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The Point of Know Return

Years before alone became my default setting, I was born a relatively normal child. In a hurry to get going, I arrived early, and I’ve been in a hurry ever since.


I was born the Sunday before Thanksgiving, 1974. I like to tell people that I heard food was going to be served and I didn’t want to miss it. There’s a picture from that first Thanksgiving—my family gathered in my grandparents’ dining room, the wall mural that always fascinated me behind them on the left. Everyone was gathered around my mother in the middle holding me, a tiny bundle in a red onesie. Everyone was bellbottoms and sideburns. You can practically smell the incense and turkey dinner.


Those were the good days, before everything became dismantled and destroyed. Happy times at Grandma and Grandpa’s. The only home I’ve ever known. I go back there sometimes in my dreams. To afternoons spent in the back room, playing on the floor with my toys as the sunlight streamed in through the windows. The rough carpet would scratch against my legs as I used the carpet pattern as a railroad track. Playing with Uncle Dean, who at the time was my best friend. Saturday mornings I would wake up to Grandma making pancakes because she knew they were my favorite. Spending time in the yard while Grandma lovingly watered and trimmed her garden—camelias, bursting with vibrant pink flowers.


My first memories are of Grandma, the one person I always knew loved me. I close my eyes and I’m transported back in time.

 

The sun is so bright everything looks faded, like an old picture. It’s a warm afternoon and I’m in my wading pool on the back patio of our condo while Mom tends to her garden.

 

I’m eating Planter’s cheese balls out of the can and wearing one of those ridiculous ruffled bonnets Mom insists on making me wear. The air smells like warm earth and flowers. Grandma has come to visit. Leaning over the wading pool she casts a shadow over me as she speaks to me sweetly.


girl in wading pool

I felt safe in that moment. Happy. It was 1977-ish, and I believe this is my first memory. I was around two, maybe two and a half years old. This is where the story of me becoming me begins. I had not only become self-aware, but fully self-conscious, cognizant of the world around me and of myself as a separate, thinking, existing entity from the people around me. It wasn’t long before I began contemplating my existence and trying to figure out why the world around me worked the way it did. One morning, eating breakfast in the back room at Grandma’s where I liked to play, I found myself pondering why Grandma let me have Cookie Crisp cereal for breakfast but not chocolate chip cookies. They’re the same thing! Doesn’t she realize?! Why is it like this? It doesn’t make any sense!!

 

And perhaps therein lies the problem. It’s one thing to be an adult questioning why the world works the way it does and why people do the things they do, but it’s entirely different for a child under age five to be doing such things. What causes this type of thinking in a young child? I can only speculate. Perhaps I was not in fact born a “relatively normal child.”



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