(In an effort to mimic brilliant blogger Holly’s birthday post – though likely not as witty, and considering I’m still a little hungover from deep blue sugary cocktails and Malibu-and-pineapples I’m not going to even attempt to be – I give you a brief chronology on what has been my life up until now. Let it be said, I had to consult my mom on the majority of the following, as I don’t really remember anything prior to age 12. Hey, memory loss happens when you get this old.)
1983, age o: A week later than scheduled (I’ve never been one for timeliness) in the boondocks of Winchester, Tennessee, on this day 25 long years ago, I came kicking and screaming out of the womb, with a full head of hair and a mouth like a banshee, at which point my parents furrowed their collective brow, turned to each other in bewilderment and mutually exclaimed, “What were we thinking?” Their bank accounts would later empathize.
1984, age 1: I had my first best friend: He went by Ernie, and was about a foot in height with disheveled hair, a horribly mismatched, red-and-blue-striped ensemble and a bright orange face, which I can only assume was not due to overexposure in a tanning bed. Every picture I’ve found in my archives from this time period reveals circular Band-aids on each knee, leading me to believe that I was graceful from birth – something that has surely stuck with me until today. I also got my second best friend that year, Madeline, a beautiful, perfect golden retriever, who would be stolen right from under our nose five years later during the Persian Gulf War by a gang of Dog Thieves from The Mountain. We maintain that she was run over by a car instead and went to Doggie Heaven where there is an ample supply of bones to lick and butts to sniff.
1985, age 2: My family rented a cabin in the mountains in northern Georgia; around 10pm one night after I went to bed, my parents heard me screaming at the top of lungs and sprinted upstairs to find me running around in my lofted bedroom – still completely passed out – repeatedly slamming into the banister. “It scared the fool out of me,” my mother recalls. She consulted a child psychologist because everyone said there was something wrong with me (if they only knew). My mom’s Uncle Charlie, a pediatrician, finally concluded that I just had night terrors, a common, albeit disturbing, condition in young children.
1986, age 3: I wrote my first book. No, really. It was relayed to my mother, who wrote it down on a pad of legal paper, and went something like this “Once Upon a Time, there was a princess named Snow White…” and I think it included every Disney heroine there was at the time (I didn’t like men in my early years; much has changed since). From then and there, I told everyone I was going to be a “writer” when I grew up – no astronaut, cowboy, chef, doctor, actress. Apparently, I was always a girl who knew what she wanted.
1987, age 4: In a fit of rage against my mother, I threw my favorite stuffed animal, a squirrel, out the window as means to get back at her (for what, neither of us remember; we assume she might have made me leave the park earlier than I would have liked). When we reached our home, my mom asked, “where’s your squirrel?” “I threw it out the window.” “Why would you do that????” “I was mad at you,” I retorted, likely with my hands on my hips. It never occurred to me until much later that I was punishing myself, not her. We later returned to the park to retrieve it, but it was long gone. I bawled for days.
1988, age 5: I came home from school one day, so excited because we had “met Mr. T.” My mom found this hilarious simply because while my classmates were learning each entity of the alphabet, I had already completed the entire Ramona series (I went to a very advanced Montessori where they taught us multiplication and conversational Spanish from as early as two years old). This same year, I became an Older Sister to Kari, who I would not like until she was much, much older (I was an only child for nearly six years, cut me some slack). My friends all loved her, though, so I was the most popular kid on the block with a live baby doll. The only time I paid her any attention was when someone would come over to “ooh” and “ahh” over her gurgly baby self, at which point, I would plop her in the stroller and proudly parade her around. I was also painfully shy, believe it or not. I would never be “It” in tag or “goose” in Duck Duck – whenever this happened, I would run to my teacher crying and hide behind her legs. On the way to dance in my carpool one day, I became a felon for the first time: Childhood pals Laura Lee and Mary Lambeth (yes, you can see I grew up in the South with the abundance of double names) said, “It’s so cool – you can get free stuff here!” at the local equivalent of 7-11, so we walked out to the station wagon, our clothes bulging with BottleCaps and SweeTarts. My mom heard crunching and asked what we were doing. ML and LL quickly exclaimed, “nothing!” (they were smart early on) while a naive me piped up “eating candy!” not knowing it was wrong. Mortified, she made us return everything we hadn’t eaten. What she didn’t know is this would spawn my klepto ways: From then on, I stole individually-wrapped caramels from Kroger’s for years.
1989, age 6: At a family reunion in Paris, Tennessee (yes, Paris – there’s also a Rome, Athens and Milan, though it’s pronounced MY-lun in typical Southern fashion), I asked for cherry pie for dessert. Not out of character, my father picked up a plate, loafed over to the dessert table, picked out a piece of pie, trudged over to the vegetable table and added what he thought to be cherries. He continued to the ice cream machine and added a dollop of vanilla, before presenting Six-Year-Old Me with a heaping pile of sugary goodness. I took one bite and spat it out. The cherries turned out to be beets. My dad never possessed an eye for detail. It would be nearly two decades before I ate non-maraschino cherries again.
1990, age 7: Every year at Field Day, I came home with a whole handful of blue ribbons and one red, from the 100-yard dash that I always came in second to best friend Jana (who now lives in San Francisco with me). After two years of this, I got fed up, and my dad spent an entire year training me on getting off the start line as quickly as possible. I was determined to beat Jana, and I just knew second grade was my year. When Field Day rolled around, I strapped on my brand new running shoes, which my mom had bought me the day before just for the occasion. I didn’t lace from the bottom – I was seven, I didn’t know these tricks – and I lost my shoe shortly after pushing off of the start line. Not only did I not come in first, I finished last. As the trend seems to go, I cried for days. Or maybe just hours.
1991, age 8: Right before we moved across town, my mom found mysterious Picasso-like scribbles in crayon all over the walls in every room in the house. This really pleased her, as with all she had to do in moving, she was very keen to repaint the entire old house. She asked me why I did it, and I nonchalantly shrugged my shoulders as if to say “dunno.” She concluded I did it because I was the perfect child and had never gotten in trouble (meanwhile my nearly two-year-old sister was making contact with the wooden spoon on a daily basis). She tried to rack her brain for times I was a troublemaker, and surprisingly couldn’t come up with any (though she did compose a long list of Kari moments, which I will save for my Oct. 8 post). What she didn’t know is Jana and I were mol
ding young Kari behind her back, by making her step in dog poo while barefooted and moon cars passing by only wearing dinosaur glasses.
1992, age 9: After seeing five minutes of Jaws, my fear of sharks, the ocean, and water in general would be forever cemented. My mom bought me a full set of Childcraft Encyclopedias. One was an underwater volume with pictures of great whites. I wouldn’t sleep in the room if the book was present (even in its closed state). To this day, I’m terrified of the open water, swimming pool drains and sometimes even shower faucets. I still won’t watch movies, open Internet pages or flip through books that have any trace of sharks. If I ever encounter Steven Spielberg, he will get a piece of my mind.