A Story-Game From my Childhood: I Was a Moon in the Solar System

In my childhood, not only did I act out “Wizard of Oz,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Star Wars,” but I also invented various elaborate stories which I would act out while outside or on the school playground.  I normally played them by myself, since other people didn’t know how to do their parts “right.”

Though I do recall pretending to be foxes one winter day with Chad, Keith, Danny and another little boy, on a day when even the snow was very icy and you could barely walk on the playground without slipping.  Our “den” was one of the play tunnels, which was painted like a hollow log….

I was also mostly by myself as a child, since my brothers were much older and liked “boy” stuff, and while there were a few kids in the neighborhood, they didn’t often come over–and a few of them were too mean to play with.  But with my stories, I barely noticed that I was the only one.  I intend to write a series of posts on my different stories.  I also mention some of them in my posts about life with NVLD.

One of my stories started when I was 8 years old and in third grade.  The teacher took us out on the playground one day and assigned each of us a planet, a satellite, or the sun.  Then she had us all stand in various places based on where the sun was and where each planet was, to demonstrate to us just how large the solar system is.

I was a satellite, Nereid, and went to stand by a girl named Jessica who was Neptune.  I also remember the girl who was the sun, though I don’t remember her name; she had a pointy, knit cap with a ball on the top.  It was winter, so I was wearing a certain beige coat which I really liked, which had a hood and a cloth belt, and I wore black boots.

I was so enchanted by this game the teacher had us play, that I began acting it out by myself, whether at home, in the church basement while my dad set up the microphones, or at the playground.  In fact, I associate that old church basement–the square-shaped hallway with the drain on the floor–with these stories.

I also wrote stories about it and drew pictures, with myself as Nereid, in the same coat and boots, and with little curls in my hair that I didn’t have in real life.  Nereid had to wear a coat because she was in the outer reaches of the solar system, far from the sun.

Every such being, or heavenly body–whether planet, moon, sun, asteroid, or comet–was eight years old, just like me, and always would be eight years old.  The Asteroid Patrol was the police force.  The beings would walk on metal walkways in space, so they wouldn’t fall into nothingness.  Instead of “Martian,” beings on Mars would be called “Marslings” (as in “Earthlings”), and same for the “lings” of any other planet.  Sun-chips and star-chips, flashy bits taken from suns and stars, were used as money.

nereid

Nereid was constantly getting separated from Neptune, unlike the other moon Triton, another girl, who behaved and stayed nearby.  So on the one hand Nereid was always looking for Neptune and would be happy and relieved when she found her.  But on the other hand, she had all sorts of adventures.  I wish I could remember even half of them.

One of my classmates, Keith, also ended up in these stories, even though I don’t recall him actually playing this game with me in real life.  He had somehow ended up trapped on the planet of Mouseooine, named after Tatooine, where everybody dressed in mouse costumes (yes, like furries), and the young princess was in love with Keith–but he, typical boy, kept trying to put her off.

Venus was a beautiful girl surrounded all over her head and body with chilled silver jewelry (what showed up to Earthlings as clouds), which kept her cool near the Sun.  The ringed planets had rings either around their bodies or around their heads, depending on how I felt like drawing it that day.

Earth was a boy whom Nereid had a crush on, but he had a crush on Venus.  Earth’s creatures were like an infestation on his head, since the head was the planet itself; the other planets were fascinated by them.

Mars was a redheaded girl.  The little ball on the Sun’s hat (her sun-hat) is what provided the fire and heat of the sun.  She could take off the hat and point it at Nereid, a ray would come out of the little ball, and Nereid would then shrink to human-size, and go visit Keith on Mouseooine.  Then the Sun would use her sun-hat on Nereid again so she could go back to normal moon-size.

In middle school, I drew a daily comic strip which was, in a tragic accident, somehow lost during one of our moves in adulthood.  It was silly and bizarre, the sort of humor middle school kids might love, set in an alternative reality of my middle school, with Star Wars and other strange fashions instead of actual 1985 fashions, monsters, a woman who was literally stick-thin, a news anchor named Pretty Face who had 1985-fashionable hair and had to fend off suitors, magic, genies, a resurrected Cleopatra, a 50s-style soda shop in the air where all the kids hung out, and various other things.

In college, I found these old strips and began writing a more adult version, only I called it “Sol-Sys Blues” and based it on a version of the solar system game; the characters were now growing up.

I found two story fragments written about the solar system when I was a young child, probably no older than 12.

My mom was a cleaning lady, cleaning the houses of people at our church, and also a bank in a nearby town, and other businesses; she would take me with her.  Later, one of my brothers helped her as well, but in the beginning it was just her.

Probably when I was around 8 or 9, she started bringing home boxes and boxes of discarded form letters from the bank: usually letters which scolded for non-payment or were sent with loan coupons, letters which were blank on one side and perfect for me to write stories on.

I recall checking the Encyclopedia Brittanica at one house, probably when I was no older than 9 or 10, looking up information about the solar system, and writing stories on the old bank paper about Nereid, as my mom cleaned the house.

