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Thursday, May 24, 2012

1987

by Laura Hogg

I slipped into a pair of jeans my younger cousin had given me as a hand-me-down. Loose on me, I tightened the belt and glanced down at the shredded legs – done purposely. The “torn” look was cool. Grabbing my backpack, I told my sister to hurry, or we’d be late for school. My stomach growled. I looked at the kitchen, and my shoulders drooped. No food.

My sister and I walked two miles to school. Three years earlier, when I had acne and a bad case of the “shys” that kept me from talking much, bullies inspired me to get out of that school and into this other one. During my off period at school, I rushed to the music room and practiced piano. The feel of the keys under my fingertips brought gratitude. I looked forward to this time everyday, when I had access to a piano. Music gave me peace. I’d find a way to keep it in my life.


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Later, I walked into my choir classroom. I had auditioned to get into this group. Our music director announced that the group was going to go on tour in California. I gasped; then my heart sank. I couldn’t even afford lunch without those free tickets. After class, I walked out of the classroom, dragging my feet, sad.

The teacher pulled me aside and asked about the trip to California. I told him I wanted to go, but it would be impossible. Then he told me about a scholarship fund and asked if I’d be willing to work to earn money for the trip. My heart sped up as I agreed. I left the classroom on light feet.

For several weekends, I found myself up at five in the morning doing inventory at a store before it opened. I would yawn often and wonder how such a hellish hour could remain in existence. Being a night owl and a musician didn’t exactly support this ‘being up at the crack of dawn’ situation, but then I thought of the trip with my choir and would perk up.

My choir director handed me an envelope one day. I opened it to find money. He told me to add this scholarship fund to what I had earned and use it for food on the trip. My airfare and hotel room were covered. I thanked him.

Shortly before the trip, my boyfriend left me, throwing me into a period of grief. I got onto that plane with my classmates with swirling emotions. Raw depression and excitement for the trip battled in my heart. We got to California, and the mood around me was upbeat. My choir got a fancy tour bus – how exciting! Our teacher warned that we should not try to sneak any alcohol or pot into Disneyland when we went before our first concert. He told us that Donald Duck was an undercover cop. We exploded into laughter.

On our second day there, our director told us that we were all going to the beach. Due to traffic, we’d have to go to another beach, not the one originally planned. My heart lurched when he told us the name of that beach – my ex-boyfriend had been born in that city. It was an overcast April day. I strolled on the beach in contemplation, wiping away tears as I thought of him, almost as if a part of him were still here in the place he had been born.

That night, my singing group got on our cool bus and did a gig. I stared out the window as we passed through the city. At times, my eyes got wide. People were dressed so wildly here! I sat back in my seat smiling, seriously contemplating dying my hair pink.

The air in the city gave several of us headaches and mild sorethroats, but damn we had a good time, traveling, singing, and enjoying the adventure. I ran out of money, and a kindhearted classmate gave me some of her own. My belly stayed full during the entire trip – an awesome experience. Oddly, as fun as it was, I couldn’t wait to get back to Colorado and share my exciting tales with my best friends.

On the plane back, my heart hurt a little less. I had a life without that guy. I had the respect of my teachers and colleagues – my teacher believing in my talent enough to push through that scholarship for me, and I had hope.

After graduation, I started my own rock band and met a new guy – not the one yet, but it would only be a year later. And that trip to California remained in my memories as bittersweet, but mostly sweet, a reminder that things can happen with faith and work.


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After that memorable trip, Laura Hogg moved on from the small town – inspired as she was by her eye-opening trip to California – but stayed in Colorado. We've yet to find out if she ever did dye her hair pink or visit California again.

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