Memory Monday – O, Brother . . .
My brother, TheBro, was born in June in the slightly less early 70’s. I had to stay with the “Five-Guys” family (I just decided to call them that, because they had five sons–not because of the restaurant) all day while my parents were at the hospital in Tegucigalpa. I was introduced to baked beans that day. I remember this because I was unsure how to eat them and, in fear of doing it wrong, attempted to spear each bean individually with my fork. My pal Marc didn’t say anything (maybe he didn’t know how to eat them either) but his (to my mind) practically grown-up brother Saul teased me about it, thus inflicting upon me exactly what I had been trying to avoid: embarrassment. That feeling came to be the most dreaded feeling in my arsenal of emotions until I was about 35. (You’re probably not supposed to dread things in your own arsenal, but that’s the kind of girl I am, I guess.)
It was dark out when Daddy came to pick me up, and he and Mr and Mrs Five-Guys stood in the carport for a while, talking, while I danced around sing-songing, “I have a baby brother! I have a baby brother!” Everyone thought this was cute and charming but that’s only because they missed my almost-four-year-old sotto voce, “But I wish I had a baby sister . . . ”
I stopped wishing that pretty quickly, and TheBro and I ended up becoming extremely close, but brother or sister, I was suddenly no longer either the only child or the only grandchild in the family. I don’t remember having difficulty adjusting, but I do seem to recall that biting was an issue. What I mostly remember about my “baby brother” was that I thought he was adorable. (He was, too.) Also, that he made a “colossal mess.” (My mother said this at one point, and I latched onto it and said it again, using the phrase correctly, too.)
At some point we went back to the USA and at the suggestion (or urging) of my mother, I “asked Jesus in to my heart.” I didn’t really understand the point, since I already knew I loved Jesus and what was this “into my heart” business all about, and if Jesus already knew everything He would know I wanted to belong to Him so why did I have to ask Him? But I did it because Mommy said it was important and then Grandma and Grandpa M and all the aunts and uncles went crazy with delight when we got to Grandma and Grandpa’s back porch and Mommy told them what I had done, and I got superannoyed (probably embarrassed) with all the gushing attention. I was all-the-way four at this time. Back in Honduras, but also when I was four, I announced to my mother that I wanted to write stories “like Elsa Beskow.”
I started school at Academia Los Pinares (which, at the time, didn’t look anything like the photos on its website look now) when I was five. A group of Airstreamers stopped by near our bus stop. My dad and I got to go inside one of the Airstreams. Did I mention I want an Airstream? My friend Marc was in my class. I also made friends with Greg* and Pete*, who became my on-and-off, and often simultaneous, “boyfriends.” Greg and Pete both had unhappy families. Greg’s parents hated each other, I think. His mother was a chain smoker and he once told me something, entirely incomprehensible to me at the time, about his dad “acting married” with other men in a van. Greg’s family had one of the first VCR’s, though, so that was cool. Pete’s mother had died and he talked about ghosts.
Our first kindergarten teacher, Mrs Z, was wonderful, but her husband got a job transfer and took her away from us, leaving us with Mrs C. Mrs C yelled at us and, I believed, especially at me. I didn’t hold the pencil right. I got unspeakably, nervously giddy standing in front of the class to explain a drawing I had done. I was under no circumstances to hid out in the beloved playhouse at the far end of the room when everyone else went home. I understand that last one, but she really did scream at me when she found me in there. Mrs C also told our class that if we bowed our heads when we thanked God for our snacks, we were actually praying to the devil, because he was “down” and God was “up.” This worried me for quite some time–years, I think–until I told my parents about it.
Our first grade teacher, Miss Y, in contrast, was a dream. She was really nice and she taught us how to read. In Miss Y’s class I asked Jesus into my heart again, this time understanding that I was a sinner and having a slightly better grasp on why I needed to invite Him.
Second grade was fine, though my best friend at the time, Gabriela, was a year behind me, so we didn’t get to spend as much time together as I would have liked. The other girls in my class teased me for not being able to colour inside the lines. Mrs B was sometimes moody, but nothing like Mrs C, and was a competent teacher. In second grade–maybe partly because we were in a joint class with a group of third graders–Greg was shown to me to be decidedly unpopular, so I dropped him. (I’m not sure why. It certainly didn’t make me popular. And I still couldn’t colour inside the lines.) Pete was no longer at A.L.P. I had no “boyfriends,” but crushes on all the boys–in whatever way 7-year-olds have crushes. My reading skills were taking off and I read voraciously.
Just before my year in second grade ended, my parents got a call back to the US to plant a church in New England. We said goodbye and flew away . . .
* Some names have been changed . . . mostly because I don’t know what’s up with these guys these days and I’d hate for someone to figure out who they were without their knowing about it.