Monday, July 12, 2010

Childhood Memories, Part I

Recently I picked up my copy of Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It's one of my favorite books, full of little snippets of her experience. I decided to try to do my own version of one of the entries, titled "Childhood Memories." I wrote it in the third person, just like Amy wrote hers, and I tried to be as random yet specific as she was.

1975: Alison is born on July 10. Throughout her childhood she hears her mother talk about how Alison was due on July 4, but instead came six days late. Secretly Alison wished she had been born on the 4th, so she could have fireworks on her birthday.

1975: In November, Alison's father becomes pastor of a church and the family moves to Texas. The church has no money in the bank and they have to live in an apartment in the back of the church, but Alison doesn't seem to mind, judging from the smiley pictures of her in her red and white striped Christmas nightgown.

1976: The family buys a house that was previously owned by a divorced man with two large incontinent dogs, which is why they are able to afford it.

1976: Alison's first memory: lying in her crib soon after waking up and watching the sun stream in through the window. She notices a stuffed dog hanging on the edge of the crib and wants to reach it. She hears a voice as  a woman comes into the room. She doesn't have enough language to know that the woman is called Mama (although she recognizes the voice) or that the toy is called a dog. The dog becomes her favorite stuffed animal and is loved until it is threadbare.

1977: Begins preschool at Miss Scott's Preschool. In later life, remembers only two things from her three years there: the "Good Morning" song, and one instance of suddenly missing her mother (not on the first day of school) and putting her head down on her desk and crying inconsolably.

1978: Learns to read and from then on is rarely seen without a book nearby so she can start reading at a moment's notice.

1979: Alison's brother is born on June 19. Parents wisely reject Alison's suggestions to name him "Thompson" and "Sammy Liles, Jr." (both names of boys she has a crush on).

1979: Meets her cousin K. at her grandparents' house. K. is stealing butter out of the refrigerator and eating it. Alison thinks this girl is extremely strange.

1980: Begins first grade at school the church has started. Is the youngest child in the school and is treated like a pet by the older students. During a safety discussion, when the principal asks, "What do you do if you catch on fire?" embarrasses self by yelling out, "Stop, drop, and ROLL!" Confused and humiliated when everyone laughs. Mutters to self, "But I was RIGHT!"

1980: Meets L., who is one year younger, when their family joins the church and becomes best friends with her.

1980: Teaches self to write in cursive. Feels very grown-up.

1980: The church (and school) building burns one Saturday night. Wakes up to hear mother crying, on the phone, and wonders why they are not getting ready for Sunday School.

1981: L. begins first grade at the school. Second grade is harder than first, so Alison does not win all the awards for most work completed and highest average that she won the year before--L. wins them. Crawls under the table at the awards banquet and cries.

1981: Little brother won't get out of the way when Alison is swinging on the teeter-totter on her swing set; despite repeated warnings, he keeps walking closer. The metal seat of the teeter-totter strikes him in the forehead and he falls over. Although she knows she should feel guilty, Alison keeps thinking, "But I TOLD him not to come any closer!" Brother's head is fine. In fact, it is so hard he uses it as a weapon throughout their childhood.

1981: Feels compelled to learn to ride bike without training wheels when younger neighbor boy learns. Allowed to ride anywhere on the sidewalk on their block, which seemed (and turned out to be) perfectly safe.

1981: Church buys land and begins building. For most of the year, only sees father in the mornings when he takes her to school and when they bring dinner to him at the construction site (and church, of course). Has a wonderful time playing in the sand for the brick mortar and picking up metal circles punched out of the electrical boxes.

1981-1985: Wishes she could be Laura Ingalls Wilder. Plays for hours pretending to be living in a wagon and finding food. Dresses brother up in sunbonnet to be Carrie.Despite what he will later claim, he enjoys it.

1981-1985: Second favorite thing to pretend: school. Lines up her dolls and, when he will cooperate, her  brother. Manages to teach him the alphabet before he starts kindergarten.

1982-1990: Suffers from intermittent mocking by a boy named S., who is inescapable since there are so few students that they are together all the time. S. says such crushing (at the time) things as, "Alison has no common sense!" and pulls her hair and generally makes fun of anything she does. Mother suggests that he actually likes Alison, but that makes no sense to her. Prays, "God, I know I'm not supposed to hate anyone, but if I did, I would hate S.!"

1980-1988: The family doesn't have a television, because their denomination doesn't allow ministers to own them. Alison tries to keep up with TV references by paying attention when other kids talk about their favorite shows so she can pretend she knows what they're talking about. Enthralled when allowed to watch, mainly at L's house and when her family goes on vacation. Does not realize until adulthood how much better her childhood was for not being spent in front of the TV.

1983: The family buys a partially finished house in the country whose builder is going out of business. When the house is finished, they move in--on Alison's ninth birthday. Rather than feel cheated of a birthday party, she feels excited, as if the house is actually a birthday present for her.

Okay, I can see this is going to get long, so that's a good place to stop for now--age 9, halfway to 18, at a major transition--I think of my childhood as split into two halves between those two houses. I have good memories of both.

This was fun and I hope not too boring for you! Soon I'll post Part II.


  1. Am enjoying this! Can't wait for Part 2!

  2. This has me in stitches! I didn't know the part about the house being owned previously by someone with two large incontinent dogs. Haha! I can still remember coming to one of your birthday parties at that house, playing pin the tail on the donkey, winning the game and getting a rainbow headband as a prize. It was my favorite headband for a long time.