These are the two fragments.  Based on the references to choosing school courses, French and handwriting–which is legible (to me, at least, because it’s mine), in cursive, and full of strange little variants I had developed to make my handwriting pretty and interesting, unlike everybody else’s cursive–I must have been 12 when I wrote the first one.

I believe “earliest Hebrew” was chosen because I thought that Adam and Eve must have spoken this.  I was a very religious child, raised in the Nazarene Church, with no smoking, dancing or drinking, and with a premillennial dispensationalist, creationist theology:

Chapter 1

The Sun was the name given to all the suns, girl or boy, firstborn, middleborn or lastborn, or origin.  It was in the language of the most important planet’s inhabitants, of course, because that was the language of the solar system.

If the important planet’s inhabitants spoke more than one language, the first language ever given, or the majority languages, were given; but they all could speak all the languages in the universe!

But this particular system spoke earliest Hebrew; and so their words had to be written in English in this book.  Besides, I don’t know earliest Hebrew.

Each sun was created by God and put in the care of the galaxy ruler.  This galaxy was the Milky Way.

Our sun was, of course, named The Sun; she was a girl with brown curls for hair.  When she was three years old she had to begin her training.

First she had to know what kind of star she was.  The galaxy ruler, or garu, took a small, metallic object with a scale and put it on The Sun’s head.  The scale had three points–Large, Middle-Sized and Small.  The scale moved and the arrow pointed to “Middle-Sized.”  Under each point was a number, and under The Sun’s point was the number “8.”  That meant, when she was eight she’d stop growing.

She was given a textbook and, when she learned to read all words, she read the book whenever assigned in her school.  It was written in the fastest-writing and -reading language in the universe–Sheeshu.

The school near the middle of the galaxy for Milky-Way Students was a space station orbiting a substitute sun.  The Sun got there by riding a bullet-shaped capsule, and lived in the room she was assigned to.  Now let me tell you about her first ractul, or seven days (to her each day was 30 hours, school time):

The first day was exciting and unsure and unsettled.  The Sun had to be given a school name, Misa.  That was because every sun there had the same name!  The language was Milky Wayan, and “Misa” meant “sun on the edge of the galaxy.”

“Misa” landed in a large room with asteroid-workers everywhere.  Some of them helped her get out, and her bag of clothes and oral hygiene supplies were put on a cart that moved along a metal track leading to the office.  When the cart came back, The Sun got on it, but near the office it turned on a fork and went into the office door.  The baggage had gone into a smaller door on the side of the room.

The Sun got up and stood at the desk.  The secretary asked her questions, and this form was filled out:

school name:  ___________
from what galaxy?  Milky Way
what part?  very edge
name of system  Solar System
home room no.:  123
age:  3 years
type:  Middle-Sized
age to stop:  8
meaning of school name: ________

“So you’re a misa,” said the secretary, and wrote next to the words “school name:” “Misa,” and put its meaning in the blank for it.

“Your school name is ‘Misa.’  Here’s your form, and you have to fill out this paper.”  The secretary put a black paper and yellow pencil in front of her and told her to choose her classes.

“I can’t read this; I haven’t been taught!”

“Oh, yes; I forgot!  Now here’re your required courses:

“Math; Spelling; Writing; Reading; Universal Science and Universal Studies.”  She told the same thing to the computer, which typed everything she said.  “Now your courses to choose from are Home-ec, which prepares you to be a Sun;–”

“I’ll take that.”

“–Singing; Art; Gym; Educational Games and Job Study, which tells you better about all the jobs in the universe.  Everybody seems to like to take the last one; I’d advise it.  Choose two of those for this seven weeks.”

“Um–Job Study and–Singing.”

“Okay.  Uh–Computer, type in ‘Job Study and Singing.'”  The tiny screen of the computer got three more words on it.  It had a keyboard, but that was only used when necessary.  A switch was flipped and the computer was able to understand voice commands.  [Here is a picture of a computer which looks like your typical 1985 computer.]

“Computer–shuffle around.”  The computer mixed around the subjects and they turned out like this–Reading, Writing, Spelling, Universal Science, Math, Universal Studies, Singing and Job Study.

Then she said, “Computer, add times.”  The screen showed:

Reading=8:00-9:25
Writing=9:25-10:50
Spelling=10:50-12:15
Lunch=12:10-13:10
Universal Science=12:15-13:40
Math=13:40-14:05
Universal Studies=14:05-15:30
Singing=15:30-1:55
Job Study=1:55-3:00 (1 hour 5 minutes)

“Computer, add teachers and rooms.”

Screen:
[repeats the schedule on one side, and has on the other:]

Reading, HR, Mrs. Mara; rm. 123, speaks Misan
Writing, Mrs. CShCeer (kush-keer); rm. 124, speaks Sheeshu
Spelling, Mr. CShCeer; rm. 125, speaks Sheeshu
lunch, rm. 130
Universal Science, Mrs. SunCeer; rm. 122, speaks Maranoid
Math, HR, Mrs. Mara; rm. 123, speaks Misan
Universal Studies, HR, Mrs. Mara; rm. 123, speaks Misan
Singing, Miss Eeshatu; rm. 121, speaks Sheeshan
Job Study, Miss Tu-Ee Shatee; rm. 916, speaks Saturnionionun

“Computer, print.”

