Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Do I Fit In?
I have never felt like I fit into my environment in most places I have lived. I often have felt as if I'm out of place either by my coloring (genetic makeup,) my views/opinions, my religious outlook, my interests, my clothing, or other factors. I think people like me and respect me—I just don’t always feel as if I belong somehow.

The summer before I entered sixth grade, my family moved from the city to a rural home set on an acre of God’s Green Earth in Indiana. I was so excited to be in the country, and loved it from the first time I saw it. The little Indiana-mined-limestone house sat on a small tract of land between a creek (a ditch, actually, but it had every form of natural creek creatures you could find,) a rural road, a state road and surrounded by the crop of the summer (whatever Comers decided to plant that year—corn or soybeans.) I felt I was truly “home.” In the city I had spent five years in a denominational Christian school—2 rooms housing 8 grades, and I can tell you dozens of reasons I didn’t fit in there. But that means going back to that time.

Across the road from us in our new domicile was a country church, a brick house with four kids—two older ones, one girl was my age, and the youngest boy at the time was my only sibling brother’s age (they ended up having one more boy a few years later—the mom didn’t jump off the bridge, like she felt like doing, as she had one son in college when this happened.) Their dad was funny, had a few missing teeth, was a brick mason, and kept a meticulously groomed yard. He whistled while he worked. Not just any whistling, but mostly school fight songs and “Charge!” He was a huge Argyll fan (our school mascot was a Scottish warrior and we were called the Argylls. Yes. In Indiana. In the middle of a cornfield. It can happen. ) He built a tree house, a baseball diamond and a chicken-wire backstop in the church yard next door and gave us all the boards we could carry to build rafts and bridges on the crick. (Remember, we call it a “crick,” not a creek.)

There were other houses around with friendly, but reserved-we’ll-mind-our-own-business Quaker-rooted people. Good, solid people, for the most part. Huge work ethic, like us. Just up the road, within half-a-mile, was my new public school with the prophetic name of Liberty. I didn’t fit in the first day. I was wearing the wrong kind of socks. Now, you would think these kinds of fashion faux pas were nonexistent amongst a handful of 11-12-year-old country girls, but I was immediately pulled aside by a very outgoing and popular girl named Lorrie (who later was my best friend and we were in each other's weddings) and told, “We don’t wear white bobby socks here. Get yourself some knee socks.” Man, did I ever feel like I’d dropped into a Dr. Seuss book without a star on my belly.

So, I went home, cried a lot (I was, after all, an 11-year-old girl) and my mom loaded me up for the long trek to the city.and we bought me a pack of knee socks. It was an easy fix. That simple pair of knee socks let me blend in enough to not be "too weird." I was kind and friendly to everyone in the class and I changed my name. “Call me Chris.” I always hated my real name--I didn't know any other Crystals, just Lindas and Debbies and Carolyns--and my family called me Cris or Crissy (the neighbor boy who treated me like one of his sisters called me “Cristy!!!” said this hissed out between clenched teeth about 10 times a day.) I did not want to be called “Crystal,” like at my old school, but going by the spelling C-R-I-S like my family used, seemed too intimate. Plus, I thought Chris sounded and looked “cool.” I easily adjusted into my name.

I could play with anyone I chose to at recess, and even though we girls had to wear dresses, I knew I fit in on a baseball diamond. I lived and breathed baseball everyday. When they saw I could hit, they let me play whenever I wanted. Maybe it was the way I was brought up, but I was never afraid of anyone, so I went up to the boys and said, "Can I play?" and since no one verbally objected, I just took my place in the line up. The girls stood around in groups. My teacher referred to these groups as cliques. The boys, even boys from other grades, could play together, but not the girls. I never asked if I could stand there with the girls. You don't ask girls this or you are dead. I at least knew this much. I let them get used to me, but I also let them know I was one of them. (I had the knee socks now.)

So, I had my knee socks, I was playing baseball whenever I wanted to, and I talked to a different group of girls each recess. Plus, when I’d go home, I had a crick to catch crawdads, swing a rope over or build a bridge over, and a real baseball diamond to play on. Over the state road on the fly was a homerun. Over the road on a roll was a ground-rule double. For the first time in my life I felt like I was “home,” even if I didn’t quite fit any one group at school.

More tomorrow…


Cara Putman said...

Crystal, I love this so much, I've linked to you :-) Your voice is here, girlfriend!

Crystal Laine said...

I'll link to you, as soon as I figure out how to do that. Drat.

I didn't know you liked booorrrring. ha

Thanks! Crystal