Tell me about your first home away from home. Tell me about the first apartment you had that wasn’t under your parents’ roof. A dorm? A loft? A cardboard box? Give us a tour.
Before I proceed, I have to give a shout-out to Garvey for his most excellent, gut-busting post from BufBloPoFo 09 Day 5. It was a three hankie event of laughter:
Truth be told, I am feeling a little winded on Day 6 of this blogging bonanza. I have to find a way to recharge. All the more difficult since my day job literally sucks the lifeblood from my veins these days. But I digress…
I could launch into a tale of my first dorm room at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana, the first time I ever had U.S. Postal mail delivered to a place where I happened to live, besides my folks’ pad. However, I think it would be inaccurate to call this my first “home away from home.”
My first dwelling that deserves the title is a tour bus in South Africa, summer of 1996. I was about to turn 18 and I was on a performing tour with the Chicago Childrens Choir. That all sounds very wholesome, doesn’t it? False. One of the more scarring, and thus maturing episodes of my young life, literally thousands of miles away from anyone who shared my DNA.
What didn’t happen on this tour? The coldest winter South Africa experienced in 40 years. Stop laughing. It was cold on that tour bus at night. It was 40 degrees or so, and bear in mind that South Africans generally do not have central heat on their buses, and almost none of us had brought along our winter coats. The weather was a freak thing, naturally.
I suffer from motion sickness. Ironically, I also enjoy daredevil activities, so that is my cross to bear. But on this tour, I just wanted an adventure off the bus. My mother had filled out my pre-trip medical forms, which clearly stated that I suffered in this area. I had brought a fair supply of Dramamine with me, but at 17, I had no concept of what 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for five weeks really meant. My drug supply was cashed quickly. This led to some unfortunate puking incidents, one of which involved an ostrich farm. Don’t ask. Now, I had a longterm boyfriend who also happened to be in the choir, and also on the same trip. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Of the four chaperones on the trip, three of them were women (one a nurse). Women being the gossipy beeyatches they often are, they saw a frequently barfing 17 year-old girl who spent a heck of a lot of time with her fella and drew the worst conclusions. Much later there were accusations in a parking lot from the nurse as we boarded the bus – in front of just about each of the 60 other choir members on the tour with me. But before we reached that hellacious humilation, the leaders made an executive decision to cut me off from any more Dramamine doses. You know, because it’s bad for the baby and all. So I vomited unnecessarily for days until I found a pharmacy in a South African mall that sold drugs way more effective than Dramamine. All the stomach chill without the sleepiness.
But guess what? My mom was a nurse too. After the Jerry Springer-like confrontation in the aforementioned parking lot, I gave Mom a ring and told her they had driven me around for days and let me upchuck with impugnity, despite my denials of being knocked up and given the fact that I had a medical form stating my condition. It is not for nothing folks that Jen and I are experts at dressing people down. One phone call to the choir elders later, and suddenly I was being given a surprise 18th birthday party in a dorm lounge, and all the anti-pukey pills I could ever want.
I could go on about this trip. Who slept with whom and where (fine, some of that involved me – I told you I had a boyfriend). Don’t ever let anyone tell you that “kids today” are so much more awful than previous generations. Kids unsupervised are always going to be little shits the world over in a timelessly predictable fashion. But what was my point again? Oh yeah, I carried my own money, fought my own battles (and lost some), cried, puked, drank, laughed, had sex, stayed up too late – a foreshadowing of my soon-to-come University days. This was my first adult home away from home. Oh yeah, and I was in fucking amazing and gorgeous South Africa too.