One time my brother tried explaining to me how we forget things. He said, "Think about each memory as a fuse. Each time you think about it, it gets renewed. If you don't think about it, it'll splutter out and die." Maybe that's how it is, maybe not. But for as long as I could remember, each one of my childhood memories played out like an old VHS tape recording. They were mostly in third person, sometimes first, but always played out as if I had hit the "screen record" button of life, or as if someone else has taken a short video of that scene and plastered it over my brain.
A long, long time ago, when I couldn't have been older than three or four, me and my grandma had been close. Now, not so much. Back when I was a kid, languages weren't necessary in communication. Or maybe it was because it was before I had to attend school were I was required to speak in English, I'm not sure. But we'd always go out on the porch and crouch down next to the big rocks on the front lawn. We'd search between those cracks for snails, lifting them out, poking them, and then putting them back into their narrow home. On especially sunny or lonely days, she'd take me hand in hand to go walk along the sidewalk, past all the houses lined up and the cars rushing by. We'd walk and walk until we reached the end of the main residential road, away from the neighborhood and onto the large byways with multiple lanes and traffic lights. We'd stop, and just stand there. I would protest, "How come we can't walk any further?"
With her other hand, she'd point at the cars moving by and the buildings beyond before responding, "It's dangerous and far. Dad's at a place called college, where he is working very hard, so one day he can go help Mom."
"What do you mean, help Mom? If he stayed home with us then that'd be enough helping."
Then my grandma would proceed to explain the systems of college degrees, skilled labor, and the need for money to support ourselves. I don't know how much I understood it all back then, but maybe that's one explanation for my sheer shock when I realized not everyone went to college.
We'd stand there, just listening to the whoosh of the cars, then she'd gently nudge me and that would be our cue to start heading back. Along the way we'd stoop down and pick up snails going across the sidewalk, placing them on the other side where it was safe. My grandma would console me at every crushed snail we passed.
It's always the simple things that occupied that special place in my memory. Not parties or expensive gifts or even vacations to the other side of the world.
Preschool was a rush of memories. Mostly it's just bits and pieces of scenes and people that I remember. There had been a big jolly woman who sang a song about peanut butter to us once. Near the end she pretended to choke and downed a large glass of water before laughing loudly. I didn't understand it back then, but I remember poorly reenacting the song and her performance to my parents later on. It became a joke, and whenever the topic of peanut butter came up, we would bring that song back up. I don't think Mom or Dad remembers anymore, though.
My dad was still attending university back then and my mom worked night shifts at the hospital and slept during the day, so my dad hired someone from his study group to pick me up and take me to preschool. She was nice, albeit generic. Chatty but laid-back, glasses, and straight brown hair. I was deathly afraid of her for some reason, but then again I was deathly afraid of anyone who didn't live in my house back then. On the rare occasions my dad brought me to school, I would cry and cling to him and pound my fists against the ground until the teacher pried me off him. Even then I would hide behind the cubbies crying until I realized he wasn't coming back until the end of the day. That, and the snacks the teacher lured me out with.
One time I tried jumping on the tables and she sternly told me off. I started bawling and tried scratching at her with my little stubby fingernails. I remember her wearing jeans and my mom telling me how ferocious and futile my attempts had been. Another memory was piecing together a potato man. While everyone tried to place the eyes so they were symmetrical and arms where they should be, I had stuck as many pieces on as I could, from an arm on the hole near the bottom to an eye on the side.
From then to 7th grade, I was like a piece of the thinnest, most fragile piece of china. When the teacher told me I did a math problem wrong one time in 5th grade, I started crying. Maybe it was because I was regarded as the smartest out of everyone, and for me to get a problem wrong that everyone else knew how to do was too humiliating. When I got home that day, I furiously searched up how to curse someone online. Why I read an article about voodoo dolls on Wiki-how back then, I still don't quite know. But I doubt I'll ever know, and that's okay.
Another preschool memory. We had to bring our favorite books to class. Like any normal preschooler I didn't think twice, just grabbed my favorite book off the shelf and awaited my turn to show the class. It was something along the lines of, "Fly Guy and the Fly Swatter Factory". I remember the teacher reading it out loud to the class and a lady whispering, "she was always one of those girls" to someone else. Or was it something else? Sometimes I wonder how much of our memories are truth and how much are fabricated plugs to fill in the gaps and holes. Either way, it had been a line regarding my choice of book. I didn't care. More accurately put, I simply didn't understand.
The playground was fun. We made pine cone ornaments once, dumping this molten wax onto a pine cone of choice. I had used mine as a baseball instead. There was sand and these little toy bulldozers that I loved playing with. I was by myself most of the time, which was how I preferred it. Back then, everyone came across to me as an alien. Or monster. Something I didn't mind not associating with at the least. Years later, when had sunken low and was wandering and lost, I wondered if it was I who was the alien or monster.
Kindergarten was another story by itself. I remember being plopped down on this mat among all these other crying, screaming children. Unlike preschool, I had just sat there. Silent. Sullen. Wondering why on Earth I was here and why everyone was sobbing so much. My teacher was nice, a lady named Ms. Higgins. She was tall, gaunt, and really really pale. So pale my mom joked she was a vampire. But she was nice and gentle. Then again, when are kindergarten teachers not nice and gentle? There wasn't much remarkable stories I could remember back then. All my recesses consisted of crawling inside this tube-like length on the playground structure and sitting there. It was loud. There was so much people. And I just wanted to be alone. Ms. Higgins had this behavioral system with three apples and little magnets with all her student's names on them. A green apple was where we all started at. Then there was a yellow apple, then a red apple. It's pretty self-explanatory; each time we did something bad our name would get moved down and if we reached red, there would be trouble. There was a fly whirring around the classroom while we were seated at the mat as Ms. Higgins explained something, I forgot what. Being kindergartners, we were naturally interested in the fly and kept jumping up and swatting at it until her patience ran thin. She told us to ignore the fly and focus. I settled down but the fly ended up whizzing around the top of my head. Through a chain of events I don't remember, I ended up taking a swipe at the fly. She saw and moved my name down to the "yellow" section. I was too petrified and mortified to even cry, I think. I spent the rest of the day dreading what my grandma would say when she picked me up, but when she arrived, she ended up not even noticing it. I ended up worrying my head off for nothing.