Journey to Hopiland – FIRST SORROW


In July the family moved from Minneapolis to Duluth. The new house had two stories and an attic where Denise and her sisters slept. The house was attached to other houses that looked the same. Denise settled into her new home and wondered where she would go to school. She hoped it wouldn’t be the one where they went to church. Sacred Heart was all dark brick and concrete. The family that lived next door, the Clark’s, knew about a nicer school.   Mrs. Clark said she could drive Denise and her daughter, Judy, to school so they could start together and not feel lonely because they didn’t know anyone. Denise was so happy. She and Judy ran through the house singing “We’re going to school together.”

The school was spacious with a large playground filled with swings, slides, monkey-bars, and a merry-go-round, just like her kindergarten school. Denise felt at home immediately. She liked the large, brightly lit hallways with students’ art work hanging on the walls. The teacher let Denise and Judy sit next to each other. At recess the girls began to make friends with other children who had lived in Duluth all of their lives.

At the end of the first week, Denise said, “Mama, I love this school.”

Her mother stopped washing dishes and turned around. Narrow brown eyes smiled gently, “Denise, I’m glad you like your school, but you know Daddy and Judy’s dad are still in the Air Force. When they get transferred you will have to leave your school.”

“Well, maybe they won’t get transferred ’til I’m in sixth grade and can graduate.”

“Maybe.”

Every day at school was an adventure for Denise. At recess she ran through leaves, swung on the swings, and played games with her classmates. She liked learning to read.

The first PTA meeting was held in October and everyone was given a book of raffle tickets to sell. The prize was a large toy fire truck. Her mother bought a whole book and told Denise to put her name on all of the tickets. The raffle was held at the end of the boring meeting Denise and Judy sat through. They weren’t paying attention until they heard the words,

“The winner is Denise Walker.” Denise laughed as people applauded. Denise walked up to the front of the room.

The principal said, “Congratulations.”

She handed Denise the large, metal toy fire truck and placed a plastic fire chief’s hat on her head. Someone said,  “Give me a big smile,” and the camera flashed in her eyes.  When she saw the photo in the school paper, Denise thought she looked silly, her broad smile showed a large gap of two missing front teeth. The fire hat sat on top of the scarf tied under her chin. But, Mama was proud of the photo and put it in the scrapbook.

One day, before Christmas,  Mama called Denise to her bedroom. She looked in the mirror as her long, polished  fingers arranged her short, curly coffee-colored hair around her earth brown face. Then she turned and sat on the bed and patted it next to her, “Come and sit down, sweetie.”

Slowly, Denise walked toward Mama, looking at the colors in the throw rug. She knew Mama had bad news, but she couldn’t think of anything she had done wrong. She sat on the edge of the bed near her mother.

“Denise, Judy’s dad’s been transferred.  They will be moving during Christmas break, so you’ll to have to go to Sacred Heart in January.”

“But, Mama why can’t you take me to my school?”

“I can’t drive and the bus doesn’t go there.”

“Why can’t Daddy take me to school?”

“Because he would have to leave too early to get to the base and wouldn’t be able to pick you up. There’s nothing we can do.”

Tears welled in Denise’s eyes as she looked away from her mother.

“Mama, I love this school and have friends. I hate Sacred Heart, it’s ugly.  It’s just not fair.”

She jumped up from the bed and ran upstairs to the attic.

Tears  rolled down her face as she walked to the arched window and looked to the street below. What if I just ran and jumped through the window, she thought.  Leaning close to the ledge, she looked down to the sidewalk. Maybe if I jumped the wind would pick me up and I could learn to fly. I could fly to my school. The thought of flying brought a smile to her face as she wiped away her tears.

The last week of school before Christmas vacation arrived too quickly for  Denise.  Every morning she sat outside waiting for Judy and her mother to drive her to school.  But, on their last Thursday tears filled her eyes as she sat on the porch waiting.   Mrs. Clark had told Denise she’d might not take Judy to school on Thursday because she had so much packing to do.  But, Denise hadn’t told her mother, in the hope that Mrs. Clark would get the work done in time to take them to school.

Now, Denise knew she wasn’t going and she couldn’t stop the tears.  She knew she would never love any other school as much as this one. She hated the Air Force. Why didn’t their daddies have jobs like other kids so they wouldn’t have to move all of the time? Life just wasn’t fair.  Tears streamed down her face as she thought about the school.  She didn’t see the dirty snow and grey skies.  She didn’t feel anything, not the passage of time, not the freezing cold.  She didn’t hear Mama open the front door.

“Denise, Denise, come on inside.  Mrs. Clark just called, she can’t make it today.”   Even Mama’s arms wrapped around her, lifting her up, and carrying her into the house did not stop her tears.  Denise had never felt this badly before.  Everything seemed dark and she couldn’t find any reason to smile.

The porch disappeared
beneath her.
The snow melted.
The cold thawed.
Sitting
she saw only dark
burdened with frozen
lakes of tears.

Time
is not my soliloquy
it is another’s
sentence

missed
on the
way
to
good-bye

6 Comments on “Journey to Hopiland – FIRST SORROW

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