My Expanding Map
Embarrassment on the Ground
New Haven, WV
I had just turned ten. The first day back from our summer break, our PE teacher asked us where we had vacationed. While waiting to be called on, I was holding the name Wayne National Forest in my mind and getting nervous about telling the class we went camping, yet again, about thirty minutes away from home; we never had enough money to go farther. On my turn, I blurted out “Yellowstone!” It was too late to go back.
A bulletin board of the United States was displayed outside our classroom door, showing little threads of different lengths radiating from our state, West Virginia, to our vacation destinations. My thread was one of the two longest; the other being Billy Graham’s, whose real vacation to Yellowstone was sullied and less impressive because I had seemingly taken the exact same trip.
Every day I had to face my lie at the class entrance – when coming in to the classroom in the morning, when coming back from the bathroom, the water fountain, the cafeteria, recess, and when coming back from PE. I hoped no one would find out. (They didn’t.) Still that red thread is seared into my mind.
Actual Trip, embarrassing because the short distance embodied our poverty:
Fake Trip, embarrassing because it was a physical embodiment of my lie:
I still dream of my grandma’s house. I was shuffled back and forth between cheap apartments, run-down houses, and her house as a child. It was my first home, my favorite house, my entire childhood. My grandma’s house is the only place where I feel completely comfortable. It’s the only house from my childhood that I can still visit. It’s always there. Always waiting for me to come back. The phone number to the house is still the same after twenty-seven years. Although renovations have changed the house’s innards, the living room still has the sliding glass back door. When I was four and five and six and so on, I would play records and dance, while looking at my reflection in the door. I would dance without embarrassment. I was young.