Burroway, page 180: Recall an experience that changed you. Write about it with one of the traditional openings of a story.
It all began at 4:30 AM on a cold morning in December, the last one of the 20th century.
As I slept in my tiny bed, complacently traveling in my dreams, blanketed by oblivion and my favorite yellow teddy bear bed sheets, my mom slowly crept through my room. The room was not that big to begin with; it already held an old piano, a bookshelf with a built-in desk, and an armoire next to my bed on the other side of the room. The middle was available to my childish imagination, supervised by the sunlight that warmed up my room from the big centered window. This morning, however, that space was filled with boxes and travel bags, which my mother had to carefully sidestep in the early darkness.
I stirred before she could touch me, she whispered, “Karina.”
Opening my eyes groggily I was confused until I recognized my surroundings. I could not have understood the gravity of this moment at that time. This quick, confused moment marked the final time that I would ever wake up in that house, the final time I would wake up a native in my own country, and the last time those yellow bed sheets would be my guide through the darkness.
My mom moved out of my room, turning on the light on her way out. As I came to, a feeling bubbled inside of me as I remembered why I was being woken up so early. This feeling cannot be fully characterized, but it was something like excitement boiling in a bubble coated by fear. I shivered as I stepped out of my bed and into my new life.
Navigating through the boxes I came out to frantic commotion in the corridor, as my parents, my grandparents and my uncle all tried to organize the chaos they were creating in their excitement. I went to the bathroom and hid there for a while, taking extra-long to brush my teeth, wash my face. Who knows, maybe the toothpaste in America isn’t very good.
The name seemed so distant, yet so familiar. For the two previous months ever since my mom told me that we would be moving there, I repeated it constantly in hopes of understanding what it meant. Of course, at 8 I knew it was a country, but what in the world would it be like? It sounded so promising, smooth; it sounded feminine, which made me trust it.
Once I was out of the bathroom all of a sudden the attention was on me, because they had already managed to pack the cars and were checking last minute things in the house, which was to be sold as soon as we left. I wasn’t yet dressed, but I also wasn’t ready to accept that my room was going to belong to another girl. (At that point I don’t think my stressed out young mind could have even handled that it could be anyone’s room, and not even a child’s, one day).
My mother tried to comfort me as I reluctantly got dressed, and no matter how much I tried to keep the tears down, it was all so incredibly fast and confusing, which usually meant that adults also didn’t have enough time to fully explain anything. I’ve never been an early morning person either. Before I knew it, we were all crammed into the car, my mom holding me, everyone else holding more boxes boxes boxes.
At the terminal I cried. I knew I was saying goodbye, I didn’t even know that I was truly saying good-bye, but I cried. The tears came from deep within, from an understanding that was beyond the moment and my years, but which resurfaces today as I realize what a big deal it is to be uprooted and replanted. And just like that, my parents and I boarded the plane to go to a country we’d never been to before, to chase our wispy dream, so faint we couldn’t even catch it on our breath in the cold air of that December 19, 1999 morning.