Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Recently a couple of friends were talking about their earliest memories and how old they were at the time. They asked me what mine was and it came to me very easily. I was probably about three, possibly four, and I was driving home from church with my mom and dad. At that time they had an old diesel Mercedes Benz with a bench seat. I was sitting between my father and mother in the front seat and my feet, encased in white ruffled ankle socks and black patent leather mary-janes reached just to the edge of the seat. My father would give me little horehound drops to suck on as we drove home. I distinctly remember the smell of that car and the weird, bitter/sweet taste of horehound.

From that same time I also remember being somewhere, like a zoo? Or a park? Or a carnival? Regardless, it was someplace with a petting zoo where you could go in with the animals and pet them. There was a burro and kids were climbing up on his back and riding him around. He started going very fast and I wanted to climb up on his back so I started chasing him and when I got close enough I reached out and grabbed his tail. To do what I have no idea, possibly I thought I could pull myself up over his rear haunches – whatever I was thinking it was sure a shock when that little burro, who was in retrospect probably trying to escape all the grasping, sticky little hands grabbing him, gave a little hop and kicked me in the eye with his rear hoof. As I lay there sprawled on the ground I remember feeling more surprised and embarrassed than injured. I quickly got up and walked over to where my parents were hanging out and pretended it hadn’t happened. This would be a theme for most of my life – get hurt, pretend it didn’t happen.

My favorite memory is that moment when I learned to read. I was four and my mother who was a teacher prior to being my mommy was working with me with flash cards and cartoon strips that were designed for elementary readers. My parents also read lots and lots of Dr. Seuss to me, books with a rhyming scheme that made them very easy to memorize. I used to get up early on weekends, go in, climb on their bed, sit in the space between their pillows and “read” Green Eggs and Ham to them. At 6am. I was actually just reciting the book from memory and to this day I can still get about halfway through. Man - I was ready to read. My mom started me with the letters and the sounds that they made. As soon as I had memorized the sounds for each letter she had me start sounding the letters out aloud, and blending them together. I remember sitting there for what seemed like a half hour, nearly in tears from frustration, making the sounds KUH-AAA-TUH for C-A-T. I also remember when those sounds finally melded together in my head and I recognized the word those sounds were making.

It was magic!
It was power!

I became one of those annoying children that have to read every word they see out loud, as if no one else has the capacity to read. Reading is still one of my favorite things to do. It’s a vacation, an escape. I am so grateful that I survived driving around in the front seat of a car with no seatbelt and getting kicked in the head to be able to enjoy reading as much as I do!!!

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