Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Gambier, Ohio USA



Today I am lounging on a couch in our common room, talking about Marilyn Monroe in How To Marry a Millionaire as my friend shops for posters on E-bay.
I got up late; he and I stayed in bed til 12:41 on principle. Ten-thirty a.m. is a completely unacceptable hour when it is Fall Break. It reminded me of a haiku that I read once that had the lines I want to rub feet in bed/Please invent beds in it. I can remember the poet s picture but not his name.
I was born in New York City, which has come to be a source of pride and comfort as I sort out my identity. I moved there for a while to do an internship during senior year in high school. People don t take you seriously when you say you re from small-town Ohio. I was often asked whether the state was near Idaho. These states provide produce, not culture at least to native New Yorkers.
My parents lived in Princeton, NJ and we spent a few years living there. I remember making Christmas cookies the day my brother was born: my mother sent me to her friend s house, and I was on the counter when my dad arrived to pick me up. He lifted me in his arms and told me I had a brother, as I had requested. I embraced my sibling as a gift immediately, a live doll my parents gave me during the holiday season when I was two. I have memories of riding my tricycle and picking daffodils for him. They were yellow, like the house and my cat. I assume if my childhood memories are yellow, they must have been cheery.
I broke my leg falling from the monkey bars and I have an image of it that could be entirely made up from the stories I ve been told about it. I felt rude even then, calling for help from my mother while she talked to other moms. I wouldn t ride in the ambulance because I never wanted to leave my mother. They said I was too young for a cast and put me in an ace bandage til I healed. I never used crutches because my parents carried me everywhere. My dad worked on Wall Street so I spent all of my time with my mother. She taught me to nap during the day so I d be awake to see him at night. I learned the word Daddy but didn t have a word for Mom until my brother was born. She was always with me; I never needed to refer to her by name.
We moved to Georgia when I was four and a half. I was lonely and wrote a letter to Mr. Rogers with my own handwriting asking him to come live with me and be my friend. He wrote back on Trolley stationary saying he couldn t because he had a wife and sons, but that I would make friends and everything would be okay. By the time I got the letter I had friends, but I miss him now.
My first close friend was three houses down and behind our house. She and I still connect every time that we meet, like magic. We had a pool in the neighborhood and my mama helped to run it because she was a lifeguard when she was a teenager. My sister was born when I was five, and I made my father and brother help me make a cake for her with a zero candle. Mom was too sick to eat it and my sister was too young, so we ate it ourselves, which I thought was silly. The nurse liked us, especially my brother, and gave us popsicles. A neighborhood mom used to get everyone popsicles on the first day of school, and would give them to us as we came off the bus. I had two more friends up the hill, and my babysitter was down the hill. My world consisted of four cal-de-sacs, a pool, tennis courts, and a little bit of woods. I loved it, mostly.
My kindergarten teacher was magical, but first grade was harder. My teacher was a chain-smoker and tried to get me out of gifted classes. I was the only kindergartener in my school to be placed in the gifted program, but in first grade I wanted to quit because I was missing the classes where we learned to read. My teacher would call on me anyway and I read poorly. I missed school a lot to stay home with Mom. She was our Girl Scout troop leader and I loved scouts until we had to sell cookies. My brother was great with approaching people about sales, but I was afraid of strangers. I asked my mother, Can t he do it?
My second grade teacher was sweet and couldn t spell. She took me outside the classroom for one-on-one time and said I was brilliant but wouldn t speak up in class. I had a reading tutor outside of school that year. We had a special day where we wrote words in chocolate pudding. One time her lawn was TP-ed. I didn t know what that meant until she explained it.
My third grade teacher had been an assistant in my kindergarten classroom, so I was very comfortable in her class. My dad told me that we might move, and I said so in class. She said Ohio was very nice, that she had been there. I wanted to cry anyway.
Ohio wasn t nice. I stayed over in my best friend s house the night we were supposed to leave because the movers took forever. She loaned me a pair of underwear because mine was all packed up. I never wore it again because I thought it was gross, but I had it in my drawer for years after. It s probably still there. Mom woke me up that night and I didn t want to go and she cried while she drove and the cat made loud sounds but I didn t know those two things until later. I rode with Dad because he said I was the only person in the world that could calm him. He traveled to Japan a lot and always brought me dolls. He took me to work for Bring Your Daughter To Work Day and I was in awe of his cubicle. My brother and I liked to draw on the white boards. I liked my sister okay but all the girls in the neighborhood paid a lot of attention to her and I would rather they played with me.
I cried at night most of the rest of that year. My parents asked me one night if I would rather we didn t move and I said yes. I dressed up the first day of school and brought flowers for the teacher but I was the only one in class with a skirt on and flowers. This school was very small; they only had three teachers per grade. Everyone seemed to be here most of their lives. The principal took us on a tour of the school in the summer and we saw the summer program kids playing basketball but my sister got too close and got a concussion. A teacher asked me the first day of school whether I had a southern accent she faked the accent as she said it and I shook my head no, because I didn t want her to hear my voice. I had an accent while I was in school in Georgia, but dropped it at home because that was not how my family sounded. Here I didn t have an accent and no one said y all.
I got braces that year and later, glasses. I didn t speak in class but I liked my teacher. I made my first good friend when I stayed over at a girl s house to work on our rainforest project for the science fair. When I was young, my mother had to bribe me to stay at other people s houses, but now I was desperate to make friends. The project looked beautiful: we had leaves running along the top and everything. She and I were good friends through high school. She went to Stanford to play field hockey.
I met my best friend in the fifth grade on the playground. She said, I like your nose. And that was that. Her family became my family, and over at her house we were allowed to eat Oreos for breakfast.
