(In my post Calling All Questions, both Jennifer and Colby asked for more about my life prior to Elias. Here’s the short version of my life so far….)
I was born in Waterbury CT, on January 16th 1973, the night the mall across the street from the hospital burned down.
I came home to my parents, Susan and Oliver Everett, and a two-year-old brother Andrew, who I would eventually follow around for years saying, literally and figuratively: "Me too...me too...me too..."
I spent my first seventeen years in faculty housing at the Taft school, a private boarding school where my parents taught, with one exception: my father took a sabbatical when I was five and we lived outside Dublin, in Blanchardstown, as the only Americans and the only non-Catholics on the block.
I learned Gaelic in Kindergarten from nuns who hit our hands with rulers when we made mistakes or pulled you by the ear to the office if you misbehaved. And I somehow mastered enough reading and writing skills to skip first grade when I returned to Connecticut.
(I can still sing happy birthday in Gaelic but I’ve lost the rest of those lyrical words I once knew.)
As a faculty child on a school campus, you have the roam of the school with the perfect mix of freedom and boundaries that kids need. My backyard sloped into the soccer fields which connected to the football field, bordered by the woods and the cemetery behind it which led to North Street where a number of my other “faculty brat” friends lived. So in elementary school we could walk to each others’ houses… “all by ourselves.”
Or we could meet to play kick the can in the castle:
If I could I'd stop the story here. Freeze time. And keep the little girl from entering junior high…
We could just skip those two years. Pretend they never happened. That I didn’t lose my voice. That I didn’t fall.
only thing I’ll say, for now, about those years, is that I tried out
for the boy’s soccer team in eighth grade and earned a starting
position on the team. And this saved me from a much deeper fall.
The summer after eighth grade, I fought my parents to go to the public high school in town and lost-- since faculty children could attend Taft tuition-free there was really no argument. I yelled, “What about my friends?!?” My parents calmly responded with, “This is for your education.”
By my second week at Taft, I stopped feathering my hair and matching my eye shadow to my shirts. (It was the eighties after all.) I parted my hair on the side, wore Indian print skirts, and embraced my new life as a prep school kid, even if I was a “day bat” and not quite as cool as the boarding students.
Despite playing varsity soccer, ice hockey, and track, I brought some of the bad habits I learned in junior high with me, learned a few more, and spent many of my high school weekends too drunk to remember them on Sunday. I also made friends for life—the kind of friends you can not talk to for years but the second you see them again you fall right back into that familiarity that only comes from growing up together away from parents’ watchful eyes.
When it came time to pick a college, I chose the University of Vermont, mainly because it had a reputation as a great party school and because I had false hopes of playing Division One soccer.
Which as I told you in this post didn’t turn out quite as planned.
Though I did transfer to Colby College after one year, I’ll always be glad I spent my first year of college in Burlington. The huge frat parties scared me into controlling my binge drinking. It was one thing to black out at a party where I knew everyone—or so I thought-- but I didn’t want to wake up in a stranger’s bed. I didn’t want to be that girl.
During my three years at Colby, I rediscovered the love of learning I’d lost at Swift Junior High. And so though I still prioritized sports and parties over the library, I found myself staying up late to study and seeking out professors just to talk about social issues. I majored in American Studies, played varsity soccer and ice hockey, and danced at parties instead of refilling my red plastic cup until I forgot.
I wanted to remember.
By senior year, I knew I enjoyed writing, that I wanted to change the way the media portrayed women, that I wanted to make the world safer for girls, and that I had no idea what I wanted to do for a “job” after graduating.
So I returned to what I knew best.
I applied to boarding schools to teach, coach, and live in the dorm.
I was 21.
--Excerpted from Following Elias, originally published on Parents.com. Copyright 2009 by Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.