Timeline: Fourteen & Fifteen

(This follows on from Twelve & Thirteen, and before that, Eleven, and before that, Seven Through Ten and, before that, Zero Through Six)

1994, aged 14: We are living in England again, in a leafy town called Haslemere, which is about forty-five minutes by train from London and about half an hour by car from my school. I choose to alter my status from "full-time boarder" to "weekly boarder," which means that at 4 o'clock on Friday afternoons, I watch for my mother's dark maroon sedan to pull through the school gates, and then I tear down the stairs and throw my weekend bag (packed with laundry and homework) into the back. I spend weekends at home with my family, and then on Sunday nights---is there anything more depressing than a Sunday night?---my father drives me back to school, and in the car we listen to the music we're just beginning to realize we have in common.

Here is what I wear when I am fourteen: baseball caps, jeans with rips in the knee, large baggy plaid shirts, and a pair of ragged Chuck Taylors that I bought in California over the summer, and which I charmingly (and inexplicably) refer to as "my baseball boots." I am, in fact, rather obsessed with baseball when I am fourteen, and basketball too, and this is of note only because I am---then as now---almost embarrassingly uncoordinated at organized sports. Baseball and basketball I like, however, because they are American.

Other things I like (with an unrivaled fervor centered solely on the fact that they are of U.S. export) include The Doors, Roseanne, and a t-shirt with a bottle of Jack Daniels on it, which, looking back on it, I don't think I fully understand. I am also really into incense.

I have a friend---almost a best friend---called Caroline, and over the summer, I go to her house and her dad is lying on the sofa with a bad back; they think he has slipped a disk. A few weeks later, they find out that he has not slipped a disk after all, that he has cancer, and then the cancer spreads into his liver, and by October he has gone. The phone rings on a cold and sunny Sunday afternoon and after I hang it up, I stand in the hallway for a minute or two, receiver in hand, and I don't know what to do with the information, don't know how to make sense of it. My dad walks past and sees me standing there. He asks if I'm alright. I say "I think so. But Caroline's dad just died."

1995, aged 15: For my fifteenth birthday, I have a group of friends over on Friday evening and we camp out in the living room in sleeping bags and watch movies. With the lights out, we pass around a large plastic bottle of cider, which is what English teenagers drink before they've reached the legal drinking age of 18, mostly because it's cheap, but also because it tastes a little like apple juice. (I have never lost the taste for cider; even today, it's always what I order in bars.)

Over the summer, I go back to Hong Kong for a month to see some of the friends I still have there, and my friend Beth's stepdad lets us stay in his apartment and doesn't ask any questions about where we're going in the evenings or when we'll be back. In a nightclub, I dance with a boy called Bo, who pulls me close and writes his phone number in red pen on a yellow post-it note and later, I'm not sure how, I lose my contact lens on the crowded dancefloor, and it's like one of those horrible nightmares where you're looking for something and you can't find it and everyone's trying to help you look, but it's loud and it's dark and everyone's drunk and bumping into each other.

I never find the contact lens, and I spend the rest of the trip wearing my glasses. The next day, I look at the post-it note---who has a post-it note in a nightclub, anyway?---and realize that the number scrawled on it is fake. It's only five digits long.

When I get back to England, my obsession with America has not waned a bit, and one day towards the end of the summer, my mother knocks on my bedroom door and comes into my room and says she's got some news, and suddenly it's like the world opens up into this bright, beautiful thing. My dad has been offered a transfer to New York.

My parents move that autumn, and once again, after a two-year reprieve, I'm back to the dull ache of homesickness that comes from having a family living thousands of miles away. I cope by dying my hair red and experimenting with losing ten pounds. At Christmas, Tom and I fly to New York, where my dad picks us up at JFK and drives us in the dark to the new family home in Connecticut, where the snow has accumulated several feet high.

One of my mother's new friends has a son my age, and he invites me to a party, which turns out to be full of arty drama geeks and people's parents in Christmas sweaters. I end up talking for a while to one particularly handsome arty drama geek, and at the end of the party, he runs out to the car as I'm leaving, motions for me to roll the window down, and asks if he can kiss me. This is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me in my life, and I am taken aback. I say no, which is ridiculous, because I want to say yes.

Mar 06, 2008

Ahhhhh. I love these. You write just so, so, so well.

Rachael W
Mar 06, 2008

I agree. These are my favorite, and I love that they're vignettes rather than a list of everything important that happened to you in that year.

