Since we don't have any special guests or fun activities for today, I thought I'd share a little story I wrote a few years back. In fact, I wrote this for school a year or so after we moved to Okinawa, Japan. It was a "book report" for a book about how to write short stories. Originally titled "Snow," it was a fictionalized account of what I imagined to be our first trip back to New York. Since then, I've edited and renamed the story, but the central idea is still the same. Enjoy!
I climbed into the rental car, snapped my buckle, and stared out the window at the snow. We never had snow in Taiwan - not where my family had lived, anyway.
My family was driving to Sunday morning services at Fellowship Baptist Church for the first time in three years. We had found a church in Taiwan, but every church was different. Take, for example, the size. Fellowship had more members than Charity Baptist Church. Fellowship also had a larger building, with multiple classrooms, a library, and a kitchen. Small churches like Charity were nice, but large was just... what I was used to.
When we pulled into the parking lot, I hopped out of the car and skipped up to the church doors. My mom and dad greeted everyone and started filling in the news. I looked for Renee, my best friend from before the move. I couldn't find her, but I found Pastor in the library.
"Hello, Hannah!" he boomed.
"Hi! We're back for two weeks."
"When did you fly in?"
"Friday night. Have you seen Renee?"
"No, but Amber's in the nursery."
"Thanks!" I left to find Amber Shummings, Pastor's daughter.
"Hey, Hannah! I didn't know you were back! How long have you been here?"
I glanced at my watch. "At church, five minutes." I giggled. "In Illinois, since Friday."
"Well, how about a hug?"
"Of course!" I rushed up and hugged her.
"Thanks! Now you'd better get to class."
"I will, after I find Renee. Is she in class?"
"Probably," she said, then mumbled something.
"Okay. Which classroom is Ms. Delaney in? I can't remember."
"Oh, sweetie, a new member teaches the preteens and Captain's Choir. She's in room seven."
"Oh... um... okay. Thanks! See you later." I smiled.
My pace slowed as I walked down the hall. I'll miss Ms. Delaney. The new lady will probably be a nice teacher - and a good singer, too, for Captain's Choir. I sighed and opened door seven.
"Hello! Are you new here?" I shook my head and heard whispers flying. The teacher had kind eyes and a nice smile. This might not be so bad. "All right. I've never seen you here before. What's your name?"
"Hannah," I replied. The preteen class was bigger than I thought. Where's Renee? Then I heard giggling and remembered Amber's mumbling. Turning towards the noise, I saw Renee whispering to another girl.
"I'm Ms. Skye. You can sit... next to Renee? She's in the peace sweater." Yes! I squeezed through rows of chairs and sat beside Renee and Whisper Girl.
"What are you doing in Illinois?" she hissed.
"Nice to see you, too," I replied. Whisper Girl coughed forcefully, and Renee sat up.
"Sorry." Is she talking to me or Whisper Girl? "Jade, this is Hannah. Hannah, Jade."
"Hi." I smiled. Jade didn't smile back.
"Hi," she said. "Now, Renee..."
I quit listening to their whispers and tried to pay attention, but I only heard half of the lesson. I couldn't remember Renee being disruptive in the past.
After Sunday school, I waited to talk to Renee, but she walked past me. Oh, well. It's winter vacation, and Mom said she could stay at the hotel tonight. I smiled and skipped down the hall to service.
When it was time to leave, I realized I'd forgotten to talk to someone. I threw on my coat and looked through the sea of people. She wasn't anywhere in sight, but I spotted Amber right away.
"Have you seen Mrs. Semyr?" I asked.
"You mean Renee didn't tell you?"
"Tell me what?"
"Well, Hannah, she - Mrs. Semyr - she... passed away."
"B-but... that's not...." Possible. But I knew it was. Amber rubbed my back as I cried into her coat.
"Shh... Hannah, she was ninety-one..."
"Yeah," I sniffed, "I know." I took a deep breath. "Bye, Amber."
After evening services, I realized I hadn't asked Renee about the sleepover. First, I asked her mom, and she said yes. I found Renee and Jade with a group of teens.
"Hey, Renee, could I ask you something?"
"Yeah, whatever." She said something to Jade and strode over. "What?"
"You want to sleep over at the hotel with me tonight?"
"Um, no! I already have plans. Sunday night, winter break? Who doesn't? Other than you, obviously." She gave me a strange look and continued. "In fact, you're all so little girlish. The dress - haven't you heard of jeans? And the braid. Ew. I bet you don't even pass notes. You're so different! Not someone I hang out with!" She spun around and joined her group.
I wanted to cry - to run - to scream, but I couldn't make a scene. After following my parents to the car, I sulked for the ride back to the hotel.
As I lay in bed that night, I thought about the past years' changes. The preteen class had a new teacher. Mrs. Semyr had passed. Renee... well, Renee had done a one-eighty. She had different friends, wore different clothes, and behaved in a different way. She was a complete stranger to me; that was a little scary. After a while, though, I realized I hadn't been fair. Of course things would change. After all, three years is a long time! Even I had changed. I was no longer eight but now eleven; my hair had grown out; I was in junior high. Taiwan was my home, with new friends and a new language. With a start I realized I had learned a valuable life lesson by losing Renee's friendship.
"There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction." -Winston Churchill
Three Years Later