Up until I was 10, I lived in the white house with green posts in the front, with the white picket fence and palm trees towering over the front yard. It was on Ellen Street in Garden Grove, and I will never forget it; it will always be home to me. When I was around 4 years old, I remember a specific game that I would play in the front yard in the summers with my mom and my two dogs that I had at the time. My mom and I would sit on a blue Disney sheet, which we still have, and my dogs were wild animals that we observed as I led a tour through the wild as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise. My dogs, Darla and Raider, were anything from tigers, to lions, to bears, and as I made the trying route through the imaginary jungle, they were different animals each time we passed them. My mom would go along with my game and get me so immersed in my little world of magic and fun that I would lose myself in that yard, and make memories that I never want to forget. I have moved, both dogs have passed away, and the sheet has gotten more and more ripped up over the years, but every time I see it, I am brought back to that yard, that day, that moment that will always hold a special place in my heart.
I will never forget those 2 days; possibly the worst days of my life, just a few years apart. They meant everything to me, and now they’re gone, and I will never get them back. Having to accept that I will never come home again to 2 dogs running towards me with wagging tails, so excited to see me was so hard, especially since I was so young. Raider, my Siberian Husky, passed on Christmas Day 2012. He was sick so we had sent him to a pet hospital so they could keep an eye on him, and he died there the next day. My parents waited to tell me until after I had opened my presents on Christmas morning, and I burst into tears. I used to lay on his stomach and fall asleep there, and he wouldn’t move until I woke up. He was so gentle with me, even though I was 6 and half his size. It never occurred to me until I was older that he spent his last moments in a cold, dark cage, away from his family and having to listen to other dogs barking all around him. I wish I could have hugged him one more time, but back then I still had Darla to get me through. Then 2015 came around, and being in that room scarred me. Her kidneys had failed, and we had to put her down. Darla laid on my lap as I sat on the floor petting her, sobbing. I remember saying “I’ve had so many great memories with her. I don’t want this to be the last one”, but for some reason God wouldn’t listen. She never laid on me, but I think she knew it was her time too. As the I.V. went in, and I knew my best friend was slipping away, she closed her eyes and took one last breath. Then I felt her heart stop, sitting there on the cold vet room floor, and it felt unreal. Not her. This could never happen. But as they eventually took her away, I realized that I would never see her big brown eyes again, and those floppy ears would be gone forever. I walked in with my best friend, and I walked out with a purple collar in my hand. I wore it like a bracelet the next day to keep her close.
In that same front yard, I had 2 huge palm trees. They would be soccer goal posts for fierce games against my dad with my dog as the goalie, or they were posts to hide behind in rounds of tag. But one of the more memorable things I would do with them is tie a rope between them and try to walk across it like a tightrope. This usually ended in me falling off and getting hurt in some way, but I was so committed to pleasing my fans, which were usually my mom and dogs, that I would put on my best show to please them. I was only a few feet off the ground, and it only lasted for a few seconds, but I felt like I was flying and I loved the feeling of performing for people. I think this is when I started getting my urge to start dancing, because I loved the creative side and freedom that it gave me. Looking back, that neon yellow rope tied between those two tall trees gave me much more than I knew at the time.
I went to my first dance class when I was 3, and it was a “Mommy and Me” class at the Fountain Valley Recreation Center. I was a tiny ballerina and I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I loved it. I stayed there for about a year, until they ended the classes, and I didn’t dance again until I was 7. I was in third grade and I started out just taking jazz, which I remember being really fun. I wasn’t flexible or strong, but I loved it so much that I was willing to put in the work to get better. I started adding classes in different styles of dance, and out of all of them hip hop and tap were definitely my favorite. Ballet was nice, but the power and strength you feel when you’re doing a hip hop routine is unlike anything I have ever felt before. By the time I was in middle school I was in ballet, hip hop, tap, jazz, contemporary, pointe, and 2 competition teams. I was so busy with dance and Honors classes, but I loved it all so much I didn’t care. Dancing was where I felt free, and when I felt like I could do anything. I never wanted to give it up.
And then I had to. This was at the beginning of my dancing journey, when I was almost 9. It was a very long time ago, but I remember it so well. I was in rehearsal for our annual June show, and as I was landing from a leap, I felt something terribly wrong happen to my right foot. I tried to keep going through the dance, but as I tried to continue doing the turns and jumps I was almost in tears. I remember no one took it seriously. Thinking “oh she’s just over reacting, or being dramatic”, which I understand, because I was only 8. But when my mom saw me walk over to the other room limping with that look on my face, she knew something was wrong too because I would never bring attention to myself over nothing. She ended up having to carry me to the car, and I had to sit on the couch for 3 days before I could finally get in to see the doctor. It was true, I had a fractured foot, and I had a boot and crutches. I spent my 9th birthday on crutches, and I remember how much I hated having to sit out and watch. I eventually got to go back, and actually ended up getting to be in the show, but my foot still cracks if I do something wrong, which always brings me back to that scary time in Ms. Autumn’s ballet class.
