Monday, January 19, 2015

Sent away -- again (part I).....

Sometime during my sophomore year of high school, I made a suggestion to my uncle.  Having met with my guidance counselor and counted my credits, I realized that I would have enough credits -- though just barely -- to graduate one year early.  My uncle's response was a quick and firm "no."  Since I had skipped first grade, I was already one of the youngest students in my grade, and graduating early meant that I'd be just two months past my 15th birthday.  He thought that I was simply too young and too immature.

Later during the school year, I made another suggestion -- that I be allowed to finish my last two years at boarding school.  I'd met a girl at "fat camp" the summer before who attended boarding school and said she enjoyed not living at home.  Again, my suggestion was rejected.  During the brief time that my younger brother lived at home (between discharge from the juvenile psychiatric facility and being remanded to the adult psychiatric hospital [at the age of 14]), my uncle and his wife had placed him in a nearby boarding school.  He'd lasted only a couple months before being expelled.  Since boarding school tuition is non-refundable, my thrifty uncle had lost quite a bit of money with that venture.

That didn't stop me from asking again, several more times that year.  However, each time I was told that boarding school was not a possibility.

No graduating early, no boarding school, no getting out of the house anytime soon.

However, tensions between my uncle's wife and I continued to escalate, and things finally reached a breaking point.  I'm not sure exactly what transpired.  Perhaps her physician had said that the stress was bad for her diseased heart.  Perhaps, as she'd done once before, she threatened to walk out on my uncle.  Whatever the reason, sometime near the end of my junior year, I was told that I'd be spending my senior year at boarding school.

I suppose I should have been ecstatic to hear this news.  After all, it's what I'd asked for several months earlier.  However, in my mind there was a difference between spending my last two years at a new school, versus going off for just my final year and this time it was MY turn to say "no."  I wanted to stay where I had friends, where I was involved with the drama club, where I could graduate with the people I'd been in class with for six years.

Unfortunately, the decision had been made.  I WOULD be leaving, and I was handed an enormous hardback book, a directory of North American boarding schools.  There was a geographic limitation (sunny California was out of the question), but otherwise it was up to me where I wanted to go and I was told to read the book and pick a school.

My feeling was that if I had to go, I would go as far away as possible.  My fat camp friend's school was in Canada, so I decided that's where I wanted to spend the year.  It's hard to believe now, but my uncle actually agreed to that and over the summer, he flew me north to take a tour of the school.  (He was a private pilot and shared ownership of a small, four-seater, airplane.)  I still didn't want to go away, but I didn't dislike the school, so my uncle and his wife completed an application and sent it off.

I'm not sure whether it was money, issues with international paperwork, or that I just wasn't a suitable applicant, but for some reason we learned at the last minute that the Canadian school wasn't going to be possible and I was told to make another choice.  Thinking that far northern New England was as close to Canada as I could get, I decided on a school in central Maine.  Because it was so close to the start of the semester, there was no time to tour the facilities ahead of time.  

I'd spent the summer in denial, not really believing that I would be sent away, despite being repeatedly told it would happen.  When the local schools opened for the year, I got on the bus and went to class as usual.  I did the same the second day, and the third.  Unfortunately, that third night I was told to pack whatever I wanted to take with me, because I was leaving the next day.  Hurt and angry, I gathered up my limited wardrobe, some personal items, and my accordion and music.  I was allowed to call a few of my friends with the news, but packing was my primary responsibility.

Early the next morning, my uncle and I once again got in his plane and headed north.