| The Road Home |

The Road Home: Chapter 1

Not only am I new to this school, but I will be hopelessly uncool here. I have all the wrong stuff, even if it was all just fine “back home”


We are sitting outside the school building. My mother is in the driver’s seat and I’m still buckled in, wishing she would just pull us away from here and never come back. My heart is pounding so loud and so fast, I can barely hear the engine idling.

Outside the safety of this car there are hundreds of kids streaming in through the wide double doors of the school, smiling teachers waving to them, greeting them, schmoozing with them. I watch them, searching their faces, hoping against desperate hope that maybe someone, anyone, will look a little familiar. No one does. I look at their school bags, their shoes, their hair, and worry about my own.

Not only am I new to this school, but I will be hopelessly uncool here. I have all the wrong stuff, even if it was all just fine “back home.” Whatever that means, a voice hisses in my head. My backpack is not the right brand, I’m wearing sneakers and these girls are not, and my hair, despite my best attempts at taming it, is frizzed to its finest in the late-August humidity. I shudder.

“It’s going to be okay,” my mother says, squeezing my ice-cold hand. “It always is.”

I half-nod, because I am frozen, because if I talk I will cry, or I will be overcome by the ever-growing lump in my throat. Even though I have done this before — several times, in fact — I have never done it here and I have never done it at this tender age, as a young teenager.

“You’re going to just get up, go in there, hold your head high, and be okay. You’re new, you’re interesting, you will make friends.” My mother is trying to pep me up. I half-nod again, because no amount of pepping, encouragement, or sweet-talking is going to make this any easier. But I will not cry in front of her. No, I will not. I know how bad she feels about this, I know that she knows this is hard for me and wishes it wouldn’t have to be like this. I know, and I will not hurt her.

I look out at the walkway. It will take me only seconds to enter that building. I can practically see myself doing it, and I know that I’m worrying about it for longer than it will take me to do it. But still.

The clock is ticking, and that first bell will ring any moment now. How long have we been sitting here? How long have I been avoiding this… fate?

Mom squeezes my hand again. “Have a really, really good day! I hope it turns out way better than you expect!” Her words tell me that it is time. She presses a small slip of paper into my hand, on which is written my teacher’s name and a scribbled, “I love you.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 773)

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