Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Going Away Party

In spite of having the hots for a couple of dozen girls and several age-inappropriate women, I still kept myself chaste for my wife-to-be Kathy. We saw each other frequently while I was in first grade, not so often in second, but maybe every other week. Then there was a month or so I didn't get a chance to see her, and my parents kept saying it will be soon.

When "soon" finally happened, I was told we were on our way to Kathy's going away party. Her Father was retiring from the Army and they would be leaving Fort Devens for good.

This was an outcome I was totally unprepared for. I was already more than 7 years into being an army brat, but the rootlessness of it hadn't really sunk in, because we'd only had the one major move from Hawaii to Massachusetts. The move from the House in Shirley onto base didn't count, because Devens was where the friends were in either case. In spite of countless kids coming and going at school, it never occurred to me that Kathy or I would be one of the ones going. Or that we wouldn't be going at the same time, or in the same direction. Kathy was going to Alaska, for freak's sake. Alaska! How would I get to Alaska?

But the going away thing was a PARTY. Not a funeral. Kathy was happy to be having a party, and who was I to spoil it by crying over the fact that I might never see her again? So I pretended I was OK.

I didn't have much choice anyway, because for almost the entire party I had no opportunity to be alone with her anyway. There were several families there and close to twenty kids, most of whom I didn't know. And there were party games.

I don't remember ever having had to participate in party games before. Certainly not these kind of party games. The games I was expected to play all triggered what i now recognize as PTSD symptoms, the earliest I can recall.

First, there was dunking for apples. This was out of the question. I simply could not get my head into that water. Some kids tried to pull me to the tub. I screamed as if I was being murdered, or as if my Mother were holding my face under a faucet.

Then there was Spin the bottle. The version we played involved going into a closet to kiss or whatever. When the bottle pointed at me I had a full blown panic attack. I couldn't face a closet either.

But the worst was Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey. I got as far as letting them put the blindfold on and spinning me around. I could deal with wandering around the room with the tail in my hand while kids laughed at me when I went the wrong way. But when I finally found the wall, the idea that I was supposed to pin the tail to the donkey's butt suddenly took on a significance it wasn't supposed to have, and I burst out into tears.

My Mother was watching. When I took the blindfold off I saw her with a smirk on her face. She knew what the problem was. She thought it was funny.

Toward the end of the party I finally got about ten minutes alone with Kathy, and got to tell her I wished I could go with her. Then we left, and I never saw her again.

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