Isn’t it completely bizarre the way our brains seem to pick and choose what to forget or remember? It’s like, one day, your frontal lobe decides it’s time for spring cleaning and starts pitching stuff in the basement of your mind. It picks up that bitch in kindergarten that made fun of you for not being able to whistle, twists it to give it a once-over side-to-side, and pitches it into the Goodwill box. It grabs that time you were on a mission trip in the Appalachian Mountains to build fences for poor farmers when you looked up from your work, sweaty and exhausted, and beheld the most spectacular sunset across green summer meadows that you had ever laid eyes on.
Sometimes a certain song or smell will run down the basement steps, yelling “Maaaaaahhhhhmmmm, NoooOoooooo!” and pull out of garbage the time that you were invited with the others to the cool kid’s birthday party. “Mom, how could you throw this away?! It’s my FAVORITE! It might even be worth something someday!”
I’m sure that there was a very important memory that would point to the reason I hate the name Dennis, but I have no recollection of a jerky boyfriend or rude customer service guy or scary “uncle” that would instill that high a degree of contempt in my mind. It must have been one of those that got flipped into the back of the truck with the other memories deemed useless, along with some various trivia facts, and taken to the Life Lesson Landfill.
I can’t remember ever not being able to read.
Preschool… Each day, a kid would have a parent visit school and share a favorite storybook with the class. It was MY day. The sunlight streamed into the room through the windows set so high you could only see trees with new green leaves swaying in the wind against the sky. Kids fussed and fidgeted while I sat in the small chair at the front of the group. The teacher got the class’s attention and they settled a little, as much as a group of lively four year olds can. The teacher asked if I’d like to show the class my favorite storybook. I nodded and held it up.
Softly, haltingly, I began. “Th-this is Peter-Pan… in Adventureland.”
I gulped and looked to Teacher with big eyes. She smiled comfortingly and encouraged me to tell the class a little more about it.
I nodded quickly, and opened the book the way the teacher did when she was reading to the whole class. “This is Peter-Pan in Adventureland…” and launched into reading the story to the class. I read to them about Wendy and Peter-Pan and the naughty little Tinkerbell. The teacher’s eyes got a little bigger as I read on. When I had gotten a few pages in, as I turned the next page, I stole a sideways glance and saw Teacher catch my mom’s eye and as she tapped her temple with her pointer finger she mouthed, “Memorize?”
Mom eyes shone proudly as she dramatically shook her head slowly back then forth, keeping Teacher’s gaze. Teacher’s face crumpled in with disbelief and she mouthed “Reading?!”
My heart fairly burst with happiness as Mom nodded slowly up and down.
I continued reading the story to the class. My teacher squinted her eyes and nose as she mouthed “Really?!”
Mom smiled big and warm, and continued to nod her head slowly. The teacher broke Mom’s gaze and swiveled back to the front, shaking her head slowly and blinking several times in wonder.
The happiness bubbled inside me like a shaken bottle of Coke and I involuntarily shivered. I shut my eyes and savored that moment of bliss, as the happy squished through my brain and coated it, and I had to remind myself to breathe.
Just like that, I was hooked. I was addicted to approval. It is my crack.