When the computer had printed in yellow on a black piece of paper, the secretary tore it…

[next three pages are missing]

…were trying to figure it out.  “In Sheeshu,” she said, “the letter stands for the sound ‘kuh.'”

“‘Kuh’ is no number.”

“Oh–numbers!  Then the letter could be ‘8’!  Do you have a room number with that number in it?”

“I don’t remember.  I think so.”

“Check the room number ‘128’!”

So they walked over to room 128, both dragging their luggage with them.  Misa knocked on the door, and a man opened it; they shoved the paper toward him and asked if there were any 8’s in the room number.

“No,” he said; “but your room number is 123.  Must be one of you reads Sheeshu to know this is 128!  Well, go to room 123; that’s your homeroom number!”

“Dut dut!”  Sheesheetu called, which meant several things–this time, “Good-bye” and “Thank you” at the same time.

They looked for room 123, with Sheesheetu reading the Sheeshu numbers.They came to a room numbered: [marks resembling 118] which didn’t match the sheet, which said: [marks resembling 11S] but it was “123” in Sheeshu.  They knocked, and the woman named “Mrs. Mara,” who spoke Misan especially, answered.  Lucky for them, they found their room, because after half an hour it was already nearing 8:00!

Mrs. Mara had told them to put their things in the corner of the room where others had put their own, and take out the following materials from their own luggage–textbook, pencil, pen, paper–and go to their desk.  Written in Sheeshu, the placecards were easy for Sheesheetu to read.

The others were shopping around with their eyes on the fifth floor, and should be back pretty soon.

When it was 8:01 and everyone was back in their seats, they were told to open their books to the part labeled (it was written on the board):  [Sheeshu writing]  It was the sixth section.  [scribbles meant to represent Sheeshu writing]

They were taught a few paragraphs from the first section, each sentence written differently but meaning the same.  For example: [sentences in French, English and Sheeshu]

Each book was large and written in small letters.  This was so all languages in the entire universe that ever was and ever would be would fit on a quarter of the page!

These, if you’re interested, were the Sheeshu sentences for the two sentences described in four languages:

[English-based letters]

They would be pronounced: Kuh-ee olg kuh-eye bhft.  Kuh-ee gol kuh-eye bum.

Sheesheetu, of course, had no problem reading those Sheeshu sentences!

Mrs. Mara was especially interested in Misa, because they both spoke Misan (most ancient Hebrew) as official languages.  She was concerned she couldn’t read her own language, and the rest of the class could!  So, she wrote on the board:  [scribbles representing Misan writing]

That was the way it was written at the time.  Then it was written the way Earthlings would someday write it.

By 9:20 everyone in the class could read a paragraph from every single language ever!  They took their book, paper, pencil and pen to whatever their next class would be (except for those who stayed in the same class, of course!).

Misa and Sheesheetu had Mrs. CShCeer (KUSH-keer) next, rm. 124, Sheeshu-speaker, for Writing.  Sheesheetu was her favorite student because they both spoke and read the same language.

That day they practiced making all lines and rounded lines.

Next for Misa was Mr. CShCeer; for Sheesheetu his wife, Mrs. CShCeer.  In that class the lesson was on spelling rules for Sheeshu, which was mostly used in the TB and was important to know.

At 12:10 was lunch.  Mr. CShCeer took his class to lunch.

There was a lunchroom on every floor; for the fifth floor, it was a real good restaurant that costs the cheapest monetary unit for all–the raktuluh–for each meal.  There was a real rich sun named Tuka (“rich sun on side of galaxy”) who liked to insist on using a sun-chip (the highest monetary unit of all), so eventually all meals were free.

solsyssunpic-573x800

Everyone ate in the small lunchroom for Mr. CShCeer’s class until 12:15, the time to start the next class.  Then they were all to go to the room for their next teacher’s class.  Misa couldn’t understand.

She went up to Mr. CShCeer with her shere in her hands, holding it by its two handles.  “I don’t know where to go,” she said.  “I don’t have my schedule with me.”

This was an experience!  Misa could be late to class!  And how’d she know where to go?

She met up with Sheesheetu, who was going to the lunchroom reserved for Mrs. SunCeer’s class.

“Well, let’s see if you belong in my class,” she said, leading her away.

The sphere-tray was a shere colored different colors each with two handles on its sides to carry it.  It was split down the middle, and you opened it and flattened it down, and the food and everything was put in attached boxes all over the tray.  Milk and silverware was also put there.

It was finally 3:00!  Everyone returned to HR (homeroom), but for a bit it wasn’t exactly like home because:

For one thing, everyone had half an hour to finish homework because with those just going to school it’s not easy to get a lot of homework!

For Misa, there was no homework until Universal Science.  All that was was finding the distance a certain bawling ball (slight version of “bowling ball”) would roll until it hit the gitter (gutter).  (With this study, it’s no wonder those schools turn out so many good heavenly body-bawlers!)

In Math, Misa had ten simple-simple! addition problems; for Universal Studies just to read about what different jobs there are in their galaxy; and in Job Study, to read and answer five questions about the Asteroid Patrol.

