Down Memory Lane - Fast changes while in Germany

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I had never been on a plane before. I was anxious. Not for fear of flying, but about what I would do to keep busy in cramped quarters for 14 hours. My eyes focused on my worn sandals. I stared at them with what I knew was an empty look, but all around me I processed the sounds. The chatter, the laughter, the squeaking wheels of luggage being pulled past.

“Dude, you like, should totally do it dude,” Sandy was saying, “Dude, I dare you!”
“I’m not gonna moon somebody in the flippin’ airport,” Emily replied.
“But dude! It would so awesome!” Sandy retorted.

Sandy always used Dude, way too much.

“Hey, you want some of my Cinnabon?” Gail said to Lane. I saw the feet of the two girls sitting across the way from me. Gail had on dirty pink beach thongs and Lane had slipped her sandals off, preferring instead to sit wiggling her big toe as she sat. I wondered if she always did this. I heard the scraping of a plastic fork and knew that Lane was cutting into the cinnamon roll. With Gails fork. Taking a bite. With Gails fork. I couldn’t believe unrelated people would share germs like that.

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Not four hours into the flight I was already severely annoyed by my classmates. The constant giggling and “Dudes” were taking their toll. I was trying to enjoy my book. Couldn’t they see that? Couldn’t they be a little more respectful? As I sat there fuming over their immature behavior I began to feel very uncomfortable. Had I spilled some water in my lap? I excused myself to the lavatory to discover that at age 14 and on my first flight, I had become more than a girl.

As I walked off of that plane, my underwear stuffed with toilet paper I prayed no one would notice and I thought kinder thoughts, perhaps in the hope that Karma wouldn’t come and reveal my plight. A brief layover offered enough time to grab some liners and then it was back onto the plane.

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I had underestimated the amount of liners I would need for the duration of the flight and I walked into the airport at a semi-waddle, stuffed again with toilet paper. I tried to put on my best face for the host family who held a sign with my name scrawled on it. They each greeted me with an uncomfortable amount of hugging and kissing and I returned the favor holding back tears, though not of joy. Rieke was especially excited to see me since she had stayed with my family as an exchange student the previous summer.

“Wie gehts Summer?” She asked cheerily
“Ich bin gut,” I lied.

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I was mortified as Rieke held up the liner and asked me if it was mine. I had replaced it with a new one and accidentally left it on the bathroom windowsill. I blubbered that it was mine and that I forgot it and that I was new to all of it and that I was so sorry. Rieke hugged me and told me it was alright, and for the first time since leaving for the trip I relaxed. I had not anticipated her caring, understanding reaction. It meant so much to me, I decided I needed to be more kind and understanding.

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I wiped the sweat from my forehead and trudged slowly up the hill.
“Summer, wait up!” Penny called.
I slowed my pace so Penny could catch up and she fell into step with me.
“Are you sure you know how to get back to Katarina’s house?” I questioned.
“Pretty sure,” Penny said.
 I raised my eyebrow at her.
“I sure could use a drink. Why didn’t I think to bring water?” I wondered out loud.
We turned a corner and as if in answer to my thirst, we suddenly saw it . A big black vending machine situated next to a lone bench, in what seemed the most isolated and strangest of places. We walked up to it eagerly, hoping for a bottle of cool normal water.
“Dang, only Mineral Wasser of course!” I said.
“Oh look,” Penny said excitedly, “Coke!”
We both stared with parched lips at the button with the bright red emblem of familiarity and started rummaging through our pockets.
“I only have a couple D-Marks,” I said sadly.
“Well, I have enough for one bottle,” Penny replied.
Penny inserted the marks and pulled the can out. She popped the metal fastener off and inhaled the sweet mist. Then she put her lips to the rim, tilted her head back and took a good long guzzle. She handed the can over to me and I didn’t hesitate to finish it off.

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I reclined my chair and closed my eyes as I absorbed the music. Someone lifted the ear phone off of my left ear and asked, “Hey Summer, are you ever gonna give my walkman back?”
I chuckled and took off the headphones.
“Thanks Emily. I really like the Goo Goo Dolls.”
“I never figured you as the type that would,” she replied.
“Neither did I,” I said.

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My mom hugged me tightly as soon as she could reach me. My bright blue sunglasses were perched lightly atop my sun drenched hair.
“I can’t wait to hear about and see pictures of all the places you went!” she said excitedly.
“We’ll have to get the film developed first,” I said, ” Oh, mom, wait.”
I jogged toward Sandy and her family.
“Dude, you almost forgot this,” I said, handing her a souvenir shot glass she had let me look at while on the plane.
I jogged back over to my mom and we walked arm in arm toward the parking garage.
“You know,” she commented, “I think you’ve changed a bit over this last month.”
“I have,” I replied smiling.