I didn't believe in landmarks.... for myself. They were for other people with something to say. But tonight I am awake and this story wanted to be written.
I was born on December 25, 1978 in California. If I hadn't been born there would have been a family feud. It was my parents first year in CA. Mom's Aunt and Grandmother (Grams) had invited her down to Anaheim for Christmas. So they went. I was a little gas pain. Grams always served Corned Beef and Cabbage on Christmas Eve. Dad (an engineer) began timing how often Mom "had some gas" and went to the bathroom. When it was *exactly * every fifteen minutes, he decreed they were leaving to go back home to see the doctor. My Aunt was furious. Grams said Mom was really in labor. They were all at each others throats but made Mom open all the presents before they left. Dad's name would have been MUD if I hadn't been born, Mom's aunt never would have forgiven him for leaving on Christmas Eve otherwise. As it was, I was born shortly after they arrived at their home hospital. When my Dad brought her into the hospital Mom was still insisting she wasn't in labor.
So I was born.
I don't remember my first year. I do remember the apartment complex they lived in, because they brought me back later to visit people. There was a pool in the middle, which I remember swimming in. But the pool got filled up with Dirt and became a flower bed. Dad said it was because of Insurance, whatever that was. They found the house I grew up in while walking me in the stroller.
When I was two my parents decided I was a genius. We were on the way to Church. I asked them if Fish and Chips (a restaurant they liked) started with an "A". They thought I was crazy. I was sitting in my car seat, it had black straps with brown pleatherish lining, but I was up high where I could see things. They laughed at me, thinking Fish and Chips started with an "A". Until my dad glanced in the rear view mirror. The sign said Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips. I didn't know they decided I was a genius then, but that chance comment changed my life.
They planted orange trees in the backyard of their new house. There is a picture of me sitting in the hole. I think I remember it. I wanted to dig holes later. They planted two navel orange trees, a dwarf grapefruit tree, two vaalencia orange trees around the L shaped back yard, there was an existing mature plum tree and then a dwarf lemon.
They went to Church. Mom was a leader in Pioneer Girls. I went to a toddlers program while she was being a Leader. We made paper chains. I stapled my finger. There was an instant where I knew I was going to staple it and I pushed down anyway. Didn't quite realize how much it would hurt. I cried and they went and got Mom.
I was four, there was a boy my age named Gordon. We would play together in the backyard. We decided that we liked each other so we'd get married when we grew up, because that was what grownups did. We wanted to kiss each other, but knew we weren't supposed to. So we dug a hole in the farthest part of my backyard. We were going to have an underground house. It was hard to get it deep enough. Eventually we just stood in the hole up to our waists, and kissed each other on the cheek. I'm sure it would have made an interesting greeting card. The cute little kids they have kissing each other now aren't standing in holes covered in dirt. After that we decided to show our parents the hole. We'd planed the concealment well. Our parents had hissy fits. They didn't know about the kiss, they just knew the hole was so deep we could have started hitting Utilty lines. I don't know why they weren't suspicious the months earlier when we first took Dad's shovel from the garage.
I must have been less than four when Dad wrecked on his Bicycle. After the strangers brought Dad home. (I didn't answer the door because it was a stranger. I couldn't reach the peep hole but could look through the mailbox xlot) Mom was scared and took Dad to the hospital. It was the only time I ever rode in the car without a seat belt. Mom put me on Dad's lap on the drive. She knew he had some sort of amnesia and hoped that if he was holding me it would help him Remember.
Dad was ok eventually. I think I fell asleep in the hospital waiting room. Mom's sister got married Back East. They took me I was going to be a Flower Girl. The dress was blue and itchy. I liked the cows at my grandparents house better. I climbed on a fence and I fell, and I broke my arm. But they didn't know it was broken. When we got back home, mom took me to the pediatrician. He had a giant fish tank that you could watch in the waiting room. I always wanted to keep watching the fish and forget the doctor. The doc decided even though it was broken I didn't need a cast. Told Mom not to tell anyone who my doctor was because he didn't cast it. (It didn't make sense to me, but that's what she said) Anyway I was supposed to take baths where she massaged that arm. It hurt a bit, but she said she had to. I would get earaches. I would want to go to the doctor to watch the fish, and he'd give me that tasty pink stuff.
One night they let me stay up late. Dad had some friends over. He took a book off the big bookshelf and I sat in his lab and he had me read words. It was something about the Krebs cycle that I didn't understand. He said he'd explain about molecules later.