All answers were written in either pen or pencil in the book.

At 3:30, Mrs. Mara asked if everyone was done with their homework, which they were, and then took them to the rec floor–the fifth floor.  Everyone was put into the large elevator to go upstairs.  The doors were opened by a push of a button, and closed the same way.

The bawling alley was something like a bowling alley; mechanical setting of pins, ball returns; but lines marked where the gitters were.

At 5:30 they all filed into the free, mall restaurant in the south wing.

[Schedule:]
30 hours
10 hours of sleep
9 hours of after school
therefore, 10 hours of school

8:00AM-3:00PM–school
3:00PM-12:00AM–after school
12:00AM-7:00AM–10 hours of sleep [sic]

3-3:30–homework
3:30-5:30–bawling
5:30-7:30 (at the latest)–dinner
7:30-9:30–shop or browse at mall (at 7:30 give allowance)
9:30-10:30–free time
10:30-11:30–bosketball (basketball)
11:30-12:00–free time
***END***

 

The following is a fragment depicting Keith’s adventures on Mouseooine, where he, like the natives, dressed in a mouse costume.  It was probably written when I was about 10.  I think they had to hide that they were Earthlings, and pretend to be from Mouseooine, probably so they wouldn’t get killed:

 

…”Hysterical, not histerical, isn’t it, Gary?” corrected Trera.

“Well, I say it histerical,” remarked Gary.  So both pulled until Mike was up.  She had forgotten the buttons, so she pushed the top and bottom ones, then stepped very cautiously unto the stand.  The crocodiles swam away, clicking their snouts angrily, a good dinner lost.
****
“Yes, King Zrooine, is who we want to see.”

We?” the messenger puzzled, then saw the four children.  “Yes.”

After hearing that, King Zrooine, a 12-year-old, asked 10-year-old Princess Zango (zayng’go), “Zango, should we send my messenger or you to tell Keith to come here?”

Keith?”  Then Zango glanced at the waiters, then replied, “If it’s so; me.”

“Then you shall be it.”  So Zango walked over to them, and jumped at the sight.

“Huh?  I thought only you were here, Keith!  Who are these people?  I never saw them before!  Oh, well; King says you may go to him.”

So Keith came and kneeled, the employees following.  “Do we have to kneel on one knee?” asked Mike, reluctantly.

“No; you’re not the one presenting the employees!” answered Keith, whispering but snappishly.

“So; Keith; I see you brought four boys with you.  What do you want?…Speak!  Don’t wait when I tell you to answer!”

“Oh…These four boys here want royal jobs.  Uh…Uh…”

“Mike Grindstone,” prompted Mike.  “Pilot.”

“Mike Grindstone, here, wants to be pilot,” replied Keith.

“I heard,” said King Zrooine.

“Uh…Uh…,”  Keith fumbled.

“Tom Sanders,” prompted Tom.  “Gun-maker.”

“Gary Lang,” said Gary.  “Navigator.”

“Trera Baker,” said Trera.  “Co-pilot.”

[missing pages]

“Yes.”

“And so did Gary and Tom.  So come with me to the King.”

They followed, and the King said, “So?  Did all pass?”

“Yea,” answered Keith.

“And so, Keith, take them to their next stations,” said Zrooine.

“Yes, sir,” replied Keith.  So he took Mike and Trera to their starcruiser, Gary to her [sic] navigating test, and Tom to her [sic] gun-checking point.

On the way to the star cruiser, Mike asked, “Now what’s the name of this star cruiser?”

Keith put his arms out and cried, What do you care about the name?  It’s just a test!”  There, he said, “Now, Mike, you’re the pilot; climb up the co-pilot’s ladder, and stand by the controls.  Trera, you are the co-pilot, sit there.  I’ll be a passenger.”

So Mike climbed up the co-pilot’s ladder, Trera after her.  She stood by the controls, Trera held fast to the controls by her, and Keith sat in the first passenger seat.

Mike pushed a top button, a bottom button, a middle button, and a button for medium.  Then she gave a signal by pounding the controls on top to Trera, and the ship went up.

Then, when they were down, Keith said, “So, that’s all?”

“Keith!” cried Mike.  “What if I’m forced to be co-pilot?”

“And I’m the only person on the ship?”

“Oh, all right.”  So the test went in reverse.

Keith brought them to another ship, after Mike slid down her controls, and had them drive that.  Trera went in, and Mike and Keith on top.

At Gary’s place, she navigated correct, at Tom’s, her guns were correctly checked.

On their way to Zrooine’s palace, Gary said, “Sand people there–or worse!  Hurry!” as a joke.

“So!” said Mike.  “You saw Star Wars on Earth, huh?”

“On Earth?” said Keith.  “Oh, yeah.”

Trera whispered to Mike, “You dummy!  You’ll get us into trouble by-‘n’-by!”

***END FRAGMENT***

 

When I was twelve and in seventh grade, I wrote a story about Earthlings going to live on Mars.  I used my already-established universe of living heavenly bodies, in this story.

