my childhood is split into memories of many places
early: South Carolina
wrapped in memories of the ocean
trees and hills
playing in the red clay with lizards and toads
Baha’i Feast with just two families (homefront pioneers)
wrapped in Persian rugs
“Mommy, look, we did our makeup!”
Black and white and color was not something I knew
Billy Joe fell in love with me in kindergarten. He was a small, skinny boy with a mullet, and I was a fastiduous little girl with dark brown hair and big eyes. He said that he and his brother lived in a tree house. He always had fantastic stories, but I did not like him back. He insisted that we should get married. I told him that we should bury the symbol of his love at the base of the pine tree on the playground so that no one would know. (I still feel a little bad about that.)
There was a girl in my class with long nails, painted red. I did not know of any other first-grader who had such long nails. And she chewed on them ferociously, the paint flaking off and so the nail color was never unbroken and complete.
Theresa had a wonderful back yard. There was a seesaw, a forest, and best of all, a rope swing hidden in the trees. We spent hours balanced on the board, pushing each other, telling stories and whispering of the future.
My sister and I had our own language. We made up names for the parts of the “forest” (our back yard). There was the “Haunted” section, which is where squirrels went to die. We found out later that the neighbor was poisoning them. There was the Toad Cemetery, where toads were buried in the jewelry boxes that my mother donated to our cause. And then we had our House, which was only created when we took sheets or pieces of cloth to the saplings there and draped them, making a secret fort in the leaves.
When I would get angry, my small legs would carry me to my swingset, where I would fly in the air until slowed by gravity, and incrementally come to a stop. I needed to be alone for a few moments.
My sister and I caught toads for our birthday party. Ten little girls in party dresses ran screaming when we proudly pulled them out for display. I remember my father and uncle bent over double, laughing uncontrollably. That may have been when I decided that boys were more fun to play with than girls.
Fire ants. As a barefoot child, fire ants are the bane of any intrepid little explorer, and I don’t remember how many times I ran screaming to my parents. They had an impressive collection of first aid gear, with good reason.
I stepped on nails, fell from trees, fell everywhere, bruises and cuts a constant companion. Sliced open my forehead on a kitchen cabinet. I can’t forget the terror in my mother’s eyes as she placed me on the bathroom counter and held a towel to my head while she called my father.
More pages will be devoted to other places, soon.