I had a Blanket. A Holly Hobbie Blanket. It had silky edges that I liked to rub against my face. She stood sideways and I never understood why it looked like she had one foot. Mom had to go to night classes for a while. One night Dad took me with him while Mom was at class. We went to a different post office with all these boxes. I don't know why he had to check that post office box, something about work. Somewhere the blanket was lost. I cried buckets. Cloth World just happened to have an all night sale that night. They found a blanket of a similar size. It had Big Bird on it, he was reading a book to Little Bird. I still wanted Hollie Hobbie. I said the Big Bird blanket had to have silky stuff on it. Mom pulled out her sewing machine and sewed it that night. (She must have been exhausted when she did it but she did) I also had a Big White Blanket. Mom bought it for her and Dad but I said it was mine. They would put me in it like a hammock and swing me in it at night. I'd land on the bed on the last swing and then I'd have to go to sleep.
Grandma and Granddaddy would come to visit. It would take them three days to drive from Colorado. Grandma They had butterscotch candy in their car. Granddaddy had a fold up shaving kit that smelled neat. (I think it was Old Spice) It had little loops where everything belonged. Grandma had little perfume bottles that she would give me when they were empty. Granddaddy drank Welch's grape juice or prune juice in little cans. They had little tabs that peeled off and he would always stick them on the side of the can. I would beg him to let me peel them off and stick them on the side of the can.
My brother Stephen was born. when I was four. They thought he was a month premature so they went to a different hospital than the one I was born in. But he wasn't. But he turned yellow and they had to put him back in the hospital. Then when they brought him back he had to lay in the stroller on his back in the sun. I didn't understand why he didn't get sunburned.
We only had one car. Dad took it to work, except when he rode his bike. Mom would ride her bike to the library with me in the trailer (we called it the Bugger) and my brother in the seat on the back of her bike. She went around the corner once and it flipped me on my head. My helmet got scraped but I thought watching the road go by upside down was kind of interesting. I didn't realize there were little rocks in the road.
Dad changed jobs. The new job had him come home smelling funny like grease. The machines there were neat. On picnic days they'd make them cut key chains for the kids. I lost a burlap sack race, I fell. Dad was always tired. We didn't see him as much. They would have Bible Study every Wednesday night. It was at Aunt Wendy's house. Aunt Wendy had a teen aged son named Bo. I loved Bo. He would pick me up and toss me in the air. He had a room where he made models and would let me watch while he painted them. He left and went into the military. I had my four year old heart broken. In hindsight I hope he didn't mind entertaining a 4 year old during his parents' Bible Study that much.
I could make my little brother laugh by swinging on the cart racks at the grocery store. One day at the grocery store a little old lady asked me what Santa brought me for Christmas. I told her that Santa didn't bring me anything but he'd gone to Jennifer's house. My mother was embarrassed and explained that they'd raised me not believe in Santa Claus. At Jennifer's house they'd had a Christmas party with a Santa Clause that handed out Candy Canes. I knew it was a story, but I really wanted to believe in Rudolph. I wanted to be in a sled pulled by rain deer. (Why they were called rain deer when they were supposed to fly through snow I didn't understand) I always hoped it would rain on Christmas, because that was as close to snow as it could get in California except for the Mountains, where you could see snow at the top of them.
When I was 5 we changed Churches. Dad was upset because one of the Trustees was a crook. I cried because I couldn't be in Pioneer Girls. (The crook was indited something like 12 years later on 8 counts of Grand Larceny and 3 counts of Fraud)
The new church had a School with it. Mom told me I had to go to school for a week to take a test. Grandma was there during that week, and drove me back and forth. I had to stay in the 1st grade class through the reading group, so that I didn't disrupt the testing. They read too slow. I was bored and read through the end of the reading book by the end of the week. I knew I was supposed to be in kindergarten, and was convinced that if I was in the kindergarten class I wouldn't be bored. The reading abook was a blue book with Daffodils on the front.
Afterwards there was a lot of whispering between the teacher and my parents. I didn't understand why, so I ignored it. Later they told me I did really good on the test. I discovered on Sunday nights when there was a Reception at church for visiting Missionaries and they'd have the nasty red punch (They'd mix 7 up with sherbet and then put it all in red punch. I and could never figure out why they'd wreck the 7-up. Eventually I figured out how to go back into the church kitchen and just ask for 7 up.) and cookies I could crawl under the tables and everyone would ignore me under the paper tablecloths. I thought I was invisible. I was a kid, I wasn't important, the Grown ups were.
Mom taught Becky for a year. That year Becky would come over and we'd have to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I had fun with Becky. We'd play Orphanage, where we had to escape and my mother was Miss Hannigan like in Annie. My other Grandpa built me a Treehouse. Except it wasn't a tree house, because the Plum Tree we'd climb wasn't big enough. (I though there was enough room for a platform if they built it just so, in a triangle but nobody trusted my architectural skills genius or no. So Becky and I played in the Treehouse which was really a swing set with a platform on stilts and a tarp covering up the platform. The platform was big enough to sleep on and we spent a couple nights out there eventually.
