Scenes From My Childhood (Part One)
I have sincere empathy for strange and confused children, having once been one myself. I don’t blame my parents for how I turned out, they seemed pretty normal at the time, and you can only do so much with what you’re given. They did their best. My mother once told me to please get some idea or other “through my thick skull” and I worried for weeks that there must be something very seriously wrong with the bone structure of my head. My sister told me that moon glue held the moon in place and I believed. Neither of us could understand why, if we had grass hoppers, we didn’t also have alfalfa hoppers. I (more than once) told my dad I loved him like an old old old old pig. I thought Lake Huron was there so that you could wash your dirty feet.
At some point in the first three or four years of my life I over-heard someone say that baby chicks hatched from chicken eggs. You could make this miracle happen by keeping the eggs warm. Eggs that were kept in the fridge were cold – they would never hatch. Something needed to be done, so give me full marks for initiative, I did something. I rescued two future chicks from the cold and searched the house for a suitable warm place for them to hatch. What could be warmer than a child’s snow boot? Mission accomplished, I promptly forgot all about them. Until some time later when my mother told me to put my boots on and I started screaming. Fear of the unknown, I guess – would my foot break an egg or crush a chick? That’s the first time I remember my mother asking me the question “What is wrong with you?” and not by any stretch of the imagination the last time that I couldn’t come up with a good answer.
I once took a roll of hundred dollar bills off my dad’s dresser. I had never seen so much money before in my life, and to make sure no thieves would take it, I put it in a safe place; under my pillow. I was oblivious to the frantic search for it later until dad asked me if I had seen it. (Yep.) Where? (It was on your dresser….don’t you remember where you left it?) Do you know what happened to it? (I hid it.) Where? WHY? (I put it under my pillow so no one would take it…..) Slowly it began to dawn on me that “someone taking it” had already happened. He made me promise to let him in on any future plans I might come up with in regards to protecting our valuables from robbers.
I never had an imaginary friend, but my sister and I had an imaginary baby. His name was Yortz. We had an old beat up stroller and we used to take him for wild rides. Poor Yortz. The stroller hit boulders. It smashed into trees. It toppled over in the soft dirt in the garden, and it went flying down the embankment into our pond. We took it up onto the roof of our shed once and …ooooops! let it go. For some reason or other Yortz never grew up. Scarey to think that my sister and I both did, and eventually became real mothers.
One Christmas I decided to find out once and for all if there really was a Santa Claus. So I told only my aunt, no one else, that I was doing an experiment. I was secretly asking Santa for a Red Riding Hood doll, and if I got it, without telling anyone important that I wanted it, I would know that Santa was real (and that you could send him messages by mental telepathy I guess). I don’t know if my aunt was insulted that I didn’t think she was important, but obviously she thought my faith in Santa was worth something. My parents were informed about my little test, and I got the doll. Too bad for Red Riding Hood. I never really liked dolls much. Once I had removed all her clothes and lost them, and given her several hair cuts so that she was satisfactorily naked and bald, she had pretty much served her purpose. Oh, well, not quite. I also gave her a few ball point pen tattoos. My mother threw her out. My brother still has a beloved teddy bear. My sisters both have cherished toys from their childhood. All I have is a wax apple that belonged to my grandmother with my teeth marks in it.
Hmm. I think I need a story here to prove I was a little girl who did little girl things. I loved playing with paper dolls! I designed horrific outfits for them. I liked to color! There is nothing wrong with blue faces that I can think of. Purple pumpkins. Polka dot cows. I liked to play cards! But I was a terrible cheater. I learned to play the piano. Loudly. I loved to read, and to write my own stories and poems. I liked to make the books I owned better, by adding comments in the margins, or subtle alterations to the pictures. A few bubbles here and there with extra witty dialogue. And seriously, everyone in a story-book should be wearing large round glasses and sporting matching handlebar mustaches – why didn’t the original author think of that?
Okay, I give up. I was a little horror. The sister nearest to me in age was (and is) quite beautiful. As a child she had gorgeous dark brown eyes, blonde ringlets and a Shirley Temple smile. My hair was dark and poker straight and my face was covered in freckles. I used to make her stand in front of mirrors with me so that we could decide which one of us was better looking. She wasn’t allowed to leave until she decided it was me. I told her she was adopted, and that our parents had had her shipped over from China. I told her our dog had rabies and that if she touched him she would probably die. I told her wild animals climbed up on the roof outside our bedroom window and looked in at us hungrily while we slept. My parents taught her to say to me “That’s an outrageous lie” whenever something I said upset her. Well, they all needed to get a sense of humor, didn’t they?
Stay tuned for Part Two.