9: Leave the Door Open

9: Leave the Door Open

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Leave the Door Open

The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.

~Abraham Lincoln

Watching my parents walk to their car after helping me move into my dorm room, I was already feeling homesick. Most people don’t leave home and go away for school at the age of fourteen, but there I was, out in the parking lot, waving goodbye to my mom and dad as tears started flowing down my cheeks.

My mom stopped and rushed over to give me one more hug, but she and I both knew there wasn’t anything more she could do for me. It was too late to change my mind and go to my local high school closer to home. Too late to gather up all my things and jump into the comfort of my parents’ car (and arms). It had been my decision to go to this school that my dad had once attended, and there was no turning back.

Boarding school is often thought of either as a place for delinquent children or an expensive, preppy, all-girls or all-boys school akin to The Facts of Life television show. My high school was called a prep school, but it provided nothing like Blair, Natalie, Tootie and Jo’s experience. It was a small religious school. We didn’t wear uniforms and while my dormitory floor was all-girls, the school was co-ed. We also had a much younger version of Mrs. Garrett.

I quickly walked back into my dorm room, making sure all my tears were dried first. While fourteen years old is young enough to need a mom’s shoulder to cry on, it’s definitely too old to let anyone witness it.

My roommate wasn’t in our room at the time. Earlier I had seen her with a group of girls already fitting in and making friends, whereas I was very quiet and didn’t know a soul. I couldn’t imagine going up to a group of girls and asking if I could join them. The excitement that filled the air on move-in day only meant heartache for me, as I longed to be included but was too shy to go into the hall and mingle.

Having no clue what I was supposed to do next, I felt alone on a floor filled with freshman girls. I pulled out my desk chair and sat down. Grabbing a pen and paper, I really had no intention of writing anything, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything else to do.

Feeling the tears about to make an unwelcome appearance again, I was glad my desk faced the wall — gray and bleak though it was. I could hear giggling girls trotting back and forth down the hall past my room. It took all my might not to close the door, knowing that doing so would eliminate all chances of making a friend.

Just then two heads peeked into my doorway — my roommate, Becky, followed by a bubbly girl named Holly who said, “All the girls are going downstairs into the Student Union. Want to come?” I sprang up faster than I thought physically possible. Feeling an overwhelming sense of relief, I said, “Sure,” and quickly joined my new friends. As Holly, Becky, and I walked down the hall, recruiting more girls to head to the basement lounge with us, I immediately knew I was going to be okay. Maybe more than okay.

For four hours I found myself talking and listening, telling stories and laughing with this group that had expanded to about twenty-five girls and boys. We were embarking on a four-year journey together that would equal what most people first experience in their college years. Not only did we share rooms, bathrooms, and three meals a day, we also shared clothes, shoes, late night talks, and the occasional fun of sneaking out after “lights out.”

Living together beginning at age fourteen made us quickly become more than just new friends. Growing up together, we became a family. I’m eagerly anticipating a family reunion of sorts this summer at our twenty-year high school reunion. My “new” friends have since become my old friends and without a doubt will remain my forever girlfriends.

~Deanne Haines

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