The people were in some vehicles which were suddenly lifted into the air and put on Mars; they could hear around them:

 

“Yes, Mars, my girl, put them on you and they can live!  Trust me, I know these things!”

“Aw, but Nereid, I wanted them to be enlarged by the Sun’s sun-hat and let them live like that while I pray of God that he change my obliquity to 30 degrees and I prepare the air around me!”

“I’m Nereid, Neptune’s moon!  Would I ever steer you wrong?!”

“Well, you sure seem to steer yourself wrong a lot in that you never seem to stick with Neptune and/or Triton!”

“Yeah, well, Earth always steers me right again!  I go to him for his superior advice!”

“Ya know, I think you have a crush on him!”

“I have for the last thousand years had a crush on him!”

“Then it isn’t a crush or infatuation, it’s love!  Go after the boy!  He’s God’s pick for you!”

“But I’m shy!”

“Well, then, it’s simple!  Earth doesn’t like you yet, but what you do is go on that planet-moon picnic with him next picnic day!  Have you noticed?  You two have been paired on the schedule!  Impress him; act sweet and nicely yourself!  When he’s started to notice you, write a note a week later and put it in his mailbox–ask him to go with you!  Simple as all that!  Remember, I caught the tenth planet, Ihfundit, that way, about three of Venus’ years ago, and notice we’ve been married a year so far!”

That gave hope to the one voice, Nereid, as she said:

“See me married to Earth in two Mercury years–176 Earth-days!  For Earth, less than a year!”

Then it sounded like someone was walking away on metal.  Then the person came back, saying: “Oh!  I forgot!  Give this to the Earthlings!  Open your hand!”

“No; they’ll die if I do!”

“Then move a finger a little!  Now, you wouldn’t want those Earthlings to become Marslings just yet until they have their explanation!  Here, lings!”  And something black fell what seemed out of the space there.  Then the walking-on-metal was heard again.

Someone got the paper, which was written on in white chalk.  It must be whoever wrote it knew how to write American or something, because that’s how the words were written.  The person, Cyndy Ferraro, read out loud and very loudly so all could hear:

You lings obviously are wondering what’s happening here, so I’ll tell you.  You see, to someone small like you, the universe looks as you imagine it.  But grow to our size, and you can see the planets as people.

We used to call each other our own name, but your names for us are so nice we call each other by your names for us.

Well, you know Mars is barren.  Earth isn’t.  Mars saw you on Earth and asked God what you were up to.

When she found out, she asked God for permission to get you from Earth and be her own lings, which Earth allowed.  You can’t see us, but Mars had to put you in her hands to keep you safe.

When you’re put on Mars’ head you can build even spaceships if you want!  If you wonder how I know, that red planet told me.

Neptune’s moon besides Triton,
Nereid.

A scientific breakthrough!  The planets obviously were alive, though drilling like for oil or digging or such didn’t hurt them!

They were now free from planetary laws, but not from human laws, so the Bibles, until the Judgement, would always be studied.  Well, now it was 70 degrees on Mars’ equator, and everyone was put on the equator.

They found a pile of boxes, labeled in Sheeshu (a fast-writing and saying language in space), and on top was a booklet of instructions written by the planet and translated by the moon.  It told everyone about the money in the boxes, sun-chips and star-chips.

It was easy to collect in space–asteroid workers were always producing the money and sending it into space to just float around.

The universal money was also used as food and building materials, and such as that.

(Oh, if I forgot to tell you; the lings were given oxo-hats, hats that fasten to the neck with a drawstring, and have two “antlers” on the top to convert air with plant-like mechanisms in the balls.

(It was also explained how to make more of this, besides how to build a “sunbuilding” (building made out of sun-chips) in an hour because in about 90 minutes the temperature would start to drop to dangerous temperatures.

(When it was read how long they had, everyone who could, started immediately to build!)

***END***

 

On August 29, 1986, when just starting eighth grade, I had to write sentences to go along with vocabulary words.  I wrote:

2. Citizens of Mouseooine were noted for their steady practice of deceit when it came to the moons and planets.

6. Mouseooinelings capturing moons and/or planets was a frequent happening.  [This explains why Nereid kept ending up there with Keith.]

19.  The moon finally had triumph over the planet Mouseooine.

 

Meet the Suite–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–September 1991, part 1

The story begins in September 1991 in a little college in Wisconsin by a little town called H–.  Roanoke College is officially by the small city of S–, but H– and unincorporated A– are much closer.

1991 was a great year for me: My generation saw its first war, but we beat them bad; I graduated; my eighteenth birthday was on June 22; and now I would have a new life in a state I first visited in February.

I came from South Bend, Indiana, which is twice the size of and a different world than S–, Wisconsin.

I was a writing major with a Fessler Writing Scholarship, a naive young girl who thought that I would support myself with a novel writing career and German translation, and not need the internships or resumé writing classes.

I also thought that “Christian college” meant a college full of Christian people.

There were roughly 1600 students at Roanoke (the size of my high school)–around 400 on campus, the rest commuters and Lifelong Learning (night class) students.

This was a campus in the middle of cornfields in a state that has two seasons: winter and under (road) construction, as it is said, when the orange signs are in bloom.

