Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: FIRST APARTMENT

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.

Here are March's prompts: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

First Apartment

some Disney mementos
I've only ever lived in an apartment once, and it was only for one semester of college while I attended Walt Disney College Program in Orlando, Florida. It was my first time away from home, and shared a second-floor apartment with three other girls – Linda, Laurie and Lori. Laurie and Lori shared a room and bathroom, and so did Linda and me. Sometimes Linda would bring home her boyfriend Grant over to spend the night... in the twin bed not three feet from mine! For an introvert, it was pretty awful to have virtually no privacy.

Lori, Mickey, me (in
Easter dress my mom
made me, Laurie (front)
A couple of things stand out to me about the apartment experience: I learned the very first day how uncool I was in terms of clothing. These girls had “outfits” and I had shorts and a t-shirt. (I later borrowed clothes from them.) I also learned that it was unusual for a girl my age to include in the photo collage on her wall a picture of her little brother kissing her on the cheek. (They thought he was a boyfriend.) I understood pretty quickly how the rest of the world must see my odd family, and it was hard – especially when I was so lonely for all of them! I learned so so much about myself and my family.

Other memories include shopping at Publix for the only staples I could afford: Kraft macaroni and cheese (the blue box) and peanut butter (crunchy) and apple jelly, for the many sandwiches I ate. (The College Program deducted our rent from our paychecks, and let me tell you, there wasn't a lot left!)

Is there life after Disney World?
I'd also left a boyfriend behind (we'd both interviewed for Disney, but I was the only one to get in), and during my stay at Disney, we were struggling – we didn't know whether to work harder for our relationship, or to let it go. (I met someone in Orlando and was having my own adventures...) Some nights I would use the apartment phone (located in the kitchen) and stretch the curly cord all the way down the hall and hide in my room (whenever Linda wasn't home) with the door partially closed in order to have a semi-private conversation with that boy. (We broke up for good shortly after my return to Birmingham, and he later did a few semesters with the Walt Disney College Program without me.)

For half a minute I thought about staying at Disney and transferring to University of Central Florida, but it just didn't make sense. At UAB, I could commute from my family's home. Instead I came home with a new bumper sticker: “Is there life after Disney World?”

Turns out the answer to that question is YES. Yes there is! Four months after returning home I met Paul... next month we will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary!


  1. Such a challenging and awkward time, moving into the world from the safety of our families. This introvert winced at your description of your lack of privacy!
    Glad you met Paul after your Disney semester! Ben and I are chugging along behind you (27 years next month) :-)

  2. Oh, my we have any idea how unformed and raw we are at that age? Your mined memory pokes at mine. Oh, I had no idea how different my family was from the rest of the world. I had so much to discover. Many congratulations on your celebration with Paul. I'm so glad you found someone to grow with. This is a lovely memoir piece, Irene. Thanks for sharing it!


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