Like so many other people, I was born to parents. I was the last in an array of four others. Had the pill been invented much later, I would have had younger siblings; any earlier and I wouldn’t be here at all. Go figure. The bony finger of Fate was jabbing me in the ribs right from the very start. I really hate that guy.
My earliest, most vivid, childhood memory is from when I was just under two years old. I remember waking up in the middle of the night feeling bored and lonely. Besides, my bottle was empty and I needed some attention. I stood at the end of the crib I was housed in when I wasn’t watching Sesame Street and started hollering like I was on fire or being eaten by something. After several minutes, my mother came in and picked me up. Although her warm embrace made me feel better, had I actually been being eaten, the creature doing the eating would have successfully gotten away with it. I slept soundly the rest of the night with my mother and father. The next morning, I peed their bed for them as a reward for taking care of me. Sure, they complained, but I knew they appreciated it.
When I was five I jammed my thumb in the sprocket of a bicycle chain. A friend of mine and I had the bike (that’s what we used to call the two-wheeled contraptions back then) on training wheels wedged between a hollow spot in the soft ground so that we could crank the peddles and spin the wheel. For whatever reason, I wanted to get my friend to stop peddling, so I grabbed the chain with my fragile bare hand—it seemed like a good idea at the time. My hand was pulled into the business part of the mechanism and a pointy tooth on the sprocket first crushed, and then entirely removed, the nail from my thumb. It could have actually removed my thumb, but I guess it decided it had no use for the digit. There was lots of blood, and oh so much screaming. I remember wondering where all the noise was coming from, and then having it dawn on me that I was the source of the commotion. My friend ran away, the dick, and I made for the front door of my house. My thumb and I eventually recovered, but I now have a deeply rooted fear of sticking my hand in moving dangerous spinning things. Surprisingly, it hasn’t held me back any.
Later that summer, after the training wheels had been removed, I drove the same bicycle into the back of a neighbor’s car while it (the car, not the bike) was parked on the side of the road. I face-planted on the street and a few hard things in between. My face still carries the broken nose. Coincidently, it was this very neighbor’s driveway that was the scene of a previous incident involving me, my peddle car, a short but steep hill, and an abrupt halt at the end. I very nearly didn’t make it through my preschool years.
School started for me when I was six, having managed to survive that long in spite of my best efforts to contravene. Being the last in a line (well, maybe not so much of a line as a cluster) of children, I didn’t get much attention paid to me in the earlier years. I suppose this was how I managed to repeatedly throw myself in harm’s way without much adult supervision. Anyhow, I had spent the first six years and two weeks of my life alone in front of the television. I think I was four before I realized that Ernie and Bert weren’t part of my family, and I never once questioned their living arrangement.
The day before school started, my mother suddenly realized that I didn’t even know how to hold a pencil, let alone how to make it work. I remember this so very clearly, as she had become utterly frantic and distraught that I couldn’t draw a stick man, like there was going to be some sort of an entrance exam where the pivotal question would be to draw a stick man and label the critical pieces. It was probably that she realized how retarded I’d seem and she didn’t want to be the mother of the only retarded child in the class. It took all morning of concentrated practice, but I think I’ve finally got it figured out now:
In hindsight, learning the alphabet would have been a better use of that time. A few of the numbers, too, perhaps. Sesame Street covers these topics, but not in any particular order. I knew of the number 7 and the letter J, but not where they placed in the grander scheme of things.
One morning of school was all it took for me to reach the conclusion that I didn’t need any more of that kind of nonsense. I came home at lunchtime and announced that I was all done with it and wouldn’t be returning. Apparently, it was never my decision to make.