When I was in first grade, we moved to St. Louis from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. I'd done a half year of first grade, and I tested into second grade, starting in January, which was an academically sound decision based on my reading skills, comprehension, and willingness to learn, but kind of an absolute disaster for me for several years as I played social catch up. Probably by 6th grade I was fine.
But it's not January yet. It's December, and I have on a velveteen dress in royal blue, a jumper with a pretty white blouse underneath with a peter pan collar. The tights are white and the shoes are black. My hair is in french braids and a few teeth are still missing. We're out the door to church at Mary, Mother of the Church down in south county, where I was baptized. It's Christmas Eve and there is snow on the ground.
After mass, we return to my grandparents' house and meet my uncle and his wife there. My grandmother's only sister, Emily, is up from Oklahoma, too, for the holiday. I'm sharing a bed with her tonight after presents. I remember this is the year of the dollhouse, the one my dad has built in the basement using plywood and plans from a pamphlet. It is better than any store bought dollhouse I could have imagined, and I'm floored. There's also a porcelain doll from my grandmother, and a white polar bear that now, in 2008, is upstairs in the girls' room along with the dollhouse. Don't know where the doll wound up in the mix--it fit my youngest sister better than me anyway, as time went by.
After Christmas, in January, right after I start school at Trautwein Elementary in Mrs. Chott's room (pronounced "trout wine" and "cot"), we have the biggest snowfall of my entire life. Snow so deep we build igloos in the backyard. No school for a week. A week. My dad takes the sled up to the Tom-Boy for groceries because in those deep cul-de-sacs, well, they weren't a snowplow priority. Nowadays we'd walk no problem to the weird little grocery store two blocks away...but that year, it was like Pa Ingalls setting out for another settlement.
But here's the part I didn't even know was happening: my father had lost his job down in Oklahoma over Thanksgiving. We'd moved back to St. Louis because we didn't have other options. And then, he found something else, but we still lived at my grandparents' house for quite a while before we rented the house down in Arnold and I started the next school year at St. Bernadette's. This was probably a real low point for all the adults involved. I saw it as a 24/7 vacation at my grandparents'. And I was clueless enough (still am) that I didn't even pick up on adult moods, which couldn't have been great.
These days, I don't keep it contained very well. Maybe my parents didn't either--but I swear I don't remember tension from that winter. I was shocked when I found out, in fact, what had brought us back to St. Louis. Not even that big of a deal--folks lose jobs--but I didn't recall anything negative about the move.
It makes me wonder if Sophia and Maeve are similarly insulated. Sophia does tend to be generally clueless, in a good way, and Maeve is still young enough to be completely self-centered. But I wonder, for instance, if either of them picked up on my tension last week. Or on the stress of this pregnancy as it drags on without end. I really hope they are removed from it, frankly. Life gets stressful enough soon enough.