When Becky was coming to school at our house, Mom got Morning Sick. She'd hand my brother to Becky to hold while she went to throw up in the Garbage Can in the garage. Eventually she had to throw up every time she walked past the garbage can. She said she felt like that even after my youngest brother was born. The year Nate was born, the plum tree went crazy. We would pick up plums and take them in bags to church to give away. Mom said picking up the plums while she was pregnant was horrible, but if you didn't pick them up you'd get flies.
At Becky's house she had a Strawberry Shortcake doll that would breath Strawberry breath when you squeezed it. (I still want to know how they did this) I would go to Becky's house once a week, and have piano lessons. After Becky stopped coming to school at my house, when I walked to Becky's house to have my piano lesson, Mom sent a check. Becky's mom started crying tore the check up, said she could never repay my mother for what she'd done for Becky. I didn't understand and started crying. I can't remember what happened, I think Becky had skinned her knee badly and she was crying. Anyway we were all crying. Mom came over eventually and she cried too. It was the only time I remember where crying was ok. Normally I wasn't allowed to cry.
There was a Vacation Bible School, at the church of some of the people that they'd met while they lived in the Apartment. After we all had houses mom would take us over to their house and because their family was a member of a co-op, they'd get vegetables. Mom would help them cut and freeze corn, and woe would get some. It wasn't our church but Mom let me go, told my Dad that it wouldn't hurt me doctrinally. They told the kids at the vacation bible school that there would be a prize if they memorized the books of the Old Testament by the end of the week. I wanted to. Mom inquired and they said they didn't plan on having a 6 year old memorize the books of the Bible but if I wanted to the offer stood. I already knew All we like Sheep, so I figured the books of the Bible wouldn't be too hard. Mom had me jump on a trampoline. She'd say them and I'd say them back. I knew them by the end of the week. I don't remember the prize but I got to stand up there and say them with all the older kids. I still can say the books of the Bible with the rhythm of the trampoline jumps.
Before Nate was born I tied as the winner of a Library Reading Contest. You could only check out 10 books a day so you'd have to return them every day and check out more. Mom would ride her bike back and forth so we could check out 10 books every day. We realized there was another family that would do the same thing. At the end of the summer we split the prize. The year Nate was born, I did it but didn't win. The next year I won outright I read something like 830 books. My friend Gwen missed one day, but we both got tickets to Disneyland.
Nate's crib had all kinds of interesting toys in it. I would boost Stephen up and then climb up the changing table and we'd all sit in his crib and play with Nate's toys. One day Nate decided he wanted out of the crib and he just jumped rather than using the changing table. Mom wasn't happy. Shortly thereafter they put me in Nate's room and Nate and Stephen shared a room. I had a daybed with a trundle. I always slept on the trundle, never the other part. I'd clunk my head on the other part. The best part of the new room was the bookshelf of my own.
I could ride a horse by myself the time I was 7 so I must have learned by the time I was 5 or 6. Mom had a friend who also homeschooled who had horses. It was a Long Drive to get there, but she had horses. When Stephen got bit by the rattlesnake when he was two, I was happy, because I got to ride horses while Stephen was in the hospital. When Stephen got out of the hospital he had a big thing on his leg. We went to the zoo the day he got out of the hospital. He liked the elephants. It had rained, and the elephants had thrown mudballs at the warning sign saying the elephants might throw mudballs. The alligators were fighting that day because they'd just come out of hibernation.
At the Natural History Museum in Santa Barbara there was a skeleton of a Blue Whale. My other grandma went there with us. I contradicted her, and told her it wasn't a 9 banded armadillo it was only a 6 banded armadillo. I recall that she said I shouldn't contradict her. I told her it didn't matter because it wasn't the truth, it was really a 6 banded armadillo. Chaos ensued, and I think my mother was told I was an ill-behaved child. My mother finally read the sign and had to tell her mother that it was really a 6 banded armadillo. Grandma wasn't terribly happy at being told she was wrong. The natural history museum also had a bunch of different kinds of seagulls at different life stages. But my favorite was the Blue Whale skeleton. I wanted my parents to build a tank like the one at Sea World, in our back yard. The citrus trees would have to go, but then I could have a whale.
Once we got a fish tank and I learned about filtration systems I realized that wasn't feasible. But maybe we could still keep a horse in the backyard. Dad said you had to have at least an acre to have a horse. So I started asking for a dog instead. He said I wasn't old enough. But when I was grown up and had a house of my own I could have horses and dogs if I wanted them. I was only 7 when I realized that they had booklets at restaurants and the grocery stores where you could look and see what houses were for sale. I figured I could save up enough money to buy one, and then they'd have to let me have a horse. I also read the newspaper classifieds to track how much dogs cost. I knew I'd saved enough money to buy a dog myself, but Dad still wouldn't let me.
