Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

FOR MOST OF MY TEENAGE YEARS, I FELT LIKE AN ALIEN being who had been dropped from the sky into the middle of Brandon High School in central Florida.

Apparently I looked and acted reasonably normal on the outside, although I was voted “most intelligent” girl in my senior class, a fairly good geekiness gauge. I went through most of the motions: played flute and piccolo in the band, was pianist for the concert choir, became an exchange student to Peru. But I didn’t date. Mother didn’t approve, and I wasn’t thrilled about exposing some boy who might be interested in me to the seriously strange environment in our home.

No, we weren’t a cult or weird in that direction. It’s just that my Mother, the widow Jones, was cracking up in front of us kids, and it was much simpler to compartmentalize life — school in one box, home in another.

Sometime during those years, I began to think about how there must be other folks “out there” in the wider world that I could feel at home with, and find true community. I fancied myself as having keen powers of observation, possibly bordering on extrasensory perception. Occasionally I would see someone in a crowded room, a restaurant, or some other public place and would feel a thrill of “recognition.” These encounters always involved communication via eye contact, but never actual conversation.

At some point, I gave these people a name: The Starfish Group. In my scenario, The Starfish were people who had evolved further than most others on the planet. They had developed their five senses fully and also the so-called “sixth” sense of intuition and perception, including non-verbal distance communication. And, like starfish in the animal world, when injured, they could regenerate — this part I imagined to be emotional regeneration, not actual regrowth of a limb.

These whimsical creations were useful stratagems for a shy bookworm without parental back-up to use as a way of garnering strength. They helped me to develop a positive springboard from which to leap into life.

I have grown into a “trust, but verify” sort of an adult. An empiricist, mostly. But lately, given some of my experiences in this virtual world, I have begun to wonder if perhaps I wasn’t on the right track after all, way back then.


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