when we were wee - sunday scribblings
And then later when you wanted to walk me to school on my first day of kindergarten. Gawd! So embarrassing. Here it was, my first day of big girl school. I knew where it was. I knew how to get there. Why were you insisting on treating me like a baby? Then when we got there, Victor from next door was wrapped around his mommy's legs, crying hard and refusing to let go. I pondered the notion of not wanting to leave one's mommy, and determined I must just have been different from other kids. But as I watched them on the sidewalk I couldn't shake the feeling that maybe I was missing out on something.
The next year when I went to visit the new prospective friend who also had the lunch box with the pretty lady in the fluffy pink and white fancy dress, we didn't end up having much to talk about. Her house smelled like cooking, a lot. When it was time to go wait for you to get me, I helped myself to a lime sour ball from the bowl in the hallway I had noticed on the way in. In some dark moment that felt wrong, like it was not supposed to happen, the candy was suddenly blocking my throat. My eyes got very wide and I waved my hands at my quiet new friend. She ran to get her mommy, who came storming in with her apron on looking like a lunch lady and saying interesting-sounding words I didn't understand. She smacked me on the back really hard and my lime ball popped out onto the floor. Guess I wouldn't be finishing it. It was really nice to be breathing again. The other mommy was yelling now in her mysterious language. Her face was red and sort of wet as she bent over me, took my face in her hand, turned my head from side to side. It seemed like maybe she was telling me not to do that again, but she seemed scared. This yelling was different from yours. I understood that this mommy wanted me to be okay. I wanted to take my coat off and stay there, have a bit of whatever was cooking. But there you were, and the car was running.
I wanted my second grade teacher to be my mother, too, even though her voice was so loud and flat. She let me play the piano after school. She told me I was a good singer. She didn't give me extra attention in front of the other kids, but I knew she secretly thought I was special. There was also a lunch lady, whose house I visited once uninvited on my way home from school. She had always seemed happy to see me. She gave me an extra cookie sometimes. She wasn't as nice when I knocked on her door, though. She seemed a little confused. And I did know better. I was a big girl. Taller than my gym teacher (but she was REALLY short). And anyway, all that stuff about wanting a nice mommy was babyish. It was like playing at pretending to be little, except even that game was too babyish for me.
And anyway, I only wanted to be left alone. Isn't that what I always yelled back at you? Why can't you just leave me alone?
The first time I rode my bike far away from the house, it was thrilling at first - an adventure. I could go anywhere. But then I started to feel a little sad, because no one knew where I was, and no one had told me not to ride there. And I knew I'd go back home before anyone noticed I was gone. That was our arrangment: If I behaved like an adult, you would treat me like one. So I followed the few rules there were. I could ride my bike way out here because I knew what I was doing. Where's the thrill in that? Just lonely. Lonely.
But Catty was pretty cool. He was a friend of mine, a cat who walked upright, wore glasses and smoked a pipe. His voice was like Sean Connery's or Gregory Peck's (though I don't think I knew that then). Taller than me. Nice fur - sort of brownish reddish tabby. He lived in a magical room in another dimension in the basement. A library, really, with a big leather wingback chair. Catty was really smart. He knew how to have fun, though. Once he took me to a land where a giant animated fork and spoon invited us to play in their playpen with them on the front lawn of their house. To get to this place, Catty showed me how to hang by my knees from a tree branch near our driveway, and then to just Let Go. He showed me that part of the ground under the tree was actually foam. When I landed on it, I fell through. It was quite comfortable.
Then there was the time in the summer, when bedtime came while it was still sort of light out, when as I lied there trying to fall asleep, a parade of small bright beautiful cartoon flowers and ribbons and a happy little alligator wearing a hat came marching through the air from the other side of my room, right past my eyes. I was clean in my fresh PJs, my hair still slightly damp from bath time. The sheets were cool and smooth. The metal box fan whirred softly in the window, gently blowing the smell of evening summer trees inside . There was circus-y music playing, accompanying the parade. And that alligator tipped his hat, jiggled his eyebrows and smiled right at me.