeautiful face would remind me of playing dress-up in kindergarten or sellingGirl Scout cookies in third grade, or cramming for my first exam, or passingnotes in freshman orientation, or going to Paris.
I remember lookingaround, my heart brimming, my mind racing. The world was zipping at a hundredmiles an hour. The clamor of talking and the brightly moving colors mixed into amasterpiece.
I was basking in the splendor and relishing the feelingswhen all of a sudden, the world stopped. I was frozen in time, and the parade ofnoise and color ceased. It hit me that I wouldn't see these people again for avery long time - or maybe never. Tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow, Iwouldn't be here.
I will never forget when my dad told my family we weremoving to San Francisco. He called everyone into the living room and we sat stiffas zombies. I think we all knew what was coming, but no one wanted to hear it.
"We're moving back this summer." Dad spoke the foreboding wordswith a conviction that took my breath away. The silence was deafening, or maybeit was the screams of horror resounding in my head. But I knew it was for real.
I had lived in England for eleven years, a sizeable chunk of a16-year-old's life. I'd started kindergarten here and made it all the way up totenth grade. Because my school was mainly for overseas expatriates, I was used toseeing friends come and go, but I never thought I would be the one to leave. Iwas lucky enough to have had the same best friend since kindergarten, andeveryone knew me as the "old-timer." My childhood was etched in thewalls of the school, my dreams floating in the English air and my soul embeddedin the very earth.
The next few days floated by in a blur of stark dawnsand cloudy dusks. My last night in England was spent lying in a sleeping bag inthe middle of my empty room. I remember staring at the ceiling, drenched in themilky glow of the radiant moon. This is my room, but where is my bed? This is myroom, but where are my pictures? This is my room, my room. I closed my eyes andsaw my dark shadow lying in the empty whiteness of what was once my haven. Mychildhood was contained in the walls that were being exchanged for currency. Irolled onto my side, consumed with sadness and, like any 16-year-old drowning indespondency would do, cried myself to sleep.
When I arrived in SanFrancisco, I was greeted by a wave of nostalgia. I had lived there when I wasvery young, and the sight of my new (old) house and town relit a flame that hadbeen snuffed for eleven years. It felt strangely familiar to walk down the samehallways and sit at the same counter as I had when I was three.
Schoolwas intimidating, especially the first few days. It seemed like everyone kneweach other inside and out, and that I was intruding on their affectionatefamiliarity. It took all my strength to stop myself from hitchhiking to SanFrancisco International Airport, crawling into a London-bound passenger'ssuitcase and freeloading a ride back home.
After camping in an emptyhouse, sleeping in sleeping bags, and using the staircase as a table and chairsfor a few weeks, our furniture arrived. The change in atmosphere helped lightenmy mood and I felt more comfortable knowing my belongings were with me again. Inow had my bed and my pictures, they just happened to be set up in a differenthouse and a different country.
Several days later, my family and I atedinner at a Chinese restaurant. At the end, the waiter brought us a plate offortune cookies. I ate my cookie slowly, not really wanting to see what thefortune would say about my future. The last thing I needed was for someone orsomething - even a sliver of paper with a slogan probably made up by a man in themiddle of Arkansas who gets paid two cents an hour to come up with other people'sdestinies - to tell me that I was going to fall off a cliff the next day and landon a bicycle without a seat. Still, I swallowed my uncertainty and read thefortune. To my delight, the paper did not tell me I was going to trip and fallinto a vat of molten iron. Instead, it said, "It is a long lane that has noturning."
That sentence was not one of syrupy, gag-inducingpositivism, but rather something to contemplate. I know life is a journey, whichI think cannot be significantly thrown off course, but I had thought mine wouldend when I moved to San Francisco. I had thought I was going to lose all contactwith my life in England and that I would grow old and wither like a raisin in thesunny state of California.
Somehow, that little slip of paper opened myheart to the reality that nothing is constant. Something will change every day ofmy life, and if I let myself be consumed by fear, then that is all I will knowand I might forget to live.
I keep in touch with friends in England. Mysister still lives there so I visit whenever time and resources allow. I have metsome welcoming people here, and I'm learning to get used to all the sunshine(which I now doubt will cause me to shrivel up).
Still, exciting as itis, change can be hard to accept. I carry the fortune in my wallet, so I can takeit out and read it whenever doubt starts to tip the scale. Luckily, I haven't hadto do that too often. I think I will survive.
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