Back before I had glasses, we lived on Fairview drive, just above the golf course that runs along the Spokane river. In the summer, it had the best smells. Big green oak leaves that smelled sour when you ripped them in half. I got my nose wet dipping my head into the irises my mother grew along the front of the house, smelling like nectar and powder. We didn’t have lilacs in our yard but people all over the neighborhood grew them in every shade. They smelled the best, and we picked off the blooms nearest to the ground. Sometimes mom would place them in a little glass dish of water on the table.
I think she missed fresh flowers, in the jungle where she grew up. Hydrangeas just don’t grow very well in a dry heat. The grass in our front yard smelled like robins in the afternoon, and cicadas and lawn mowers. I loved to play outside, and go back and forth through the doggie door.
I would wade into my plastic yellow pool and mom made sure the water was warm. Sometimes during summer it would get so hot that you couldn’t sleep. I remember one night when we had to go to bed, but the sun was not down yet, I didn’t understand how the day could still be there. Another time, mom had to drop me off early at Montessori, before the sun was up, which made me feel sick, and confused again that the sun was not awake when I was. When you are a child, you don’t experience night time save for the quick dash down the hallway after a scary dream. It is a surreal place.
I remember driving to the Nutcracker ballet for Christmas, seeing all of the street lamps through the darkness. It was like a big secret that I was not in my room, but about to walk out into the night, outside of my house and into complete mystery. NIGHTTIME DOESN’T EXIST FOR CHILDREN. The first time I saw the night, with the lights on. I slept in my Ariel sleeping bag, and then under a 101 dalmatians comforter. I shared a bunk bed with my brother, and I lost my Barney doll under it, though I’m pretty sure my mom just threw it away.
I remember the first time I understood a lie. I was sitting on the potty at school, age 4, and I went to grab some toilet paper. Above the roll was a laminated sign: Take Only 3 Squares. It suddenly dawned on me that I could take as many squares as I wished, and nobody would ever know. I felt guilt and shame, and intrigue all at once, and I hadn’t even touched the roll.
We learned the alphabet by drawing letters in sand, like a tactile etch-A-sketch, and I was in the top reading level before anyone, I loved to read beyond measure.
Once I pretended I was a chipmunk being dissected during nap time, I split in half right down the middle, and was being disruptive so I had to move in the corner by myself. I used to nap next to the snacks table on purpose and sneak Ritz crackers. I didn’t chew for fear of making noise, but let them dissolve against the roof of my mouth like a childhood Eucharist.