The comedian during freshman orientation week said that, no matter what befell you there, you could console yourself and others by saying, “At least it’s not snowing!”  Despite how vulgar he was otherwise, this one phrase stuck in my mind throughout my time at Roanoke.

In the October 1991 issue of the campus newspaper was a cartoon: A car marked “New Student” is driving down a road with nothing but cornfields and signposts on either side.  On the left-side signposts you find: “Out there –> ,” “The corn –> ,” “<– The old tree,” “Roanoke College –> ,” “Absolutely nowhere –> ,” “Millers Farm,” and “Over there –> .”  On the right-side signpost you find, “H– Pop. 14.”  A speech balloon pointed at the car’s driver reads, “I guess the college is just down this road?”

I arrived on Labor Day, 1991.  There were a couple days of orientation before classes began.  The earliest class was at 9:15 AM!  For someone used to starting school at 7:45, this was luxury.  As I told my roommate, I liked this better than high school, which I had loved.

I saw this guy in February on SEED Day, a day of testing and orientation for high school seniors who were about to become Roanoke freshman.  He had blond hair and sky-blue eyes, joked around, and smiled at and flirted with me.  The rare eye color of sky blue was my favorite, and I figured my future husband probably had them.

Where was this guy?  He’d said he was a junior; I should see him again.  (Once or twice I thought I spotted him during the fall semester, but wasn’t sure.  Finally, I saw him again, and his name was Ned.  He was in his mid-20s, I believe.  More stories about him to come.)

I was a Nazarene girl, so I didn’t dance or drink alcohol or smoke or cuss or go to movies, though the denominational restrictions on movies and dancing had recently been lifted.

I had royal ancestors–Duncan of “Macbeth,” Saints Margaret and David of Scotland–and folk-hero ancestors–John and Priscilla Alden of Longfellow and Mayflower fame.

I had been in (as a teen magazine termed it) a love drought–plenty of crushes but all unrequited–since sophomore year of high school.

I took German for three years; French for two. I wanted to continue in German and learn Latin, as everyone at college always did, I thought.  But there were no Latin classes at Roanoke.

I would be living in the German suite, an honor only now opened to freshmen.  Only one other freshman lived in the two suite buildings, Friedli and Hofer.  Hofer was mostly fraternity suites, day care and the commuter suite; Friedli was language and honor suites.

In between was the main suite lounge, a little building with a lounge, couches, chairs, TV, bathroom, a microwave and a pop machine; half of the building was even a living area for a campus official.  That part was closed off to us.

Though suite usually means luxury, here it did not.  We got four tiny bedrooms (mine was largest), a bathroom (two stalls, two sinks, two shower stalls), shelves, no air conditioner, little heat from an ancient steam heater, and a little lounge that got compared to a waiting room.  This insulted Heidi, who said she tried to make it look more liveable with plants, a German flag over the couch, and posters.

In this lounge was a TV (a neat digital one, provided by the school) and furniture with no arm-cushions. We would take the cushion from another chair to make a comfortable neck-rest when lounging on this couch.

On our doors were little, Swiss mice next to cheese bearing our names.  Heidi, our German suite mentor, made these cute mice out of construction paper.  I still have mine.  But then, that’s hardly remarkable, considering I put most of my college memories into boxes when each year ended, and never got rid of the boxes.

Since it was tacked up against a concrete-block wall, the flag would often fall down.  My freshman year boyfriend, Peter, thought it had something against him, since it often fell on him as he sat on the couch.

Also living in the suite were my roommate, Candice; Latosha, whose door faced ours; and Tom.  Yes, the suite was co-ed.

Heidi was a German-speaking Swiss miss of twenty-five.  She had a birthday in the fall semester, I believe, that made her twenty-six.  Frank, a balding, non-traditional freshman, was twenty-five and became good friends with her.

Heidi seemed so old to us, and once complained about that.  But once I got to my mid-twenties and thought back, she didn’t seem quite so old after all.

I believe she once tried to get a license which would allow her to drive in America.  Her Swiss license wasn’t enough to drive here, and international students were often trapped on campus without cars or American licenses.

Heidi’s sandy-blonde hair was distinctly European: short, longer on one side than on the other, no perm.  (As a girl in my high school German class had said after going to Germany, over there nobody got perms.  They just cut their hair in different ways.)

Heidi arrived at this school the same year I did, with a strong Swiss accent and frequent trouble with the language.  Lots of words she didn’t know, like sassy, I looked up for her in the pocket German dictionary I carried for her benefit.

She lived in a room at the back of the other end of the suite, near the little balcony with its iron railing.  Each upper-level suite had a tiny, back balcony.  I believe some people put grills on their balconies.  The lower-level suites just had little porches, if anything.

I had thought the suite mentor in a Christian college would be a fellow Christian and a potential spiritual adviser.  I had expected to have many profound discussions with her about following God.  The reality was that I didn’t know what she was.  The French mentor, Nicole, didn’t even believe in God, though she liked to go to church for the ceremonies and the values.

Heidi amused my ears with her accent.  My favorite of her sayings was, “My GOOD-ness!”