I saved up my money and encouraged my siblings to do so, too. We pooled our money and won our fight for a dog when I was ten. We got a mutt from the pound that our whole family loved whole-heartedly. The day after he died of cancer, my mother only made it til ten a.m. before she called my father and said she needed another dog. Our second dog was entirely different than the first, and we loved his puppyness. We got him a sister the year before I went away. They sometimes tug on sticks together from alternate ends.
I got back into gifted classes because my fourth-grade teacher asked the school to test me for them. A man came and took me to his office in the high school. I was scared of tests, but no one called these tests, and I liked being out of class. He praised me and I was happy. The gifted classes were great: we read better books and played with Legos for our math projects.
I didn t like math in middle school. It stopped being visual. Kids were harsh in middle school. I played flute in the band starting in the sixth grade. I wore platform shoes because I was so short. My clothes were never quite right though in high school and college, I was praised for my sense of style.
I played Molly in Annie and stayed with theatre. I liked English best, but my teacher graded me more harshly than anyone in the class because she wanted to challenge me. She read my first poem out loud to the whole class and people asked who wrote it and she told them it was me. I had a fairly solid social circle consisting mainly of girls. We weren t the popular girls, and we liked that there was little pressure from our peers in that domain. We all had strict parents and bonded over that. We didn t dance at dances.
I continued to like the same boy from fifth grade to ninth. He rarely seemed to like me and I think I mostly liked him because my family approved of him. He got me a piece of cake once at a party at my house. Our parents were friends; I don t remember what the party was for. He later had me talk to girls for him. He dated a girl in the flute section when the three of us were in the high school s marching band.
I couldn t get cast in plays most of freshman year of high school because our department cast shows the year before. I started doing professional theatre outside of school. The school was big and rather scary. I was depressed a lot by sophomore year and at semester I started going to the alternative school. It had 200 kids rather than over 2,000. I still did theatre and journalism at the big school. I was asked to be an ed-in-chief my first week in beginning journalism. I liked grammar and studied it obsessively in my off time. I was cast as Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank. It was a great role and I studied the Holocaust for eight months to prepare for it. The show was miserable, though, because I was just about the only non-senior. The other kids made fun of me constantly. They d wanted a friend of theirs to get the part. I felt terribly guilty about it and wished she had. I took their insults, and they later came to respect me for it.
At the alternative school, I developed a social circle that was very constant. It was hard to see my friends in the bigger school, but now I could see all of my friends as we lounged between classes in one specific hallway. We took naps together on the tables and went out on the weekends. The school was run by democracy, so I had a say in what was happening within my educational environment. Senior year I was allowed to teach my own English class in the school, and I spent second semester working internships in professional theatre in NY and in special education at a preschool for the deaf.
I received a playwriting scholarship to a theatre camp in Colorado after my sophomore year. I chose to drop marching band in order to spend six weeks taking theatre classes and working on three shows. I met a boy there who was a friend s brother just visiting for the weekend, and we later dated.
I had my first kiss when I was fifteen. He was a saxophone player in band, and was a year older than me. We went to play in a park with friends that night, but a friend lost his glasses and I called my father to let him know I d be home late. Another friend borrowed my phone, and must have turned it off. My boyfriend kissed me in the car before he dropped me off. I came home twenty minutes late and elated. I found out my father was out looking for me. I waited for him to get home, simultaneously relieved I would no longer have to live without being kissed and sick with fear. When Dad got home, he yelled at me and grounded me.
Dad started to work at home and was unemployed a lot. I felt guilty for the amount of money I cost. As the eldest, I was hyper-conscious of these things. I used to use my babysitting money for lunch money on days I knew Mom would feel sad at my monetary request. I was still the family peacemaker; my sister had a temper that rivaled my father s and my mother always felt personally rejected when someone was upset; my brother and I relied on each other a lot but he was more pessimistic than I was. My father learned to be angry with me, and sometimes took it out on other members of the family, which further confirmed my suspicion that his temperament was my responsibility.
The boy I had met in Colorado came to visit me when I was sixteen. My parents liked him until my dad walked in on us. He didn t tell us he d seen anything until late that night, when he took me into his room to scream at me. He took my boy back to the airport in the morning. We both cried. I spent two years after that trying to sort out the results of that weekend. Three months after I was told never to see him again, a friend helped me drive six hours to surprise him on New Year s Eve. I lied to my parents, and was sick with guilt for days afterward. I didn t see him for another year, when my mother finally told me I could see him if he didn t stay in our house. She also told me she d found out about our trip. I was mortified, but relieved to know she still loved me. My father never found out.
The relationship, at that point, was unsalvageable. I felt like my heart was broken again and again those two years: we were never officially together, but we kept breaking up. Phone breakups were difficult and I never wanted another long-distance relationship. After I got to college, I flew out to see him without telling him I was coming. We hadn t spoken for six weeks, but I talked with one of his roommates, who let me into his room. I was expecting him to fall back in love with me or give me closure, but I had neither. I resolved the relationship with myself. Prior to the visit, I could not forgive myself for never choosing either him or my family in the battle between the two. I felt slightly less like it was my fault we had not worked out.
I got into my top-choice school, though my test scores were poor. I wrote and directed a play in my high school during senior year, and won first place for playwriting in the state. I was best friends with my roommate in college, and became close to the girl down the hall (who has a weakness for E-bay) we all three live together now, with two other friends.
I fell in love with a guy on the newspaper staff, and we regularly rub feet in bed. I have panic attacks and no one knows why. My mother works on campus, and just writing this I realize how much she has influenced me. I still don t know how to be myself without feeling guilty for something. I like old movies and don t go out on the weekends. I haven t written a great novel, but I do work for a well-known literary publication. It seems silly to write my life story when I have hardly begun to live.