I don’t remember much from the first 10 years of my life. It’s mostly like a series of snapshots. And maybe that is what I “remember” – the photos I have seen of those early years.
I don’t remember our first house. I was mom’s first Grad School baby. I came along (to my brother’s chagrin) while she worked on her master’s degree. We lived in the grad school neighborhood in Fayetteville and again when we moved so she could work on her doctorate.
We lived in apartments near campus then. I remember those and some of the people. I had chicken pox there. And the complex manager was a retired doctor named Ted. He gave us shots using his house call bag… His wife, Mimi, was a great lifeguard and confidante for a 4 year old.
I also remember going to daycare where Big Mama was in charge. I don’t remember what she really looked like any more. But she was a movie star to me – she looked just like Lucille Ball.
One of my earliest memories of who I am (personality wise) happened at French’s Preschool. There were just a couple of us still there at the end of the day, and we were outside so that the teachers could reset the classrooms and vacuum. Another girl and I were on the playground, climbing on one of those giant metal swing set-monkey bat- holding cell combinations that were common in the early 70s. Plenty big for a dozen kids, and yet nothing would do but she had to be right where I was, telling me “If you don’t move and play over there, I will get you in trouble for being selfish.”
After 4 or 5 times, the irony of her selfishness leading me to be selfless for fear of being told on for something so opposite of true became more than I could bear. So I stayed put. And when she opened her mouth to tell lies on me, I did some quick calculus and decided I would rather get in trouble for something I actually did.
So I popped right in the face with my fist. I bloodied her nose. And then I moved to the other end of the monkey bars.
And then I felt totally ashamed because I knew I would have to face Big Mama. And she would tell my parents. And they would all probably talk to our pastor about me (because we all went to church together, except the horrible girl who made me hit her). And the whole adult works that mattered to me would be disappointed in me.
I don’t remember exactly how it all went down from there. I am sure punishment and apologies and avoiding the girl-pest for a time were all involved.
I do know that over and over, the pattern repeated. I couldn’t stand the idea of someone believing something wrong about me or my friends because someone acting like they knew better said so.
I still feel that way. Probably why I am a preacher and not a politician or journalist, where I would be punching people in the nose on a daily basis.
By the time I was 10, we had moved again, to the house most fond in my memories. A neighborhood with some amazing friends and neighbors. And we’d added two more siblings to pester and protect.