I got along well with Nicole.  She was sweet and fun to talk to.

As for Heidi–we had some sort of personality clash that I never understood.  I’ve heard that European cultures look down on shyness; maybe it was simply a culture clash, worsened by my nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD, to be explained later).  Or maybe being chronically late like I was in those days is considered a grave offense in Switzerland.

Considering both she and my German teacher, who was Swiss, had problems with me, while most teachers liked me, it could very well have been a cultural issue which I did not know about.

In any case, I was grateful to Heidi for helping me polish my German, such as when she taught me that nicht was supposed to be said as one syllable, not two.  (It is difficult and takes practice.)

I enjoyed reading the 19th-century German story Undine (Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué) with her.

She told me that when you don’t know a language totally fluently, you can’t let yourself get hung up during conversation on words you don’t understand.

This surprised me because, when she said, “Now when I first came here, did I run for a dictionary every time I didn’t understand a word?”  I said yes, because I had the impression she did.  She often seemed to want my help with words, and I looked them up in my German dictionary.

But she said that no, she didn’t always run for a dictionary.

Heidi knew both French and Italian, since in Switzerland both were spoken along with German and a special Swiss dialect, Räto Romanisch.  She had conversations in French with Nicole.

One day, while sitting with me and somebody else at a meal, she reflected that our generation didn’t seem to drink coffee, while hers did.  The younger people didn’t seem to like the taste, and at best drank cappuccino, with its various flavors.

As many of the international students did, she had a problem with American sarcasm.  I’d thought sarcasm was universal, but non-English-speaking international students had a hard time understanding sentences with the opposite meaning of what they seemed to say.

Also, while watching TV, there would be commercials roughly every ten or fifteen minutes.  For the rest of us in the suite, this was normal and expected.  We read something, went to the bathroom, got something to eat, or just sat there bored as the commercials played.

But Heidi would cry out, “So many com-mehr-cials!”  In Europe, the commercials were only aired between programs, not in the middle of them.  (When do Europeans go to the bathroom during movies?)

Another of Heidi’s phrases was, “What is that?”  She didn’t just use it when she heard or saw something unusual; she would say it when talking of somebody’s inexplicable behavior.  For example, she might say something like, “And then when I came over, he was rude to me.  What is that?”  (This is not a quote, by the way, just an example.)

Another phrase was, “It doesn’t work.”  This applied to all sorts of things, not just mechanical devices.  For example, she might look at an improperly constructed German sentence and say, “It doesn’t work.”  Or she might look at an intended solution for a situation and say, “It doesn’t work.”  She also had an accented way of saying “It doesn’t matter” that made it, too, seem like a Heidi-ism.

Nicole, also about twenty-five years old, was her best friend.  Late in the school year, when visiting our suite, their friends would sit and count how many times they kissed each others’ cheeks when saying good-bye, because Nicole and Heidi didn’t bother to keep track.  The count once got up to ten.  Nicole was a fun one to talk to, and I liked to try out my sparse French on her.

Heidi was impressed those first few weeks by what German I knew, like the slang terms toll and Mensch.  She also told me that Ach Mensch was dated, and now people generally said only Mensch.  But “Ach, Mensch!” is so much more fun to say when you’re upset.

My first day at Roanoke, I went up to Heidi–the lounge full of Heidi’s international friends–and asked her when we were going to dinner, thinking everyone in the suite naturally would go at once.

In those first few days, college seemed like summer camp.  And in summer camp, everyone in a cabin went to meals together, so this is where I got the idea that everyone in a suite in college would do the same.

We all went to dinner together, Heidi and her friends and me, and I impressed myself with my outgoing, cheerful demeanor–such a contrast to my shy, high school self.

Not that I came out of my shell for good.  But at dinner I kept laughing and talking and showing off my German and French.  I felt like a new me.

Another time that week, Paul showed up at the suite door, asking for Heidi and saying he wanted to go to dinner with her.  I asked if I could go with them, and he said okay.

I felt so outgoing; I was very proud of myself.  Paul seemed like a nice guy, too.  He was, or soon would be, a Zeta.

Once I sat in the Spanish suite and taught the phrase “not just yet” to Nicole and a girl from Costa Rica.  That’s also when Nicole told us she doesn’t believe in God, but believes in the values of church-going.  I took the opportunity to witness to her in a simple, non-intrusive way by saying I do believe in God.

I had been told that everyone in the German suite was supposed to be taking the language, and speak in only that language with each other for an hour every day.  But my roommate Candice only took German once, back in high school.  The other students didn’t know German at all; Latosha was taking French.

Candice was a talkative, pretty sophomore with auburn hair.  She was on the tennis team, which practiced on the court right outside our window.  Her boyfriend, Jeff, went to Roanoke over the summer with her, but now went to UW-Lacrosse.

Latosha was an African-American sophomore from Kansas City, MO.  She always seemed confident, strong, and mature.  I greatly admired her and respected her advice.

Latosha had an ex, E–, who’d been her boyfriend for three years.  It was a crushing blow when he fooled around and left her for another girl, but he was the possessive one, following her car when she went on dates and calling her up all the time from his new college in Chicago, even though he’d broken up with her a year before.

