Once upon a time, the universe was nothing much. Then came what we call a big bang, though it sounded more like a boom, followed by persistent gurgling.

Fast forward through time and space, matter and anti-matter, apes and evolution, until Franklin Roosevelt was President of these United States.

Let's stop in a remote, sunny farm town in eastern Washington, in the 1930s. See that girl over there, the brunette? She doesn't know it, but she's going to be my mother.

The boy who'd be my father lived with his mother, my eventual Grandma Holland, in a mildly squalid apartment in Montana's 14th largest city, two states away and two years ahead of Mom.

All sorts of things must've happened to my parents when they were kids, but when they told it, what came next was: Dad finished high school, and came to Seattle to attend college. When Mom came, they met when she walked into the registrar's office, where Dad was working part-time.

I once asked Dad if he'd worked at the registrar's desk to pick up girls, but he didn't laugh. He'd worked there to pay his tuition, he said, and he met my mother that morning because it was God's will.

My parents were always been big fans of God. There should've been a 'God' pennant on our living room wall, but — sorry, I'm getting decades ahead of the story.

Mom was 17. Dad was 19. They'd each been on malt shoppe and movie dates, but neither had seriously dated anyone. By that afternoon they were holding hands, and within a week they were going steady. They married two years later, or, as Mom always said, she got her 'MRS degree', and quit college.

Dad was a chemist, Mom a housewife, and they became parents five times over — two the old-fashioned way, and three by adoption. Then came another big bang, and — pleased to meet ya — an accidental sixth child, who grew up odd and is writing this now.

♦ ♦ ♦

Why so odd? Who knows — nobody can explain why they're the way they are, but there were undoubtedly non-Disney moments when I was a tot. Grandma Holland lived in our house, and Mom and Dad didn't know that Grandma beat the youngins whenever she was the babysitter.

Also, all of my older siblings have confessed that, when I was in the crib and later toddling around, they played with me as a plaything more than a baby brother.

Or, who knows, maybe I fell down a flight of stairs and it jiggled my head wrong.

Whatever the cause, I have always preferred to be alone, and suffered varying degrees of nervousness or terror around other people.

Alone means I'm safe, in control, and can do what I want. Not being alone is unsafe, everything's out of control, and maybe I'm trying to fit in but more likely I'm in the corner, pretending to be alone.

♦ ♦ ♦

When Mom told me I'd soon be going to kindergarten, I spent the next month trying to talk her out of it. I wanted to stay home, alone.

"You'll learn to love school," she said. It was one of millions of argument lost to my mother, so on an autumn morning in nineteen-sixty-something she dragged me into a Christian schoolhouse, for my first session of all-day kindergarten.

Being in a crowd of other kids was awkward. I was extremely shy, not liked by my peers, and probably unlikable, because I didn't want to be there. It was not like not wanting broccoli; more like not wanting to stand on a ledge six stories up.

In addition to the other kids and having to be there, I didn't like our teacher, Miss Brandt. She was old, had a scent about her, and she was chilly, stern, and sighed a lot. Looking back now with older eyes, I think she didn't want to be there, any more than I did. 

Some 'education' happened under Miss Brandt, but what I'd hoped to learn — why are some apples green and some red, and why's the sky blue and grass green or yellow? — wasn't on the agenda. Instead we were taught how to sit still at our desks, how to pledge allegiance to the flag, and how to be quiet while the teacher said boring things.

There were breaks for playtime, and cool toys were provided, but playing alone was against the rules. So I played with the dreaded 'other kids' if they'd have me, and some of them would, but playing alone would've been more fun. Man, the cities I could've built with those blocks, without the other kids knocking them down.

♦ ♦ ♦

There was one friend among the kids in kindergarten. She was a shy little girl, her name long gone from me, so for today I'll christen her Christina. We often sat with each other at lunch and played together, when I was forced to play with someone else. Not counting days Miss Brandt ordered all the kids to say "Good morning" to all the other kids, Christina was the only kid I said "Hi" to, and who said "Hi" to me.

At our all-day kindergarten, after lunch there was nap-time. Miss Brandt unfolded two dozen cots and we were all supposed to lie down and sleep for 45 minutes. To 5-year-old me, this was even more ridiculous than being taught how to sit straight and still.

In a story my Mom's told me and others ten thousand times, I wouldn't or couldn't or refused to nap at nap-time, so the teacher ordered me to simply lie there and be quiet. I wasn't trying to be difficult, but staying horizontal and reading the clock was the best I could do. "I must be quiet for 11 more minutes," I'd whisper but the teacher heard, and then, "I must be quiet for ten more minutes and 45 more seconds…"

During one of those wide-awake naps, Christina was supposed to be napping in the cot beside mine, but she was awake, too. I'd been quietly yammering at her, so the teacher knew we were psst-psst talking but couldn't hear precisely what we were saying.

With my head on my cot level with Christina's knees, I could see her white panties up her skirt, so I whispered, "Hey, can I see your butt?" She nodded or shrugged, so I yanked her panties down. Girl butt!

Not sure what I expected, but it was only a butt, no different from mine. And yet, Christina's butt is the first vivid memory that remains of any event in my life, and I would thank her again today. 

Kids are curious, right? No, Miss Brandt thought kids should certainly not be curious about other kids' butts. I was a monster, you see, and suddenly everything was very, very loud despite it being nap-time and all.

My exact punishment I don't remember and won't guess, but Christina was never again allowed nap-time on even the same side of the room as me, and always my cot was surrounded by other boys in other cots. Even saying "Hi" to Christina seemed to draw the teacher's suspicions.

♦ ♦ ♦

Other than that, my clearest memory of kindergarten is that after each day, Mom would ask, "How was school?" Dad would ask it again, a few hours later when he came home from work.

"Shitty," is what I would've said every time they asked, but we were not allowed to use such accurate terms, so instead I said, "I hated it," or words to that effect.

"You'll learn to love it," Mom said again and again, always with her biggest smile, but you know what? After kindergarten came 'real' school, then junior high school, then high school, and I never learned to love it. Eventually, Mom and Dad stopped asking.

For me, there were no days in school that didn't feel like jail. For twelve years, I sat straight, kept quiet, and was frequently beaten up by bigger boys in the hall, in the locker bays, on my walk home.

I skipped class often, in latter years more often than attending, but I was 'present' enough to absorb reading, writing, and the basics of arithmetic. I know 1492 and the three branches of government, and for that I thank my teachers, and believe in public education.

But each day for all those years at school, what I wanted was out. I'd come home afterward, and have a few hours of ordinary childhood — hang out with my brothers and sisters, watch too much TV, eat dinner with the family, then watch more TV. Very best of all, though, was that whenever I wanted, I could go into my room and be alone.


 A Work in Progress
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  1. Wow, what a deep dive into the past, I did that last year, wrote every memory from kindergarten to high school, quite the project...Eel

    1. Doughnut Man! Welcome back & where ya been & did you bring more doughnuts?

      It's my intent to plumb the depths of any memories that seem vaguely interesting, before dying and taking the memories with me.


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