Right. So in the summer of 1987 we left Georgetown and moved to Lewisville, which is just north of Dallas. This was the summer after my fifth-grade year. Mrs. Truehardt had retired after fourth grade anyway, our pilot program finished, so at least I wasn’t having to suffer leaving her and my core of classmates behind, as we’d already been disbanded. I would mostly miss my best friend (and next-door neighbor) Tara and her family, and my best school friend Emily.
Dad’s people had found us a temporary house, and it was awful. There was something malevolent in it, and we all knew it. Even our dachshund was acting strangely. One of the bedrooms in the house (there were three) would close and lock itself periodically. We only used it for storage, but it was still annoying. And I’d seen a strange woman walking up and down the hall from time to time.
You have to understand, my grandmother came from a line of Scottish witches. And my dad’s grandmother—the one whose name I share—knew her share of Voodoo. Of course my mom would often rage against the “generational curse” with which I was afflicted, praying over me, sometimes anointing me with oil. Doesn’t seem all that different from other rituals, come to think of it. If she’d have burned sage . . .
Anyway, we eventually found out the reason the house had been so quick and easy to rent short term is that no one else wanted it after there having been a murder in it. A man had beat and strangled his wife or girlfriend or whatever. She had at one point locked herself in the third bedroom, but he’d forced the door. Fun!
We only stayed about six months.
But since we’d moved in summer, I did not know anyone. Nor did there seem to be many kids in our neighborhood. So I spent the summer inside, watching a lot of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. That was the summer Disney was airing Summer Magic so often. And I would stay up and watch Nick at Nite, all the old black-and-white sitcoms: Ann Southern and Make Room for Daddy and Mister Ed. They would show the old Oscar Meyer commercials, too, with that eerie whistle.
Really, it was just difficult to sleep in that house, and the place gave me nightmares. So I would stay up until I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
When school began, my parents decided to send me to a private Christian school. It was so small the fifth and sixth grades were taught together in one room. And even then there were only eleven of us. We had chapel (except it wasn’t really) every morning, and we had to memorize long passages from Proverbs. The textbooks were almost funny, particularly the history book, which of course began with Genesis and the creation of the world. (Or maybe that was the biology book? I can’t remember.)
We also had this weird class once a week where we had to go do workbooks by Zig Ziglar. And for phys ed girls took ballet while boys did whatever sport was in season.
I was a well-behaved student but decidedly difficult to mold in God’s image. I was reading Watership Down that year, and when others asked me what it was about, I began to hold court during recess. I would sit on one of the picnic tables and recount the story of Hazel-Rah, Fiver, and their companions. My classmates thought it sounded like a great game, so the elected me to be Hazel, and everyone took a rabbit name, and at recess the boys (who were the Efrafans) would “raid” our warren.
At the end of the school year I was politely asked to leave the school. Something to do with my influencing the others in odd ways (and maybe it hadn’t helped that the pastor’s son had been an Efrafan). But they gave me an award for “Thoroughness,” whatever that means.
I wasn’t so sad to leave the school as I was the one or two good friends I’d made, including one Joel Boersma, on whom I had a terrible crush. His parents had been missionaries in Africa, and they’d only just come back to the U.S. Joel co-captained field day with me, and for some sad reason this remains one of the greatest moments of my youth. Though as I understand it they moved again not so long after.