We would go to the beach, and I watched the sea lions and picked up shells and built sand castles. I would turn purple with cold from the Pacific Ocean and my teeth would chatter. I could swim pretty well by 8 and then mom would let me Boogie Board the waves with a friend. When the waves were big the surfers would get mad at us. We weren't supposed to go far out enough to interfere with the surfers but that was where the good waves were. We were poor though and so I couldn't get a wetsuit or a surfboard. So I'd stay out until the cold got too bad and then go in to thaw out. On good days the sun was out and the sand was warm, but on overcast days all you had was the beach towel to warm up.
Mom and Dad talked about being Missionaries to China. Dad could get in because he was an engineer. I really didn't want to go. The thought of not sleeping in my own bed terrified me. I don't know why they didn't in the end, but I remember being happy when they said they'd decided not to. We had missionaries stay at our house a lot though.
For a while a guy named Jeff stayed with us. He was down on his luck and went to the church and was living temporarily in a storage locker. When he moved in he built bookshelves in his room of concrete blocks and boards. There wasn't a major earthquake in California while he lived with us or he would have been smashed to bits. I think my parents liked him because he had almost as many books as they did. He read me books, lots of books. He worked the early shift at Price Club so he had time to read me books. And he would do voices, better than my mom or dad did. He read me Pat Mc Manus and the Chronicles of Narnia. Mom said she was glad he read me Narnia because even though she knew it was good literature she couldn't stand them. I loved Narnia. He had to leave, before he got through the last two books, but he gave them to me so I could finish them myself. I still don't like the last two books as much because I can't hear his voice in my head reading them to me.
Posted by Tante Shvester (Member # 8202) on :
AJ, I really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Posted by Lyrhawn (Member # 7039) on :
You have an interesting style of writing in your recollections.
Very interesting story.
Also, your childhood memories vastly outstrip my own. You're five and a half years (to the day) older than me and I think the memories of your pre-5 year old life there are more than the sum total of my own memories during that time. I'm not even sure I remember anything before I was six or seven.
Posted by Wendybird (Member # 84) on :
Thank you for sharing that! I really enjoyed it.
Posted by Megan (Member # 5290) on :
I enjoyed reading that very much.
Thanks for posting it!
Posted by katharina (Member # 827) on :
Yay! I very much enjoyed reading this.
Posted by pooka (Member # 5003) on :
Thank you for writing all that down. I loved the voice, and that you remember how things seemed to you as a child. It was very nice to read. That's so funny that you and Lyhhawn are both Christmas babies.
Posted by ketchupqueen (Member # 6877) on :
That was wonderfully written.
I remember when my Yellow Blankie was lost, and we went to the fabric store, and there was another Yellow Blankie with the same pattern, but not the same backing or edge. I cried, but accepted it as a temporary substitute. Eventually my Yellow Blankie was found.
I also remember memorizing the books of the Bible (to this day I have to shout them in rhythm if I want to get all the way through) and playing with my little brother's baby toys.
Funny the things we remember.
I think my memories start at a little before I turned 2.
Posted by Eaquae Legit (Member # 3063) on :
Thanks, Banna. I needed to read something like this today. (Also, I write my own memories in a very similar way, so it was like reading my own writing, but not my life. What an interesting experience.)
Posted by breyerchic04 (Member # 6423) on :
I also organize my thoughts in that way and have similar unlikely memories from the same ages.
Very nice landmark AJ.
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
Posted by Icarus (Member # 3162) on :
You captured that precocious childhood voice so perfectly. I'm glad to get to know little Banna.
Posted by Lyrhawn (Member # 7039) on :
quote:Originally posted by pooka: That's so funny that you and Lyhhawn are both Christmas babies.
5 and a half years older than me. I was born six months from Christmas, June 25th, as far away from Christmas as you can be on the calendar.
Posted by Shan (Member # 4550) on :
Hey, AJ -- what detailed memories! Thanks for sharing them.
Posted by BlackBlade (Member # 8376) on :
I'm not so sure she concluded her landmark. If so, please write on.
[ May 30, 2008, 09:49 AM: Message edited by: BlackBlade ]
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
AJ is a she.
Posted by BannaOj (Member # 3206) on :
There is more. I don't know if I have it in me to write about it. I went from innocent to cynical at about 8 because of a particular experience. All of these memories are before that point. There are also several specific things that I *know* happened during this time but I have blocked the unpleasant memories. I guess there is one day in particular I should talk about, even though I don't remember the end.
My youngest brother had a severe concussion several years ago. I didn't realize how much memory loss he had, but he doesn't remember much of our childhood. Some of it will come back if you start talking about it, but a lot of the time he just smiles and nods and covers well but doesn't truly remember. Most of these memories are from before he was born or when he was an infant. I've been trying to remember more about him so I could tell him about it but this is what has come to me instead.