I have a lot of empathy for strange and confused children, having once been one myself. I don’t blame my parents for how I turned out, because they were normal as far as parents go. A parent can only do so much with what they’re given. I’m sure they tried their best.
The longer I live the harder it becomes to go WAY back to the beginning. What is a real memory, and what is a happy dream? I no longer know the answers.
1. My mother was exasperated with me because I wasn’t listening. I had been asked to do some simple thing and either didn’t get it, or pretended not to understand in a misguided attempt to get out of doing whatever it was I didn’t feel like doing. She repeated the instructions slowly and loudly so that I could finally get the idea “through my thick skull.” The part about the thick skull certainly sunk in. I worried for weeks that there must be something very seriously wrong with the bone structure of my head. I wondered why no one was doing anything about it.
2. My sister told an uncle that moon glue held the moon in place. Made perfect sense to me. Why did he think it was funny?
3. I also thought her question about grasshoppers deserved an explanation. If we had them all over the place, why didn’t we have alfalfa hoppers too?
4. More than once (in fact so many times I’m sure it gave him a headache) I told my dad I loved him “like an old old old old pig.” I don’t know if I’ve ever professed to love anyone as intensely since then.
5. I thought Lake Huron was there so we could wash our dirty feet.
6. At some point in the first three or four years of my life I learned that baby chicks hatched from chicken eggs. One could make this miracle happen by keeping the eggs warm. Eggs that were kept in the fridge were cold, ergo they would never hatch. Something needed to be done, so give me full marks for initiative, I did something. I rescued two future baby 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. How to deal with this traumatic situation? Obey and break an egg or crush a chick? Unthinkable! That’s the first time I remember my mother asking me ”What is wrong with you?” and not the only time I couldn’t come up with a good answer.
7. 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 dawned 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.
8. 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 on the roof of our shed once and …ooooops! let it go. For some reason or other Yortz never grew up. Scary to think that my sister and I both did, and eventually became real mothers. (Don’t fret, our kids are still alive.)
9. 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 don’t know if my aunt was insulted that I didn’t think she was important, but obviously she thought my believing in Santa was worth something. My parents were informed about my little test, and I got the doll. My faith in Santa’s existence was restored for another year.
10. I don’t think Red Riding Hood made it the full year to the next Christmas. I never really liked dolls much, except as proof that Santa was out there, because he brought me a new one every year. Once I had removed all Reds clothes and lost them and given her several hair cuts so that she was satisfactorily naked and bald and then covered her from head to toe in ball point pen tattoos, she had pretty much served her purpose. My mother threw her out. My brother still has a much beloved teddy bear. My sisters both kept cherished toys from their childhood. All I have is a wax apple that belonged to my grandmother with my teeth marks in it. You can’t even put ball point pen tattoos on that.
11. 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.
12. I liked to color! There is nothing wrong with blue faces that I can think of. Purple pumpkins. Polka dot cows.
13. I liked to play cards! But I was a terrible cheater.
14. I learned to play the piano. Loudly.
15. I loved to read, and to write my own stories and poems. Even though some of my work was the funniest stuff on earth, I was, more often than not, the only one who laughed.
16. 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 eye glasses and sporting matching handlebar mustaches – why didn’t the original author think of that?
17. Okay, I give up. Perhaps I was a little horror, at least part-time. 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 determine which one of us was better looking. She wasn’t allowed to leave until she decided it was me.
18. I told her she was adopted, and that our parents had her shipped over from China in a packing crate
19. It’s okay, I don’t think she believed it.
20. And I never gave her any ball point pen tattoos, I swear. If she did them to herself, that’s really not my fault.