Thursday, July 30, 2009


January 25, 1983 Tuesday 66 days until Alaska
Dear Ophelia,
"66 more days till I move to Alaska. In the corner of my diary, I will write how many days. Me and Daniel just got in a fight. I had a lot of homework tonight. I am going to start hiding you. Well I gotta go. Bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer. P.S. You are beautiful."
This is the decision that changed Jennifer's life all over again. It's so much power for a 12 year old to have. She decided to move to a new state, live with a different parent, change to a new junior high and leave her dad, brother, dog and friends behind--most of them forever. When she chose to live with her mom, she unwillingly sacrificed everything else that she cared about.
She didn't tell her dad or brother right away. She hid her diary. She had her first big secret.
January 26, 1983 Wednesday 65 days to Alaska
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I studied for 2 big tests. I started doing exercises at night. Dad doesn't know I'm moving yet, but mom's going to tell him when she comes. I'm glad I'm moving. Mom's coming in about 10 days. I hope I'm happy in Alaska. I hate my cooking class. Well, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer. P.S. Daniel is going to try and steal Muffin when I'm asleep."
I have three kids and two dogs. Animal stealing happens at night at my house too!!
January 30, 1983 Sunday 61 days to Alaska
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I got some new Nike's, my first pair. They are white with a red stripe. (I love them). Me and Muffin played today. Chipper is asleep. Lara went home around 11:00. Me and Lara have been getting into short fights. So far we have had two, we are drifting. I talked to mom today. She is excited about me coming. I want to learn a lot about Alaska. I still love Randy. Well I gotta go, so bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer. P.S. our fights (Lara) have occurred in P.E."
Remember, Jennifer had watched a movie about Eskimos (see The Cold War post). They killed and skinned a caribou, twisted off its head and ate the eyeballs. That's all Jennifer knew about the Arctic. She knew she was moving to Anchorage. She knew they had electricity and schools and condos. She knew that natives still lived there. She assumed they lived side by side. The city was a mix of homes, condos and igloos. She believed this without question.
Jennifer couldn't wait to be invited to an Igloo sleepover!

January 31, 1983 Monday 60 days to Alaska
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I can't write long. I did not have much homework. I hate my cooking class because they try to make me wash the dishes and do all the work. Lara claims to have asthma but no one believes her. She doesn't have any medicine. I know she doesn't have asthma. I'm going to carefully mention it to her mom and see what happens. Well I got to go, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
Perhaps this is when Jennifer's dislike of cooking began...
I think Jennifer's problem with Lara was that she saw a lot of herself in her. Jennifer lied to Lara and told her she owned a ranch. That seems to be a bigger lie than saying you have asthma to get out of P.E.! At least Lara's lie (if it was one) had a purpose. Lara was awkward and wished she was pretty, just like Jennifer. Lara was boy crazy and so was Jennifer. Lara had ants at her house and Jennifer had ants in her room. If opposites attract, then similars repel.
February 1, 1983 Tuesday 59 days to Alaska
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I had a lot of homework. It is very late. I write to you at night after the day if over. Chipper is having a good time. Here is a list of things I must get done. 1) clean Chipper's cage 2) write Becky 3) clean my room 4) make a commitment to do laundry every weekend to make money before I move. Well I must go, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer. P.S. I will still write to you when I move. My Nike's are still white."
February 3, 1983 Thursday 57 days to Alaska
Dear Ophelia,
"Only 57 more days till I move. Tomorrow I am going to write to Becky, clean Chipper's cage and my room. Mike really bothers me. All he wants is fun, well he's looking in the wrong place. I still really love Randy. I had hardly any homework today. I still have ants in my room. When I move, I'm going to miss Muffin. Well, I have to go, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
I don't think Mike was looking in the wrong place! Jennifer doesn't remember much about Mike, but even she is surprised she didn't try to date him.
February 4, 1983 Friday 56 days left to Alaska
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I had no homework. It was boring today. Mom is coming tomorrow. I have to clean up a little. Well I must go so, bye Ophelia. Yours Forever, Jennifer."
As an adult, the idea of moving--of leaving everything and everyone you know behind for a new place, the idea of starting over (again), the idea of losing a dad and a brother, the idea of changing schools (like changing jobs)--is just so stressful!
People are always amazed by kids who handle divorce, death and other stresses well. Kids in general seem to have a lot of tolerance for pain. I notice a similar tolerance in animals. On Animal Planet the other day, I saw a perfect example of this. A man attacked his neighbor's dog with a machate. He cut the dog up pretty bad. The dog needed over 500 stitches in his face alone. Animal control came out and filmed the dog who was sliced open and bleeding. He was standing up, walking around and wagging his tail. His owner hugged him and the dog licked his face. The owner was upset and the dog was comforting him--amazing!
That's most dogs for you and most kids too. The difference is that kids mature and dogs don't. Kids feel the pain years later.
Did you experience extreme stress as a child? Did you show it?

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