I haven't talked about my childhood very much, or really at all. When I've briefly mentioned it, all I've said it my life up until the age of 15 was kind of difficult. Today, I wanted to talk about my childhood, but the good parts. The following are stories, experiences, and moments that made my childhood good.
Scooters, Cats, and Chickens
When my dad moved to a place in almost the middle of nowhere, I wasn't so sure what to think. It was an apartment that sat above a mechanic (at least I think it was...). I was ten years old when my brother and I were moved into a giant bedroom with a couple dividers in the middle. For the days I was with my dad, I slept on a mattress that was on the ground with my polka dot blanket and blue canopy that hung from the ceiling. My dollhouse acted as a bedside table, and I put my glasses, princess clock that played music, and cup of water on the doll porch. I would slide around the apartment's tile floors with my socks, visit the chickens that lived only a few dozen feet a way, and, after Christmas 2010, rode my scooter around the whole place.
That scooter is one of my favorite memories of childhood. There was a giant hill that you had to go down to get to the apartment, and since we were in the middle of nowhere but for a few workers, there were hardly any cars. I quickly realized that if I pushed the scooter up the hill, I could cruise down the hill at top speed and then go around the entire apartment almost twice without doing any work. It was easily my favorite thing to do. I spent hours on that scooter, going up and down the hill, making up stories about what the house beyond the trees was like, and running through the field where the chickens lived. We also had a stray, black cat named Max who had a lost a small portion of his right ear. He appeared on my windowsill one night and returned for the next year and a half. I was devastated when my dad moved away and couldn't take Max with him.
The Tale of Despereaux
Right after my parents separated, my mom moved in with my grandparents for a few months. We moved into their bedroom and they went downstairs. My mom and I shared their bed and my brother slept on a mattress on the floor. When we first moved in, my mom started reading The Tale of Despereaux to us. This is one of my favorite memories because it was really the thing that brought the three of us together into a new kind of family.
The Golden Buffalo
When we were ten and eight, my little brother and I asked my mom if we could have a dog. One of her friends had a golden retriever and my mom casually said that if she ever had puppies, we'd talk about getting one. Flash forward a year, and she had puppies. My mom, brother, and I drove down to a suburb of Los Angeles to meet our new puppy, who we would name Zi (pronounced like Z, the letter).
Zi grew very quickly, to the point where he'd bump into anything and everything without meaning to. He'd chew on the wooden gate we'd set up to keep him in the kitchen, and he scared me horribly for the first couple of years (I grew up being very afraid of dogs). But he made everything funnier, and he brought more joy into our house than had ever been there before. He made me feel safe, and he fixed a lot of the sadness that had enveloped our little family. I don't know where we'd be without Zi and all his hyper, buffalo-like love.
Princess Beds, Blueberry Pancakes, and Ducklings
When I was little, my brother and I would often have sleepovers at my grandparents house. At their house there was a queen sized bed with a gold, metal headboard. I called it the "princess bed" because I always felt like a princess when I slept in it. The carpet downstairs was different in each room, and when my grandparents changed it so it all matched, I was so sad that, before it happened, I asked my grandmother to take pictures of me with all the old carpet. When I'd go to sleep, I would listen to an audio book on her tape recorder. It was a book called Make Way for Ducklings, and it was my favorite picture book (and, honestly, still is). When I'd wake up, I'd go upstairs where their stain glass window in the door made patches of rainbow all over the entryway. I'd have blueberry pancakes with whipped cream for breakfast, and read books with my Grandmom.
Throughout my childhood, my grandparents and their house were the only constant I had. Until we all moved to the Bay Area in 2014, they lived in that same house for all twelve of the years I lived in Central California. Those sleepovers I had, Thursday afternoons when I came over after school, and dinners have swim practice are times that helped shape into the person I am. The unconditional love, Bible stories, and Christmas traditions gave me more than good childhood memories. They gave me space to have a childhood.
All the Animals
Over the years, I've had many odd pets. Over time, our house became a self-proclaimed ark. We've had many hamsters, four guinea pigs, a few fish, a cat, a dog (the buffalo), some birds, four chickens, and, for a few days, a baby quail. My mom and I found it outside my grandparents house after the momma quail and other babies had wandered away, and we tried really hard to save it. We named him "Ducky," because, well, of course we did. A few years ago, my dad had a habit of letting in stray dogs and cats, so for a while there would be a different collection of animals every time I went to visit. When he married my stepmom, two more dogs came into the mix. I've been surrounded by animals for as long as I can remember, and that has definitely helped bring more good into my childhood. Now, there are turkeys that wander through our neighborhood on a regular basis. There are geese near my grandparents house, as well as a cow that I've heard a few times but never actually seen. We seem to attract the misfits, and I'm very okay with that.
When my parents first separated, my mom did everything she could to make a family out of her, my brother, and me. One of the big things she did was go on road trips with us. She'd get hotels or camping tents, and we'd pile into the car and go to San Diego, Sacramento (ha, little did we know), Utah, anywhere. We'd listen to music, audio books, or look out the window. Stopping to take pictures, shopping for groceries in random grocery stories, and stopping for fruit at one of the few fruit stands we'd pass. Those road trips are what made us into our own little family, and I can't thank my mom enough for giving us the opportunity to travel and see our little world a bit bigger.
There are many other stories that I could mention, such as jumping off dunes at the beach, hiking at one of the few trails near my grandparent's house, or helping my grandmother transform the school library into a place you actually wanted to be instead of something the 4th graders said was probably haunted. When I think of my childhood, I don't always think of the good things. Actually, 90% of the time I'm thinking of something bad. But that doesn't mean that my entire childhood was bad. Parts of it, like those I've written about today, were actually really good. My childhood wasn't great, but there were great moments, and I'm learning to remember those parts more.