Back To School Bonanza Guest Post #5: Kris

We are past the halfway mark of guest posters for my Back to School Bonanza!  There is no better blogger to bring us over the halfway hump than Kris from Pretty All True. Kris has a way with words that I have found unparalled in the blogging world.  She can paint any picture in the world using nothing but the black and white of the screen.  just letters and characters.  and all of a sudden you find yourself in her world.  Feeling emotions you didn’t know you had.

Kris does something with words that I have come to call exploding a moment because she can take one small crumb from the back of her memory and make it erupt into color and sparkle all over your computer screen.

Plus also? Kris teams up with Adrienne to kick my butt in gear when I am feeling sorry for myself.  They legitimately build me up when I need it, but they can spot a whiner and they NEVER let me get away with it. 

I highly recommend her blog, Pretty All True, not just for the content, but the commenters are always lively too!  You canNOT be let down by Kris.  Unless swearing and a wee bit of sex turns you off.  She MAY get saucy from time to time regularly.

Anyway, I will stop blabbering about Kris and let you read her lovely post.  Oh, and you can follow her on twitter.  She stops by there from time to time regularly.


Fighting for Place

In the years before I entered 3rd grade, I attended many schools.  Seven, maybe?  Eight?
We moved a lot.
And so, on the first day of the school year?  As I walked down the aisles of my new elementary school for the very first time?  I had no real sense of this being a permanent place for me.  It was just where I would spend my days until the next time for packing and moving arrived.
Always sooner rather than later, and always unexpectedly, that moment seemed to arrive.
It was better not to forge connections, as the inevitable breaking?  Would be painful.
And so I tried to step lightly in my new temporary place.  To leave no footprints.  None to mark where I had been and none for anyone to follow.  I was here, as I always was . . . alone.  Better that way.  Safer.
And so . . . when we were released for recess, I made myself as small and invisible as possible and moved silently through the colorful noisy crowds.  Past the children, past the play equipment, past the four-square markings on the concrete.  Through the grass . . . to a tree.
An enormous elm tree.
All alone.
Like me.
At the base of this enormous elm?  A huge gnarled system of roots surrounded and encircled the trunk, reaching out and into the air before plunging down into the earth.  There were spaces and gaps through which hands could be reached, where earth should have been but was missing.
My impression was of some giant force, some huge clenching unseen hands, reaching down from the sky to pluck this tree from the earth.  But the tree?  Had fought back.  Had clutched and stretched for a better grip, had clawed its way deeper into the earth below.  Had resisted the pull from above.  Had triumphed.
This tree had fought to be here, in my imagination.
And so the roots were not quite where they were supposed to be.  Not buried, but exposed.  Evidence of the battle that had been waged for a place in this world.
A permanent place.
I walked the rooted circle around the tree, delighted to find that my feet needed never to touch the ground.  My thin-soled shoes curved around the roots as I felt for steady purchase, one step at a time.  No one paid any attention to me, and I felt?  Magical and other-worldly.
And yet rooted.
I walked around and around and around . . . a whole imagined history of frenzied struggling grasping for stability below me.
And then the bell rang.
That first day of 3rd grade.
At my new school.
And I went in and took my seat in my brand new class.  Sat in a room of strangers.  Sat quietly and tried to gauge my place.  My temporary place in this world.
Marveled at and was caught up in the unimaginable blue eyes of the teacher, who smiled kindly in my direction.
Fell in love and then squeezed my eyes shut against that love.
Remembered the pain of other connections broken.
Took out my pencil and set to work.  Preparing myself here for whatever was to come next.  In the next place.
Looked up again into sparkling friendly blue eyes.  Thought back to the Elm that had fought and triumphed for permanence, for place.
Gave of myself just a little.  Opened a bit.  Maybe this would be the place.
The permanent place.
I ended up staying for eight years.
And for eight years?
I struggled to put down roots.  Like that tree, that lovely Elm around which I would dance alone for countless recesses over the years.  I struggled to force my roots down into the ground, to grab and hold and triumph.
But it was not to be.
I was at that school for eight years, but unseen hands?
Just outside the breadth of this story?
Reached down repeatedly to rip me from my place.
And I proved?
To be vulnerable and unable to maintain my grip.
On my place in this world.
So many years of my life spent rootless.
But on that first day of 3rd grade?
At my new school?
As I navigated my way round that magic tree?
For a moment?
In that new beginning?
All seemed possible.
About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Molly @ Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce says

    As always, your words are magic. I love the image of the tree. Wow. With that imagination, you were clearly destined to be a writer way back then.

