I had been led to believe I was the perfect child for most of my adult life. Then one day my mother dragged out a box of letters that she’d written to my departed grandmother. They told a completely different story—a story of a tyrant, an errant flower girl, an anarchist Brownie (not the kind you eat) and a Halloween Scrooge.
It goes like this. Every day after grade school, the neighborhood children gathered at our house. One late afternoon as my mother took out another pitcher of lemonade, my father asked why everyone always gathered in our backyard. My mother looked at him coolly. She pointed at me. “Because she can’t be the boss at someone else’s house.” This was true. I prefer to control my own environment even now.
This need for control got me ousted from Brownies. My mother decided that socialization with other little girls would be a good idea. She dressed me in brown and sent me off. The first couple of times were okay. A bird pooped on our leader’s head during a bird watching session. I enjoyed that but insisted from then on I would always wear hats when in the woods. Which I still do.
It was the crafts part of Brownies that was my undoing. I thought it was inane to roll up pages of magazines and glue them to the outside of an empty gallon ice cream container in order to make waste baskets. As I pointed out, I already had a waste basket and I didn’t think taking away much needed manufacturing jobs was the sort of thing the Brownies should do—especially during dire economic times.
The next letter’s interlude had to do with my aunt’s wedding. For some reason unbeknownst to anyone other than my four-year-old self, I had gotten peeved about my flower girl dress and had what we refer to in my family as a “hissy fit.” So, as was described in the letter, I held up a wedding, further stressed out the bride and refused to ever return to the wedding’s country of origin—Bicktoria (Victoria), B.C. I have since returned.
As a child I adored Halloween. It was less about the dressing up and more about the acquisition of free goods. There would be few times in life that people actually opened their doors, smiled and cooed, and handed you candy. Halloween seemed the only time that adults did not fear hoards of children coming at them. At the end of the evening, I would dump out my pillow case full of candy and begin the inventory. I sorted the candy bars and treats into their respective categories and tallied up the totals. I went to bed and the next morning got up and recounted my inventory. Some were always missing. My parents denied any knowledge of the missing treats.
My mother put the letters aside. We studied each other. “You always told me I was the perfect child,” I said.
And that’s how I found out the cold, hard truth about my younger self.
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