The way it worked is that for every four years on the mission field, my family had to go back to the States for one full year. (There were a few reasons for this but the main one is that my parents needed to reconnect with our sending churches and individuals who supported us financially.)
The only thing that mattered to me as we prepared for our year back in California was that I was going to be in sixth grade. AND! I was going back to the school I had attended for kindergarten and first grade. A lovely Christian school.
And I was going to see all of my friends!
In my innocent mind, we would all pick up where we left off.
But that didn't happen. In fact, my "friends" had all moved on to much more grown-up things. They didn't want to play on the playground or jump rope like I had been used to doing with my French friends. Nope. My friends... who were GIRLS... just wanted to play soccer and talk to boys.
They didn't care that I had been gone for four years. They called me "Frenchie". They didn't really want anything to do with me unless they wanted someone to tease.
I was ostracized. I was confused. I clearly didn't belong here anymore.
I couldn't understand why I did not fit in at home anymore.
And the more the year progressed, the more I began to understand that my life was changed forever and I would never be able to go back "home" again. Yes, I understand that sounds quite dramatic, but it was the truth. A hard truth to swallow.
I knew that when we went back to France after the California year was up, we'd be going to a different region. I'd go to a different school and have to make different friends. I wasn't going "home".
So there it was, my awful truth: California wasn't my home. France wasn't my home.
Where is my home?
It's a question that all missionary kids struggle with (and I can imagine military kids do too!). It's the question that has tortured me and defined me for more than a decade.
Having to even ask and deal with that question..... started as a shock, then turned into bitter acceptance, then turned into a matter of pride, and then (I'm sad to admit) even arrogance.
But that's a post for a different time. Today I just wanted to share with you my pivotal sixth grade year!