When I think of being a five year old, the same events always line up behind my image of the house. I think of standing tall on my toes, looking up at an older lady in our church and saying, “I am five now, but being five goes really fast.”
This might have been when I was four – I don’t remember much from when I was five, because it was such a short year – but I also remember going up to my “adopted” mother, pointing out all my bruises and “scars”, and saying, “I just feel like I am getting older.”
I remember a time, too, when I was twelve or so and a teacher of mine was asking me about my year and my face got red. She smiled and pinched my cheek and said, “Oh, it must be hard being so fair.” It was as equally sweet as it was odd as it was maddening.
Back when I was five, I remember my two older brothers and I looking over a large gun catalog from the early 20th century. Where it came from – or where it is now – I have no clue. We would stay up late, deciding which pistol or rifle was cooler. Thinking of it now, it was more than a gun catalog, but we weren’t interested in women’s stockings or refrigerators at the time.
I also remember a time when the neighbor kids took me out to some outhouse or little shed, came in with me, and locked the door. The shed had a nice window, so there was a lot of light. They pointed out these letters and symbols written in some red ink. They told me that it was chicken blood and that the people who once lived on their property were witches. This made me wonder what the male equivalent of a witch was. For years, I thought it was a wizard, but their hats and ways of behaving never aligned.
Also, I remember confusing S and C, so I recalled which was which by saying, “C.S. Lewis.”
Also, I remember confusing gray and brown. There was no help for me.
Also, I remember that roughly between the ages of seven and eleven, I would press my tongue firmly on the roof of my mouth or behind my teeth if I had to pronounce an “l” or “n.” I would not stop pronouncing it, until I felt satisfied that I had pressed my tongue firmly enough.
Also, I remember drawing maps and pictures in thousands of church bulletins. On the back of one church bulletin, under notes:, I drew the shelf of a man who collects body parts. I drew jars of different sizes for ears and for noses and for eyes. It so pleased me, that I gave it to that older women I mentioned earlier. She said nothing. Ecclesiastes, to the best of her knowledge, says nothing about pickle jars.
That last memory reminds me of this next one, only because they happened in the same church building. My friend, Logan, turned nine. I was jealous, because I thought we were the same age (we were for a little bit). It was the first time jealousy ate at me.
Also, I remember that everything was different than it is now. I am not saying it was better. Now is better and tomorrow will be better than today, someway. But I remember when everything I saw with my eyes and smelled with my nose was new. I remember when I felt safe like a jelly in a jar in a cellar, because I had my parents to see. If I ever felt scared about some unknown, all I had to do was find my mom or dad and look at them. Looking at them made me safe again.
I remember the warmth I felt being inside the old Sugar Grove house on a Saturday, because the family was all around. Dad mowed the lawn, Mom painted in the dining room, and donuts sat on the counter in the kitchen. Dave and Nate were outside playing catch or skateboarding. Anna was in her room performing little spells for all I know. Josiah and Zach were around, somehow doing the same things as me, but staying separate. I remember looking up in the noon sun, but the cool breeze, on a Saturday, at the tall square farmhouse with its yellow siding. The tip of the roof was shaded by a tree. If my memory serves me, that tree fell and blocked our gravel driveway. I remember the neighbor coming over and my dad showing him inside the old smokehouse. I thought of the smokehouse. It was a foreign concept to me. I thought it might be full of hanging human corpses from an inquisition or a max exodus that forced some wandering people to cannibalism. I remember thinking about the smokehouse all day and when the night came, I went inside, looking for Dad and for dinner. I remember that it might have been a birthday – Josiah’s – and he sat in the middle of our long and sticky dinner table.
I forget where I crossed over into today. I forget the time when I started making my way alone. I forget the time when the unknown began to attract me. I forget the first time I didn’t want to see my parents, because they scared me. I forget the first night I spent alone, but unafraid.
I remember when I was so scared of death, that I shivered in bed. And I looked up at the ceiling and the fan rotating and wondering, “Why wouldn’t it just fall right on me? And why wouldn’t God just send me straight to hell? What proof have I given him that I desire him more than I desire avoiding hell?” I remember asking Anna if it is wrong to love God, only because you want to avoid Hell. I forgot her answer. I remember that the first time I stopped being scared of death, was when Josiah told me to go talk to Mom and Dad. So I knocked on their door and stood at the edge of their bed. I told them what I was scared of and I was crying and I was nine and my dad grabbed my skinny arm and said, “This is going to give you big faith muscles.”