I told my therapist yesterday that I wish I was still seven years old. I've been thinking about that lately. Wanting to be a little kid. Missing the smell of the Crayola box, Playdoh, and construction paper. Yes, construction paper has a smell. Wishing I still lived in the suburbs of Chicago, playing in the backyard on the enormous wooden swing set/playhouse my dad built with his own two hands (complete with sandbox underneath). Imagining the rose bushes my parents had on the side of the house, the smell reminding me that everything was safe and beautiful and normal. Remembering playing with ants with my next door neighbor, Brian. We used to kill them and then wrap them up in blue Kleenex and bury them in the yard.
My mother used to put on this powder after her baths, the smell of which was my most favorite as a child. It was soft, calming, and so my mother. In the summer, when it was really hot and we had fans going in every room of the house, she'd come down to the kitchen in the evenings wearing a lightweight cotton nightgown, short sleeves and all, with its flowery print that I thought really was the reason she smelled so good. Her hair would still be wet, combed back neatly behind her ears. I'd be at the table, coloring or doing some such activity, and she'd lean over and kiss me on my head, her fresh scent surrounding me like a hug. Whenever I get sad about my mom's illness, I remember back to those evenings and I feel a little better. She seemed so normal then, so healthy, so beautiful. So much like a mother.
I've been thinking about my childhood lately. Remembering back to visits to my grandparents when I felt so happy and relaxed. Remembering my Nana and Pappap's house, with its secret stairwell, the Last Supper painting in the brick-walled kitchen, and the glass dish on the living room coffee table that always had jelly beans in it. Thinking back to my Grammee's apartment, the little spare room that I used to sleep in, the bowls of vanilla ice cream/chocolate syrup/peanuts we'd eat while watching The Golden Girls.
I've been thinking about all of the homes I've lived in: Wheeling, West Virginia; Palos Heights, Illinois; Mansfield, Ohio (two homes there); Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. I've been thinking about the several times my father sat us down at the kitchen table and told us we were moving. Again. And looking at my older brother Geoff and thinking, At least I won't be alone. Now he and I hardly ever speak.
Thinking of all the schools I went to, all the times I was The New Girl. Wondering if my brother was as nervous as I was, in whatever classroom on whatever floor of the building he was in. Those memories feel like they belong to someone else. Like those events really were a lifetime ago. I guess they were...
I miss my childhood. My therapist said I didn't get much of a childhood because I was forced to be an adult far too soon. And it's true. I became the woman of the house at age 10. And I never looked back.
I do not like being an adult right now. I want to play, to run around in the yard, to climb on the swing set my father made. Scribble with Crayola, the smell sticking to my tiny little fingers. I want to bury ants with Brian and eat ice cream with Grammee. I want to hide in the secret stairwell at Nana and Pappap's so that nobody can find me and ask me to be an adult.
I grew up into an adult when I was 10. And now, 22 years later, I am sad. And missing the child I never got to be.
with love from Pittsburgh,