Monday, April 11, 2011

Always the new girl

"You should go. You'll meet some new kids." my mom said.

"Yeah." I whispered, lying and just dreading it. I had no choice. She would make me go whether I wanted to or not. That's how it worked in our house.

"It's a fundraiser for the church youth group. You're going. It will be fun!" she said in her perkiest voice. I hated this perky talk. It really made me cranky.

Ugh. Why does she make me do this stuff? I don't want to meet new kids. I would rather poke my eyes out than hang with these geeky church kids at the youth group car wash. I seriously hate her sometimes. She is little miss happy and "lets make friends!" I do not want to make any friends. I wish she would leave me alone.

Moving sucked. I had my story. "No, we're not in the military. My dad is a really smart executive in the airline industry. He's in ops. He gets promoted a lot. So we move a lot. I've never lived anywhere longer than four years." I would say. "I know all our home phone numbers."

It was lonely always moving to a new town. And scary. You'd go into a new school and everyone would look at you. I was always known as "the new girl." All the geeky kids would come up to me and be super nice and friendly. But they were never the ones that I stayed friends with. I'd eventually find the group of kids that I fit in with and leave the original greeters. I know some of them got their feelings hurt. I did feel bad about that. But how was I to know they were geeks?

And then there were the church youth groups. They were always really tough. Once we joined the church I was stuck. Doomed to participate in the youth group.

My parents loved the church. Mostly for the social aspect. My mom sang in the choir. My dad was always a lay reader and on various committees And they were always involved in the youth group. They had four kids of their own. And still loved being involved with all the kids even becoming the youth leaders. This was great for them. But for me it meant that they were always there. Always. I never went on a campout, or bowling event, or anything without them.

They were way more social than me. They lived in the moment. They didn't dwell on the fact that we wouldn't be there forever. They had friends the minute we moved in. I had a hard time doing that. I was a little jealous of their care-free attitude. They laughed and had the best time. I wanted to. But I couldn't. I felt like an outsider looking in.

So here we are in another new place. At another new church. And the youth group is having a car wash to raise money to go to church camp. Great. I don't really want to participate in the group and I really don't want to go to camp. But I will be a sport and I will go. 'Cuz that's what we do in our family. We put on our happy face and we go. Whether we like it or not.

My mom has trained us (kids) well. So I'll be the hardest working 8th grade car wash girl you've ever seen. The harder I work, the less I'll have to socialize. No one will complain that my windows are streaky. I've been trained by the best.

I know all the other kids will be laughing, and squirting each other with the hose, and throwing soap all over the place. I kinda want to do that too. But I don't know them. And they don't know me. So I'll just hide in the back seat cleaning windows watching them. I'll feel jealous that I'm not on the outside of the car. I'll watch the pretty girl smile and flirt with the cute guy. And I'll wish I was there too. But it's much safer in here.

Someday I won't be the new girl anymore and things will be different.

**This was a TRDC writing assignment. We were to look at this photo and write about something we remembered. My story is mostly true. 8th grade was a long time ago. So don't hold me to the facts. I'm sure everything wasn't nearly as rosy for my parents as I imagined. Moving every few years could not have been easy. I know that now. But they never let it show.


  1. Hi Kris!
    This was my second image that came to mind after first seeing this hose - "those church car washes"
    You brought home that "feeling" of "the new girl"
    Great read!!

  2. I was never the new girl. Thank God! But I remember the fascination we all had when someone new would come to school. I grew up in a really small town so "new life" was always interesting.

  3. My father moved 13 times growing up. Whenever I would complain about living in the same old house he would talk to me about how lucky I was.

    I imagine that it must have been hard for you to keep moving around.

    I thought that this paragraph was very telling:

    My mom has trained us (kids) well. So I'll be the hardest working 8th grade car wash girl you've ever seen. The harder I work, the less I'll have to socialize. No one will complain that my windows are streaky. I've been trained by the best.

  4. The pangs of loneliness and isolation are beautifully shown to me in two places:

    I've never lived anywhere longer than four years." I would say. "I know all our home phone numbers."
    ....This has a realism to it. The thought of a floundering kid trying to latch onto some permanence. Loved that.

    And the section where she is in the car. She is separated from everyone else by the window glass. She can see the life but not touch it and be part of it because of her isolation. Great stuff!

  5. May picked my favorite parts too.
    It's incredible how different our perceptions/experiences differ from those of the older generation. My mother always was surprised at my ability to make friends and yet I saw her interact with the church folk with such ease (more than I ever personally felt.)
    Loved how you captured the angsty feelings of an 8th grader. Well done.

  6. I could really relate to so much of this. We moved around a lot as well. I was always maneuvering newness, and you captured that really well here.

    I thought that the part where you described your thoughts and reactions to your mom's perkiness was really strong.

    We've all felt that way and we all cringe at the thought of our own kids thinking those same thoughts!

  7. Yep, I was a military brat, and the quintessential new kid, until my dad retired. You really conveyed the two feelings of wanting to be left alone and wanting to be invited in. Well done!

  8. Hi Kris............You know that I would respond to your thoughts........We were so proud of the way all four of your responded to our many moves. You did the best you could, as did we. We were lucky to have a lot of fun in the places we lived but that too was work. You put aside your feelings of despair and marched forward with a happy face. Being resentful or sad never made you feel better so our thought was look to the bright side. There must be at least one positive thought or feeling that you can focus on. You all did that. We were so proud of you.
    Your are a great lady today and we are very proud of you.

  9. Oh I relate to this so much. We moved around a lot. I love this post so much. So well written. xo

  10. Hi Anonymous Mom!

    Remember, I was writing this from the perspective of an 8th grader. I have so much respect for what you and dad did. You were always there for us. Whether we liked it or not!

    Love you,

  11. Is it weird that I could smell that car? I remember those summer days spent with the church youth, washing all the cars of the congregation. I lived in the same house with the same 5 "local youth" from third grade until I graduated. Every year was a car wash.
    I get it.

  12. i hear the ache in your voice even now, recalling this memory and others like it. I'm sorry your relocating-so-often childhood was so hard on you, and that you had to stuff so much down and put on the happy church kid face. I love the way you wrote, but it makes me sad too. I can identify with the outsider part even though I was usually social.

  13. I can't even imagine. Sometimes I wished we would have moved, so I could recreate myself into something different. But I stayed in the same house for 20 years.

    And I can almost see your face looking through the back window of the car!

  14. That must've been tough, moving all the time. My husband was an army brat so he moved a lot. I only moved once, but I liked being the new girl in third grade. I felt special. I would not have felt that way as I got older, I suspect.

    Anyway - my only concrit is you change tenses a lot. You start in past, move back into present, then past, etc. Try to start in one (usually past) and stick with it. ;)

  15. this was a great way to think about that picture, but my heart hurts for you because you felt so out of the loop all of the time.
    But I saw you, felt those feeling with you.


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