The following is an excerpt from my memoir draft. I was trying to be funny but I think it came out sad. You should let me know.
Nobody ever told me this, but I had the notion I was a fool child.
My parents both had two hour commutes one-way. I grew up in an industrial oil town and was quite literally born in a hospital overlooking a bayou. As I grew up, I would come to play baseball in swamps, and do other generally dangerous things even by 1990s parents standards. There were even a few times I was stopped by police for playing, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to this one point in time, when I was three years old.
Because my parents had two hour commutes one-way, I almost never saw them. I woke up at 3am every day with my father, who I spent the most time with and therefore liked the most. My father had a calm, gentle voice and worked at NASA Mission Control. Sometimes when he worked weekends, which he very often did, he would take me with him. I felt like my own version of a scientist sending rockets to the moon. Now that I’m older, all I remember were the Florida pink walls and the potted palm trees inside the building up the flight of stairs before you made it inside security clearance. It was supposed to make the place look unassuming.
This morning was not a NASA morning. Today I was going to daycare, and I did not want to spend more than 12 hours alone with a group of kids that hated me.
Ever since I could remember at daycare, the other kids were mean. My three year old brain couldn’t register it, but they didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. They came from blue-collar working class backgrounds compared to my highly educated parents. My father had a Master’s degree in Computer Science and my mother graduated second in her engineering class from Louisiana Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. This was almost unheard of in the South at her time, the 1970s. I sensed some sort of class difference the day I proclaimed my family was rich because I could see with my two eyeballs that our house was the biggest house in our neighborhood. The kids responded that if I was, I wouldn’t be at this daycare. I had no comebacks. When I told my mother, she chastised me, saying it was never good to flaunt your wealth. Honestly, I just wanted the kids to finally like me, I explained. Mom said that you get people to like you by talking about things they like, but I wasn’t allowed to like anything they liked.
My classmates liked the Spice Girls. I once faked knowledge and attempted to play along. They sassed me, proclaiming that I was Scary Spice. I had no idea who that was, but it sounded bad. Defensive, I explained I was not Scary Spice. I was Princess Spice (who I would in seconds learn did not exist). The girls explained I was Scary Spice because of my ugly curly hair and my mean personality. No, I said. My hair is not ugly and I am not mean. Yes, you are, they proclaimed. Go away.
I was not intentionally mean. I did not know what I did wrong. What was mean? Who was Scary Spice? I needed to investigate.
That evening my parents went to Walmart. I begged to go to the toy section, and they obliged. I saw a set of Spice Girl barbie dolls. Scary Spice was the darker skinned, dressed in black, curly haired doll. I was appalled, but I knew I needed these dolls for science. As soon as I picked up the dolls, my mother shrieked, “Put those down! Those dolls are bad girls. If you get those dolls you will become a bad girl!”
“But my friends want them!” I said boldly.
Now my father joined in, bellowing in his former 1980s preacher voice, “Meara, you have bad friends! They will only hurt you with those dolls! We don’t want you to be a girl like the Spice Girls so you must put them down!”
“How do you know that the spice girls will make me bad?” I sassed a little with my tone.
My father turned red and snatched the dolls from my arms while my mother dragged me out of the store. I was promptly spanked in the parking lot.
The next day, my father woke me up at 3am per usual, but I was numb. A strange liquid formed under my newly grown exoskeleton that appeared overnight. I wasn’t sure what it was, but the whole world knew when he dropped me off at daycare. It was an emotional bomb.
As my father walked me inside the window paned doors, I clung to the doorknob and sobbed. “Don’t go,” I wept defeatedly. “Don’t go, please don’t leave me here.” I slumped to the floor and bawled. “DON’T LEAVE ME HERE. I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE.”
My shot of negativity into the universe was duly answered when playtime came around that day.
It was clean-up, and I was sassing the “Everybody do your share” song as was my custom, when four little tykes ambushed me, put me in the toy box, and sat on it. I banged against the top. My meager three-year-old arms were not strong enough for four other toddlers. I screamed and cried. Eventually, the box moved, and in front of me stood another nemesis: a teacher.
I didn’t like the teachers, but I had to tell on these kids. But I hadn’t seen who they were. It did happen, though.
“What got you crying today Miss Glum?” the teacher queried. She didn’t use my name. I liked my name. And she used that kid voice my parents never used.
“The kids put me in the toy box,” I whined.
“That’s not possible. Quit lying.”
Quit lying. The story of my life already. My daycare teachers thought I was a liar. So did my Sunday School teachers and my parents. I couldn’t gauge my grandparents but I think I had them perplexed.
This is where I began to die a little inside. Where the darkness crept in. The princess wanted to be rescued, but she was mistaken for the dragon.
It’s dramatic, it’s not horrible, but it’s my life.
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