As much as I want to write, I can’t find a starting place, so I’m going to use one of Natalie Goldberg’s ideas from ‘Writing Down the Bones’.
I remember the year I was ten or eleven years old. We lived in a huge rented house, with dark stained and varnished banisters, stained glass with red and green above the door, wrought iron fancy work on the verandahs, and the frangipanni tree that grew under the bathroom window. I loved climbing in the summer and putting the blossoms in my hair. It wasn’t a strong tree though. The outer branches were like fat little fingers that broke off if you applied too much pressure. You had to stay close to the trunk.
I remember the tree in the back I liked to climb. I had a branch where I perched and watched people come and go. Sometimes it seemed they’d forget this was my place, and I felt peaceful and invincible up there. In summer I’d pull up a cup and a bottle of cordial, so I could feel like the Famous Five, and have an adventure.
I remember going to Girl Scouts because my friend did. I didn’t really like it. I was always afraid I’d have to go to camp and then people would see I couldn’t eat normal food and that they’d laugh.
I remember walking to school. It seemed a long way. I’d have a big black samsonite case, and it always felt so heavy. That year a boy often caught up and offered to carry it a little way. I remember he always looked startled by heavy it was. I don’t remember what I kept in the case.
I remember waiting for my sister after school. She was in kindergarten, I in grade six. We’d walk home together. When I went to high school, I’d catch the bus over to her school, and walk home with her.
I remember getting home and feeling so tired: waking up in the shower and realizing that I hadn’t changed out of my uniform, down to the shoes. I remember being afraid what my mother would say. I don’t really remember what she did say. I don’t remember why I lost time and woke up in the shower.
I remember my good friend, Mary. Her dad, George, ran the fish and chip shop on the corner. He would always give me a chocolate paddle pop (ice cream).
I remember walking up the back lane and finding a sick sparrow. I remember picking it up and taking it to my mother. I remember her telling me I’d get mites from the sparrow. Maybe I did. I can’t remember if I got itchy. I think she told me to put it back.
I remember weekends with Dad. He would sometimes let us girls take turns riding in the wheelbarrow. I remember he’d run us around on the pebbled path. I never even realized he would get tired.
I remember the sixth grade teacher who stressed me out and psychologically tormented me. I remember crying and Mum coming to school and the teacher discussing why I wasn’t doing the work. I think I had shut down. I remember thinking that if I did the work, he wouldn’t notice me so much anymore. I don’t know if that helped.
I remember learning to dance on the asphalt quadrangle with my class. Bush dancing like ‘Strip the Willow’, and the Zorba, and the Mexican Hat Dance. I remember going to a bush dance with a friend’s family once. I loved it. I remember wishing my family would go, but it wasn’t the kind of thing they were interested in.
I remember playing ‘Red Light, Green Light’ on the asphalt, and having a basketball thrown full into my stomach. I remember younger kids at school laughing at me and I remember wanting to feel invisible.
I remember when the circus came to school, to teach us juggling and acrobatics. I remember not being any good at it.
I remember being invited to my first birthday party. I remember being surprised, as I didn’t think anyone wanted me as a friend. Later that year, a classmate wrote to me from Scotland. I remember being surprised that she thought of me as a friend.
I remember the day our dog left. I don’t remember if she got another home, or if it was a family euphemism for put down. I remember the day my older brother left home, and feeling sad.
I remember looking at the stars at night, on the pebble path, with my other brother, and feeling special that he wanted to spend time with me. I remember deciding I wanted to be an astronomer when I grew up.
Now I am grown, I still love to look at the stars.