I had been dreaming about this since I was in 5th grade. All of the training and stress that I had been through had led up to this moment, I was so sad it had to be over Zoom. It was finally my time to give it all I had, and I was so scared I thought I was going to collapse trying to record my video. The Fountain Valley Dance Team was always this far away thing that I knew I had to somehow be a part of, but now I had to prove that 1 had what it took. The seniors were amazing, and I knew I had no shot against them. Come on, you can do this. I was shaking trying to learn the combo that I would have a week to get right. I practiced every single day, and when I wasn’t dancing I was listening to the music. I have to do this. What if I’m not good enough. I have to make it right? Then Friday came, and it was time for me to send in my video. I did it so many times, I was so tired, but I knew I had to get it just right before I sent it in. Those days after were the hardest and most stressful I have ever been through. I checked my phone every 10 minutes, even though I knew they would tell us when the rosters came out anyway. I was at my birthday dinner with my friends in my backyard when it finally came through and I thought it was too good to be true. There was no way. I almost started crying tears of joy as I read it out loud to everyone “Brooke S. – Varsity Hip Hop”.
But that wasn’t the only thing that had to be moved to Zoom. March 13, 2020; I will remember that day for the rest of my life. I remember I was wearing that hoodie, and it was cold outside, with the grounds wet from the rain. I was in my 6th period class with my favorite teacher. He was always so fun and energetic, but today he was very serious which scared me. I had heard of Covid-19 before, but it was this distant thing that was all the way across the world, there was no way it was coming to California. Not into my school; not into my life. As we listened to my teacher talk about this disease that was killing so many people, and infecting even more, I remember I was almost crying in the back of the class. There was no way this was happening, but none of my classmates were taking him seriously, so why should I? After the bell rang to leave for the day I remember going up to one of my friends and hugging her “just in case we don’t see each other for a while”. She said that was ridiculous, and we would be back on Monday, but we never went back. I will never attend that school again, and I never even got to say goodbye. I remember looking for my best friend, but just brushing it off and leaving. I would see her on Monday, or maybe in 2 weeks, if they actually do close. She moved away, and I haven’t seen her in 2 years. I will never forgive myself for that.
Quarantine was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. Having to deal with the uncertainty of when you can see your friends and family, and accept the fact that you have to do school from your bedroom took a huge toll on me. My friends were my whole life, and my family was my heart. Now they were gone. I remember crying almost every day in the beginning, and having no motivation to do anything. I blamed myself for taking all of the little things for granted, and kicked myself for all of the bad things I said to people that I didn’t know when I would see again. I remember counting down the minutes until I could leave that classroom, or that dance practice, because I’d rather be at home. Now that was gone. School was my place to laugh and be myself and be with my friends, and now I only got to see their name on a computer screen. I wished I had told them how much they meant to me. I wished I had made even more of an effort to hang out with them, and be a better person for them. I remember hating my teachers sometimes, or being so excited to leave their class. Now I would do anything to get back there again. But now they were gone. And I would never get them back.
Goodbye white house with the green posts, and the huge palm trees. Goodbye door that never closed correctly, and the closet I would play hide-and-seek in. Goodbye lavender walls that used to be covered with princess stickers, and goodbye the closet that I was scared I would accidentally get locked in. Goodbye to the gate on the picket fence outside that I could never figure out. Goodbye to my childhood home, goodbye to all of the memories. We bought a new house closer to school, and I was forced to make it my home. I liked the house, I really did, but at night when I would think about all of the things that did happen, and would have happened in that house I felt that emptiness come back. Just because it was closer to school and work. Just because it would make things ‘easier’. Goodbye Ellen Street. I guess this is my new home now.
A new grade, a new school, a new start. This was my first year of real high school, and I was so excited-probably the last time I’ll be excited to go to school again. I saw people I had never seen before, and realized that there were so many of them, much bigger than a Zoom meeting. Seeing all of my friends in person together made it all worth it though, and getting to talk and laugh in classes and at lunch with them made me remember why I loved them so much. THIS was school. Not the depressing black screen with awkward breakout rooms and learning at home. It had been a year and a half but it felt like it had been forever. This was the beginning of my real high school experience, and even though I only would get 3 real years, I would make them the best ever-I had to. It felt like a dream as the bell rang and I made my way to the class in the very corner of the school, but as soon as I walked in the door I woke up. It was finally my time, and I was going to enjoy every moment. I was going to laugh a little harder, hug people a little longer, and listen a little more because I had learned that life can all change in an instant. This was is it. Sophomore year.