She was delivered by the sea, to the Sisters of Mercy, on the Immaculate Conception of Mary–December 8, 1963–her due date; conceived out of wedlock to a woman who had given her first born to adoption the previous year.
She would be a perfectly average child, reaching each of her milestones, as expected, but never ahead of schedule.
By the age of 2, however, she was 30.
These are the things her mother told her.
As the first of a fourth generation in the same home, her days were spent with adults–aunts and uncles, grandparents and great parents, all giving orders, which she mirrored back.
She even bossed the Sisters of Mercy who had delivered her, when she accompanied her grandfather on his rounds.
Her first home was a castle. A stately brick home with white columns and green ivy; set on the avenue between the ocean and the bay, just across from the white steepled church where she would go to Sunday School and return home to her Nana and her Poppop.
Her next home was the trailer park where she lived with her mother while her father finished school. She talked incessantly. Her mother gave birth to a younger sister.
When she was 4, they moved to Philadelphia, to the highrise built for the medical students with families. Her mother walked her to school each morning, 4 city blocks and back again.
When she was in the first grade, she walked through the park, and across the city streets to have a quiet lunch at home. Only her mother wasn’t pleased. “How did you get here!?” she said.
(She never came home for lunch again. Or cut her own bangs.)
Second grade was spent in New Port News, Virginia, where her father did his internship. This is where she became less than average. She went her pants in the lunch line, and she couldn’t ride a two-wheeler. When she tried, she split her knee open and her father sewed it up in the kitchen. Though below average, she was still adventurous. She’d walk to the railroad tracks and lie down upon them. She’d even lie down in the middle of road; but to be fair they lived on a quiet cul-de-sac; and what she was really after was the smell of the hot tar after the rain.
She spent her days at the beach or around the block or at the yacht club, and was able to walk just about anywhere she wanted, on her own, as fast or as slow as she wanted to go.
The world was hers. The castle was hers. Her grandparents were hers. Her life was hers.
Approaching 8, she was turned back into a child, exiled from the castle, by 2,000 miles.
The flight attendant ripped her from her grandparents arms, and later slapped her across the face so that the plane could take off without her sobs.
She was given golden wings when they landed.
Her family met her at the airport in Denver, but they were no longer familiar, and her place among them had vanished in the months apart. A dog had been chosen. A house. Bedrooms. A garden planted.
She created a club. They held fundraisers, community service projects, field trips, variety shows and fairs. She got tape across her mouth from her third grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell, who was very, very pretty.
Her best friend lived next door, but they went to different schools because Trisha was “mentally retarded.” Years later, when they moved to New York, Trisha would fly to see her, and years after that, when they were both grownups, Trisha would call and tell her about her boyfriend and her two small children.
Just before she turned 10, the family bunny was decapitated by Trisha’s dog, who couldn’t be blamed because of the puppies.
She would gather her club mates around the dead bunny to bring it back to life. They would hold hands and pray. Praying had worked when she desperately wanted to keep the black kitten they found in the sewer; and also she had won a stuffed frog each week on the bus to Sunday School until they gave her a huge frog and asked her not to memorize any more verses.
She read the Bible every night. It was her own. It had a green leather cover. She still has it.
But the thing was, there was only one book with a girl’s name; so as she came of age, she read Ruth again and again and again, admiring her dutifulness, but always hoping for more…
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