The day of my birth, my father visited my mother in the hospital to tell her he wanted a divorce. I have no way of knowing how that dismal fact affected my childhood, though Mother told me I used to whimper a lot as a baby. Regardless, I must have recovered quickly, because my earliest girlhood memories have me swinging from the tops of trees like a natural monkey, or flying over fences after letting go of my seat on a swing, or engaging in dirt-clod wars with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood, taking cover within the lush suburban jungle of a vacant lot.
I only had one doll and couldn’t say if I missed having more, though I remember being envious of the awesome collection of Storybook Dolls lining the shelves of a little friend’s bedroom. Not to worry, of course— I had other things to do, and playing with dolls wasn’t on the list.
My mother re-married when I was eight-years-old, and the man she married was a handsome, no-ifs-ands-or-buts veteran of WWII, a Lieutenant. Having only experienced a casual matriarchy up until then —mother, grandmother and three girls— and being entirely unacquainted with the notion of patriarchy, I didn’t take to the new arrangement all that well. Thus began The Resistance. My step-father soon learned I wasn’t going to be a push-over, getting lip from me in no uncertain terms: “I don’t have to mind you— you’re not my father.”
The man had a big heart, though, and found a way to soften the resistance when I reached age ten. He bought a six-month-old horse for me, fulfilling that little girl’s constant wishes, which she had been expressing out loud from the very beginning. I named him “Salute,” and we remained good companions until I married at age twenty-four. Funny thing is, now, a million years later, I miss the horse more than the man I married and divorced thirteen years into the marriage.
Also at age ten I could beat any boy in the neighborhood at foot racing. Of course, those athletic triumphs soon went the way of pale reminiscences, when all of us reached puberty. “Oh! The unfairness of it all!” But I still had my horse, though I went from horse-crazy to boy-crazy in no time at all, not that I ignored my horse—he was always good for soothing a broken heart. Then along comes marriage, and I had to sell my horse and put all my childish dreams aside, but didn’t. Not really.
"So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us." ~Gaston Bachelard