We all wished he’d leave her alone, especially when he called her at three in the morning and she cussed him out: Those suites had concrete walls, but you could hear everything.  Plus, her door faced ours.

As for the new girlfriend, she was in a class with Latosha–and was very afraid of Latosha.  This made things difficult for either of the two girls when they had to do class work together (I think it was a science class, and they had to do labs together).  Latosha called her E–‘s ho, at least when speaking of her to us.

This E–, by the way, was the grandson of a famous black man.  If I told you who, I’d probably be subject to a libel suit for accusing this man’s grandson of stalking, even though what I tell you is true.  Through E–, Latosha met other famous people, and even got a tour jacket which only band members or roadies could get.

Tom was a flirtatious first-year senior and a football player.  He had two roommates that year, Tim first and then Stefan.

The immaculately clean Tim took one step into Tom’s smelly room and sprayed air freshener with a loud “hsssh!”  The next day, he was gone.

Stefan came later in the semester; he was a German lawyer, here in America until the end of Winterim.  Somehow, he survived Tom’s room.

Tom and Stefan seemed to get along pretty well, and whenever Stefan came in the suite while Tom was in the lounge, Tom cried out, “Roommie!”

Stefan was tall and sweet, and always seemed to be happy.  He was from K–, Germany, and my boyfriend was from K–, Wisconsin.

Stefan and a short, pretty young woman became great platonic friends.  It had to be platonic because she was married.  No, I never heard of a scandal.

One day, Stefan said goodbye to my boyfriend and me in the lounge as he left the suite, and one or both of us said, “Auf Wiedersehen!”  He practically fell over in his surprise that we knew some German, and cried, “Whoa!”

Tom had a crush on Candice the year before, not returned by her.  She’d known about it.  Her best friend would have taken him off her hands, if only Tom would’ve let her.  I heard Tom and Candice argue about this once.

Tom constantly went into Candice’s mini-fridge in the lounge and drank her milk without permission.  One day, Candice told me she was getting him back.

On a friend’s suggestion, she put shampoo in her milk.  Tom came into the room and asked if he could use her milk for a mixed drink he was making.

She said okay, then confessed to me that she felt really bad about putting shampoo in it.  Tom didn’t even seem to notice or get sick from it, so that eased her conscience a little bit.

Each suite had two outside doors, one to the balcony and one as a main entrance.  The upper levels doors led to the balcony-like walkway and stairs, with a railing along the side of the walkway.  The lower levels doors led to a walkway along the side of the building, and to the courtyard.

The suites had no set visiting hours.  If your suitemates decided on special rules, that was your business.  But it was different in the other halls, which did have visiting hours and quiet hours.  I heard that visitors after hours were to go to the Main Suite Lounge, but no one ever followed this, and the RA’s (Resident Assistants, or the people in charge) didn’t care.

Heidi talked about quiet hours and such, but said that rather than conform to the rules of quiet hours which applied to the other dorms, we should all be adults and ask each other to please turn it down if someone played a TV or radio too loud.

With two stalls with working doors in the toilet area, two shower stalls with curtains, and a man (sometimes two) living with a bunch of women in the suite, we thought nothing of men and women using the bathroom at the same time.

During the warmer months, probably September or October when yellow jackets are really bad in Wisconsin, we discovered a hive of them living right outside Heidi’s window.  They tormented us until the cold finally killed them.

With the TV on the same wall as the outside window showing the head of the stairs, you’d sit on the couch watching TV, and people could see you as they came up the stairs.  And people would invariably look, whether they were coming up the stairs or just walking by.  It made me uncomfortable.

The best thing about the TV: it had cable, basic but better than nothing.

Besides the suites, we had Krueger Hall (women), Muehlmeier Hall (co-ed), and Grossheusch Hall (so-called hall of men, as the RA wrote beside a chalk drawing of a Playboy bunny on the front window that year).  Krueger is pronounced “KROO-ger,” Muehlmeier is “MULE-my-er,” and Grossheusch is “GROSH-iss” (otherwise known as “Grossh”).

Gross “Grossh” was disgustingly kept by its inhabitants (some would even pee in the hallways), noisy, and frequented by high school girls on weekends, a.k.a. “pop-tarts.”

Also, the cleaning crews hated cleaning Grossh, especially when they did major cleaning over holiday breaks.  So we girls laughed when the hall director drew a Playboy-style bunny in chalk on a window near the entrance, and wrote, “Hall Of Men.”

Muehlmeier looked like Grossh structurally, having been built about the same time, and both had carpeting in all the rooms.  But Muehlmeier was a little less scary and had women living on the top floor.

Both halls had two floors and a basement; Krueger had three and a basement.

Krueger, the oldest, also had huge rooms, compared to the cells in the other dorms.

Certain floors in each dorm were alcohol-free, probably based on where most of the upperclassmen and underclassmen lived.  The suites had more lax alcohol rules: basically, no underage drinking.  One improvement the next year: all the dorms went alcohol-free, excepting the suites, which mostly held upperclassmen.

But wait–they’re not dorms, they’re residence halls!

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

%d bloggers like this: