Sarah Elizabeth looked over at her two step-sisters, “this simply will not do,” she thought, turning back to her boiled egg. Her father, having recently married his third (or was it fourth?) wife and in a bizarre twist, there were now three girls living under his roof who each possessed the same first and middle name… Sarah Elizabeth. The confusion that resulted had convinced Sarah Elizabeth that if she were to ever have any chance of a unique identity (instead of always being referred to as #1) she must run away. Despite her childhood illness and resulting heart surgery at the ripe age of sixteen, Sarah Elizabeth was a stalwart girl and once setting her mind to something, she carried it through to the end. So, gathering her few belongings, Sarah took one last look at the home she loved and walked to the bus station.
As you can imagine, Sarah Elizabeth moved around quite a bit those first couple of years. She traveled the country, hitchhiking and picking up spare jobs wherever she could find them. She met all kinds of interesting people. One lady who let her stay in her garage for six weeks was a vegetarian, Harley Motorcycle connoisseur who owned 29 turtles. She had told Sarah Elizabeth their names, but how she told them apart, Sarah Elizabeth hadn’t a clue. Although she claimed to never have eaten a steak in her life, she insisted on preparing one for Sarah Elizabeth each week and watching her eat it. This got to be a bit unsettling, so Sarah Elizabeth
packed up and moved on before too long.
Then there had been the power-lifter who drove her from Illinois to Michigan on his way to a meet. He was quite pleasant except for being a terrible mumbler. From what she could gather, despite being from Ohio he was a die-hard Michigan football fan, had received four concussions in his life and loved reality TV, never having missed an episode of Jersey Shore. Even more surprising was when he started singing along to the radio; he had the soulful voice of an angel. Sarah Elizabeth told him this, and blushing he revealed he had actually tried out for American Idol on several occasions, but each time he caught stage fright and ran from the stage. She had later discovered that he had gone on to win his power-lifting competition and used the prize money to produce his own reality TV show… which is actually doing quite well on the SLUETH channel.
Sarah Elizabeth even made it down to Hawaii for a year as the nanny for an Air Force family. Since both parents were officers in the Air Force, Sarah Elizabeth took care of their two children (not to mention their four cats and five dogs) while they were at work or deployed for short periods of time. Sarah Elizabeth learned how to surf, scuba dive and even went on a caged shark dive while living on the big island.
Eventually, Sarah Elizabeth caught a one way flight to Europe, by way of Frankfurt, Germany. Finding a job in the coffee shop at the airport, Sarah Elizabeth lived in Germany for four months before the cold got to her and she decided to move on to warmer climates. Traveling south, she arrived in Florence, Italy and immediately knew she had found her new home city. The people, culture and beauty of the city entranced her and she was quick to pick up a few key Italian phrases, one being, “Sto cercando un lavoro, sei assunzioni?” (I am looking for a job, are you hiring?). Hearing that a new water park was opening not far from the city, Sarah Elizabeth jumped on the next train and within two hours was hired as the new surf instructor for the surfing simluator ride. She couldn’t have been happier.
Coming to work on a dreary Saturday morning, Sarah Elizabeth was in a grumpy mood. Her coworker had called in sick at the last minute and she had been asked to cover his shift. Walking into the break room after changing into her uniform, Sarah Elizabeth was greeted with a loud “buon compleanno!” from eight of her coworkers and friends. “Had she really forgotten her own 21st birthday?” she wondered. She felt more like 41 than 21, unable to believe she had been away from home and on her own for just over four years. Sarah Elizabeth laughed and thanked everyone as she started to cut into the giant cannoli that served as her birthday cake.
Later that day, as she was wrapping up her shift, she noticed a new employee she hadn’t seen before. She and her coworkers had formed into a bit of a family, so any new comer was a treated with polite indifference until the group decided they were one of the gang… or that they had to go. “Hmm…wonder what his story is,” she thought to herself. Finding some of her fellow coworkers at their usual watering hole, the conversation immediately centered around the new guy. “I heard he’s lived on all seven continents,” one of them said. “Well, I heard he lost his finger when he was on top of one of the great pyramids of Giza,” said another. “I have it on good authority that he was eaten whole by a python and cut his way out of its stomach,” chimed in someone else. “I was told he was born in North Korea and could be a communist spy,” the tales were getting out of hand. Wanting to get in on the fun, Sarah Elizabeth said, “Oh yeah? Well I heard that he has eight middle names!”
“Actually, I only have three middle names, Michael Jacob Thomas. And I’ve only traveled to four continents, lived on two; I lost a tooth on top of the Eiffel Tower when I was nine, but still have all 10 fingers although my left arm was swallowed by a snake up to my armpit. I did not cut my way out of that but screamed like a little girl as a doctor sedated the snake and ripped him off my crushed and dislocated arm. I was born in Korea, but I’m afraid I have to disappoint again, as it was South Korea and as far as I know I only have slightly communistic tendencies,” the new comer smiled at the group who were by now, all hiding behind their beers.
Buying the next round to show there was no ill-will, Steven, as he introduced himself, laughed good-naturedly with the group and was soon accepted as part of the family. Sarah Elizabeth and Steven especially hit it off, swapping surfing stories and scars from surfing mishaps. He told her about his stint in Costa Rica, somewhere she had always wanted to surf and she told him about her experiences in Hawaii. Sarah Elizabeth had found what she had been looking for all those years ago when she left her father’s house- a sense of unique identity as part of a family who truly loved her.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Today was the orientation for the new students entering my program this year. To give you a general idea, the day mostly consists of the faculty and staff scaring the pants off of the newbies, as part of the whole “breaking them down to build them up” credo. While this can be great fun, my favorite part of the day is the “icebreaker” portion. Each year, a faculty member directs all the new students (and sometimes any faculty and/or staff lingering in the room) to think of two truths and one lie. The object of the game is for the group to guess which is the lie, and which are the truths. You learn a lot about people during this game. The story above includes some of the truths I heard today (those I can remember), and all of the text in bold are things that actually happened or are true about our newest bunch of students…scary.
On a side note, I was all geared up to play this year, but unfortunately we ran short on time so I didn’t get to share my one lie and two truths. But for funsies, I’ve included them below… can you guess which is the truth and which is the lie? (If the suspense is killing you, send me a comment and I’ll give you the answer…if I’m feeling particularly generous).
Love & Squirrels.