    I'm sharing this on Facebook.

  2. that's gorgeous! we moved a lot when I was a kid, too…and the most I can remember is getting welfare milk and free lunch – nothing as poetic as your memories…

  3. I think that again you took the words from my heart and put them in this place in a way that I can never do. I envy your gift.

    I lost count long ago of how many schools that I attended. Books were my tree of choice.


  4. WTH am I Doing? says

    I never moved that much – until I was an adult – but I was always terrified of change. I never saw new beginnings. I saw the old & familiar blankie of routine as being yanked away from me whenever I was forced to change. Mind you, I was still inept at making friends, even tho I was in the same place.

    I love how you can describe things like this so eloquently. I am constantly amazed. 🙂

  5. Grace @ Arms Wide Open says

    lovely kris. as always, i am right there with you, i can see your face & the scene around you…in my mind's eye.

  6. Did teachers ever intervene and try to pull you in…try to get you to interact and trust others? Reading about you being so young and having so many walls built up around you, protecting you, just blows my mind.

  7. beautiful

  8. What a powerful memory! It means a lot to me, since I work with elementary students who are at-risk for school adjustment issues…moving a lot, illness, divorcing parents, foster care, death of someone close, etc….this really touched my heart.

    I am a new subscriber to your blog, glad I found you!

  9. moveovermarypoppins says

    I knew such a tree.

    Different totemic meaning.

    But definitely such a tree.

  10. This, right here? This is the connection between us – this aloneness, this separateness. I went to the same elementary school from the middle of kindergarten through 5th grade; one middle school; one high school. But still, I was alone. Girl in a bubble, unless the other kids were being mean.

  11. Your talent knows no bounds, my friend.
    This piece is lovely and haunting.
    Love you…love your beautiful writing.

  12. Lovely to come here and find you – twice in one day, what a treat!. As always your words are beautiful, powerful, truth telling, generous. You give so much of yourself to your words, through your words. And yes, I know that so much is also held back. A delicate balancing act, this ripping open of ourselves to spill out onto the page: just enough blood, guts, brains, spleen, funny bone to connect, to reveal, to make art; but not too much. To do all that and yet hold back enough inside to keep us vital, still. And you walk that fine line so well, my friend. Thank you for being you.

  13. Kris, your story is beautiful and sad at the same time. That's why I love reading you…you evoke all kinds of emotions.

  14. I've read this over & over; it's heartbreakingly beautiful and the emotion is so vividly stark. The beauty of your words stops my breath; you bring to mind the lovely wee violets that force their way up thru the cracked asphalt in abandoned parking lots, pushing up with unrelenting resilience, determined to feel the warmth of the Sun and the cool rain. Fragile appearance belying the strength that lives inside. Were you aware of how unique the spirit of your young self was? Your writing ability is a gift, of this there is no doubt & as you say, the woman you are today was forged from the girl you were then and from all that happened later. I only wish that things hadn't been so hard for that imaginative little girl and that there'd been more magic in her young life. I also love her, and you.

  15. As always, I love you Kris. I can see this little girl with disheveled third grader hair dancing around the base of this tree. In her world, part of and yet not a part of the rest of the world.

  16. You know what it is about Kris? She sums up and gathers the thoughts I have that won't stop swirling in the background.

    She can do that.

    She brings up shit, yes, but she also places it in a box so I can see oh where that belongs now OK.

    Like this? I never remembered how often we moved and how often I was the new kid until this post. How did I forget that?

    I just did.

  17. Left of Lost says


  18. I had to go away from this one for a day.
    I didn't move a lot. I changed schools once. It didn't matter. I wasn't part of them. Either of them. I think I was a senior in high school before I realized I wasn't invisble. Though I tried very hard to be.

    I wish I had met that tree. At least I'd have a memory.

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