I think as I looked at pictures from this particular year, thinking so much of my life was about to change and go away forever. I'm actually a big proponent of change in life because honestly, I get bored easily. (That always ends up being one of my faults.) However...
The pictures of my home I loved so much...I had no idea, standing there, that I was only going to live there for one more year. Some of my friends who were the most important people in my life...well, some of them I haven't seen since, and even the ones I do keep in touch with...it's not nearly enough. I think it was the pictures of my great aunt and uncle, Mert and Donald, which really kicked the tears into high gear. That always happens, though, when I look at pictures of them.
I'm a sentimental, mushy person in general, but I think that if there was ever a time in my life to feel the weight of uncontrollable change, this was the time. Maybe there's just a big difference in how you feel with change that is of your choosing - and change that is out of your control.
This is just a random picture of my dad in front of his garden. That's our neighbor's farm in the background. Our neighbors, especially Ben (who I mentioned going with us on one of our Texas trips), played a significant part in our lives.
I don't know what year this was taken, probably just a few years before. My dad always had a huge garden. A couple of memories of Dad's garden: the compost pile was located next to it, and it was a little walk from our house - not that far, but it wasn't my favorite chore, having to take our "slop" up there. Also, Dad often had us pick up rocks, which was another chore I didn't love. Except that he would often pay us like a quarter or something a bucket to do it, which was nice.
I grumbled about all of the chores I ever had to do, living in the country - raking leaves, mowing the lawn, feeding our baby calves at the crack of dawn, stacking wood...man, I wouldn't change any of that. I feel like I'm in no way instilling the capability of hard work into my own children, at least not in the character-building way that I feel it was formed into me.
I was inducted into National Honor Society this year. That's my shoulder pads and me sitting there in the white shirt. The next year I became National Honor Society president. I actually had to speak in a microphone in front of the entire student body. This was a big step for me. I still had shy tendencies, but I had come a long way by the end of high school.
I had a sort-of epiphany sometime around my sophomore year. I realized that I was disappointed in myself for giving up on my grades. My math grade had made me feel defeated, like there was no use in trying. (Well, of course, like I've said - that mixed with the fact that I had a lot of fun that seemed more important than studying.) However, I started thinking...Sarah and Daniel could tie for first place. That left the spot for Salutatorian open, and there wasn't a clear front runner. I had a shot, and I started putting more effort into it.
I continued on in the majority of the school clubs and activities. Being in the clubs meant getting out of a class at least one day a month, plus other advantages, such as getting an extra picture in the yearbook. Also, in FTA, we actually got to teach an elementary class one day a year.
I was in the girls' sextet in chorus, and we earned a I at music districts, then got to travel to State. We also earned a I at State! Yay!I joined the yearbook staff my junior and senior years. It was right up my alley, everything I joined - taking pictures, writing stories, arranging layouts...except for selling ads. I hated doing that, and I don't think I got the best grade on that part. However, my senior year, Missy, Elizabeth, and I were ad sale partners and assigned to Branson. We actually got to leave school and spend the day in Branson.
This was my last year of cheerleading. Elizabeth and I were co-captains. It's funny that I ended up being a cheerleading co-captain, and I couldn't even really do a cartwheel. (Again, the advantages of going to a small school.) I'm the base whose face you can see. How fun it would have been to be a flyer, but no, I was always a base. I think this is why my shoulders are messed up, to this day.
Regardless, cheerleading this year was ridiculously fun with Elizabeth and Missy and my other friends. I decided to not try out my senior year because I was determined to have the most freedom possible my last year.
The most exciting thing that happened to me my junior year - I GOT A CAR!!! This was even more exciting than getting my license. My parents had been looking all year for something, then finally ordered my brand new Bimini Blue Ford Tempo in the spring. I was ecstatic. (I had voiced preference for a more neutral color like hunter green, but my parents said that seemed like a trendy color that would go out of style. Um, I'm sure BIMINI BLUE was a much more "timeless" choice, ha. I didn't ultimately care, though, because I loved it!) My mom drove it to school the day she picked it up, and I remember running out from cheerleading practice to look at it for the first time. It was a bummer because I couldn't drive it to school the next day; Mom had to go get the tags for it, etc.
I took Lori with me for my first night out on the town in my NEW CAR. We were so giddy and thought we were so cool. I stopped at Wal-Mart to buy a tape case especially for my car. We went to the mall. Of course, we went to the mall. The Battlefield Mall was a home away from home for me. I logged many hours in that place during my teen years. Besides sporting events, there was no place I'd rather be. We rolled down our windows as we drove through the mall parking lot, playing I'm Too Sexy, which I'd bought that night on a single cassette tape. Whenever I had a little money, I always picked out a new single tape. I think I also bought Save the Best for Last that night.
We went back into town after shopping. As soon as we got there, a huge bug splattered on my windshield. We screamed, then started laughing - I mean, it was a really big bug, and it looked really gross. I tried using my windshield wipers to wash it off, but it just smeared it across the window. I was aghast because I was so particular with my new car. You would never know this by looking at my insanely dirty car now, but I never wanted so much as a crumb in my car. Not everyone had seen my car yet, and I think I even used the words, "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression." We stopped at Casey's General Store to clean it all off.
