I was nearing my 15th birthday and much had happened in the previous 5 years. My mother had fallen into a world of prescribed depression. She blamed my father for everything that had happened to her. She felt that I was the reason why she had to keep moving from place to place. Her money was running out and her fixed alimony was increasingly feeling the pressures of inflation. For my part, the best word for the last 5 years was waste. I had spent most of that time scared to death of everything and everyone around me. I had learned next to nothing in school. I had learned none of the typical social graces necessary to make friends or function in groups. It was 1965, I wasn’t cool, I wasn’t clever, and I was a mess.
But one thing I did have at this point was high hopes. This was going to be a turning point. I would be allowed to get my life together and even though I had been robbed of the previous 5 years of normal life, I would make up for it now. But right away I began to see some differences from what I was expecting. On all of my previous plane trips, my father had picked me up from the airport. On this one, I had to take a bus and he would pick me up at the depot. I also noticed that he had made the transition from being the parent who was visited to being the parent. Once we were home and got everything settled, he told me that we would be having a guest for dinner. That was when I met my father’s fiancé.
Her name was Elinor and she was certainly nice enough, but largely I could easily ignore this new relationship. I was not in Florida, I was back home, and I was going to go to a real school. Because I was legally considered a Florida resident at the time, I was required to board at the school for the first year. It wasn’t what I was hoping for but anything would be better than the situation I had just left. But I basked in that summer at home. My father and I didn’t do very much together now because someone else had all his attentions. But I had a great time exploring the woods that I had occupied as Davy Crockett and Dan’l Boone so many years before. Here I was in the same woods playing the same make-believe games that I had when I was 8.
The first day of school arrived and I got all moved into my room. I had one roommate. Just one! He was a pretty nice kid whose parents taught at a University in Puerto Rico. The dorm was warm and comfortable, the food was pretty good, and everyone seemed reasonably happy to be there. This was going to be great.
I did have some difficulties making friends. I didn’t seem to know what to say to people. I wasn’t clever or cool and I easily withdrew into my own world when I was unsure of myself. But there was one boy that I recognized from the old days at Sippican Elementary. Arthur and I had been best friends long ago, his father worked at the school, and his mother owned a gift shop in town. He was my connection with the past and he would do a great job filling me in on everything that had changed. He knew where all of our old friends had ended up and was always ready to get everyone back together. Finally I had a connection to the happiness of ‘before’ and Art was it.
Art was everything that I wasn’t. He was open, gregarious, musical, and funny. And I needed him more than he would ever know. He introduced me to his friends, included me in his groups, and even though he was now a grade ahead of me, treated me like I had never left. I was slowly coming back into the person I once was and Art was an integral part of that. We were best friends again and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. Art was a “townie”, meaning he lived at home instead of living at the dorms as most of the students did. While I lived in a dorm my sophomore year, I would become a Massachusetts resident and became a townie for my junior and senior years.
One of the first things I noticed at school was just how far behind I really was. With some difficulty I could keep up in math and the sciences, but basically I couldn’t read. It took me forever to do my homework and since I didn’t comprehend what I read, I rarely did as well as I should. But, spectacular and inspiring teachers surrounded me. Each one had the interest of his students at heart. This wasn’t just a job to them, molding and shaping the minds of these young boys was their life’s work. After what I was used to at schools, this was nearly an epiphany for me. I had never realized teachers like this existed. It was difficult but I was having a wonderful time.
During my first year at Tabor, my father married Elinor and I had a new stepmother, two new step sisters, and Elinor’s extended family of 25 people. Elinor’s family had come from Armenia and, as a result, I would experience some significant cultural changes in my life. First, the biggest our family had ever been was 5 people, now it was at least 30. Second, I had been brought up on largely bland food, meat and potatoes, etc. Military school food was barely eatable. This new family would introduce the entire Armenian cookbook to us. For the first time since I was at home at the age of 10, I was really eating well. I had learned in the past 5 years to look for, and appreciate any good, or even partially good thing that happened to me.
© J T Weaver