Not the Mama
Mar 06, 2008

Coming out of lurkerdom to tell you how much I love these vignettes. I love your blog in general, but these are far and away my favorite. Sweet, poignant and compelling. I love, love, love them.

jive turkey
Mar 06, 2008

I love these entries too. And I agree: there's nothing more depressing than a Sunday night. After years of a long-distance relationship that made Sunday nights synonymous with goodbyes, I find I STILL get kind of sad and moody on Sunday nights (even though we've been married for 8 years!).

Mar 06, 2008

I, too, am delurking to say that these are my favorite (although the jello salad entry is up there)! Your writing is so well-done in these, and just as someone said above - the vignette style is what really makes it...work.

Mar 06, 2008

Yes, love them too! They are my favorite things to read these days even though I have no idea who you are!

Mar 06, 2008

I love your life! Is that weird?

Mar 06, 2008

I fell in love with cider in England. I think I gained 10 pounds in cider weight alone.

Also, why do we say "no" when we want to say "yes"? WHY? (I have several tragically ignored Like Letters in my past.) (I don't think I'd go so far as to call them "love" letters.) (But I do wish I'd responded.) (Sighs heavily for the stupidity of youth.)

Mar 06, 2008

I wondered today if people who work out beside you at the gym know how fabulously interesting and talented you are...? You know, do they understand they are tredclimbing beside an internet celebrity?
Second on hating Sunday evenings.... Sundays are so lonely.

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 06, 2008

Aw, thanks, you guys. I'm glad you like these timeline posts; they're fun to write.

Anne in SC
Mar 06, 2008

I am de-lurking as well.
I chuckled out loud when I read about your contact lens. I actually do not wear contacts (or glasses), but pretended to loose one on a dance floor in Charleston one night. Eventually everyone was crouched down patting the floor looking for my contact. They all cheered when I "found it". I now sometimes add "the contact" to my repertoire of dance moves.

I look forward to continue reading your blog.

Mar 06, 2008


*dying of suspense here*

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 06, 2008

No, it wasn't Sean! Sean is many things, but he is not a drama geek.

Mar 06, 2008

I think we would have been good friends as 14 year olds, had we ever met. Although I probably would have been a bad influence on you, and your parents most likely would have banned you from hanging out with me, which would have led to me helping you sneak out of your house late one evening and us getting into trouble. Sorry bout that!...oh wait, why am I apologizing for something that never happened???

Mar 06, 2008

You beat me to posting this fir Sheila

Mar 06, 2008

is it lame to wish that you were 90 years old now so that there would be 90 of these small stories to tell? one can hope.

Mar 06, 2008

Everytime I check your blog, I silently hope for a "timeline" post. I am already so excited to read what happens next. You write so well. Thank you for sharing.

Mar 06, 2008

I have a friend from Dublin who still drinks cider wherever we go. It bemuses everyone around him, who never expect men to drink cider.

Mar 06, 2008

I discovered your blog after looking up "jello salad" online, finding Melissa Summers' post on your visit to her home last Fall. Then seeing your blog and reading a few of your entries, I was hooked. It's amazing how something so random (a recipe inquiry) can yield such a gold mine of wonderful finds. I am delurking to comment that I also love to read your posts, particularly the timelines. The sweetness of your memories, their rich details and the overwhelming love of your family as expressed in each tale, these are all inspiring and heart warming. Thank you for sharing. Now back to my regularly scheduled lurking.

P.S. My personal preference is for Blackthorn, slightly chilled.

Rebecca Faulkner
Mar 06, 2008

Hmm..if that Jack Daniels shirt is close-fitting, it sounds like it could still be cute! Love these timeline entries.

Mar 06, 2008

I love that you experimented with losing 10lbs. For American girls it's a life or death situation, that 10lbs, and for you an experiment. I LOVE that.

The Over-Thinker
Mar 08, 2008

I was born in America, grew up in America, am still living in America.

And for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be British When I Grow Up. :-)

Mar 08, 2008

Ah-ha! I too, adore both Blackthorne (got started drinking it at 17, in England, for the record- I came back and my mom volunteered to buy it for me....I thought I had returned home to a parallel universe) AND Balderdash- Now I know why you guys couldn't make it downtown for absinthe ;) Most of all, though, I adore these wee peeks into your life- I maintain that you are one of the most interesting, erudite and engaging writers on the Internet, which is why you have a front page button on my iPhone. Thanks for the stories and I hope to catch you in the city one of these times!