We had started a tradition maybe a few years before this - spending Christmas Eve with Mert and Donald. She always crocheted dolls for us. She always let us pick out the pattern, the hair color, and all of the yarn. She had a room that was full of yarn on one wall. We always got her a new doll, which she loved collecting.
What I was thinking, looking at the pictures yesterday...I had no idea sitting there that this would be the second to the last Christmas Eve I would ever spend with them. Mert died a month or so after I graduated...Donald passed away several years after that. I would say so many more things about them, but...it's still too hard to think about it, even almost 20 years later. And I'm sure it's no easier for my family to read this, either. They know what I mean...
that if I could be sitting anywhere, next to anyone right now, in this moment...it would on that couch next to Mert.
To lighten the mood, I feel certain Cary, age 31, would want me to mention that she has really great hair now.
The summer after my 9th grade year, my family started a fun tradition. We took our first family trip to Perdido Key, Florida. For the first few years, we even stayed at the same place, Sandy Key. Two years in a row, we even stayed in the very same unit. This picture was actually taken at the battlefield in Vicksburg, MS either on the way there or back.
These trips to Florida were my first traveling experiences beyond our many trips to Texas. It was exciting and fun for all of us. We got to know many places in the area, including Bellingrath Gardens, the USS Alabama in Mobile, the naval museum, the Dauphin Island ferry, and different forts in the area. In the picture, above, at Bellingrath, I am wearing overall shorts with the straps down, which was the style. I know without looking I would have also had on my black Keds that matched my black belt and black headband.
I was always ridiculed by bringing the largest suitcase with the most pairs of shoes on our vacations. I just wanted to be prepared. Complaints about my big suitcases was just another way I felt discriminated against, being the only teenage girl in the house. :)
This was the year after 11th grade. Most summers I made friends on the beach; it's just sort of what the teenagers did while staying with their families. It was totally normal behavior. In fact, the year before I made two friends (Chad and Jason) who I actually kept in touch with (which is such a "me" thing to do). My parents had totally let me hang out with them and even go souvenir shopping with them. (That was the year my brother didn't come with us.)
Well, this year I was hanging out one night with two guys my age (PLUS a 9 year old brother to one of them) who had came with one of their families. (They were from Fayetteville, which wasn't far from where we lived, so we bonded.) It was all completely harmless and innocent, but my brother came out looking for me. He even got the security guard involved. He completely freaked out. He was screaming at me from the pool, with his flashlight. "Jenny, get your (insert profanity) up here right now!" I was sooo embarrassed. He never used profanities so he was clearly very upset with me.
I think earlier in the week my mom and brother came looking for me, as well. I had just walked up to the nearest payphone to call one of my friends - honest, but I don't think they believed me. When I had gotten back to the condo, my Dad, slightly amused, said, "You better think of a good excuse before your mother and brother get up here."
I felt so stifled and smothered as a teenager. I just wanted to reach the age that I already felt inside. It's silly, now, but it felt very important and dramatic to me, at the time.
We had good times, regardless. It was relaxing by the pool and always fun to make meals in the condo together. This was also the year of "Captain Fred." We bought tickets for this luxurious sunset sailboat ride, and it turned into what has become an inside family joke over the years. The boat was kind of crowded, and the assortment of passengers couldn't have been better picked if this had been a television comedy. One couple argued the entire time. One of the men was really funny and kept us laughing the entire time. One lady was obnoxiously drunk.
The boat got stuck right when we were leaving the dock, which prefaced our ride to come. The ride really was nice and beautiful, but we don't choose to remember or tell that part of the story. We stopped at an island to swim, but it was kind of dirty so I didn't. Captain Fred was working on the boat. We ended up getting stuck again out in the ocean; the motor wouldn't run, and we had to wait for help. The small boat that was trying to pull us almost sank. We think Captain Fred, who was wearing bikini swim trunks, was intoxicated. Everyone was practically running to their cars when we docked.
If you're joining in from Mommy's Piggy Tales and are actually still reading, feel free to drop out now. I'm going to add this next part, just because I think my family will find it interesting. This is something I wrote on our drive to the beach in 1991:
Before explaining this trip, I'll start by explaining my family...Family car trips...each person with their own contrasting personalities. Everyone trying to get along but never admitting their faults.
Tracy - the youngest child, age 9 definitely fits the typical "youngest child." If you get my meaning. She is also very fun-loving, talkative, and outspoken. Cary, age 12 - fun, happy, and content, as long as she has her pick of seats and no one says anything to provoke her temper. Stephen, age unimportant, but he is 38. He is the main driver and sole protector of the family. Said to be old-fashioned, conservative, and natural, he has been known to flex his muscles and smile his famous-cheesey grin in front of the camera.
A morsel of excitement was already cut out of the trip by one member of the family - Matthew, age 18, whose absence in the trip caused much grief and worry for Mother, age 35, who is having much trouble watching her children grow up.