I am who I am
I will be cursed with a child like me.
I just know it. My parents barely survived raising me, emerging scathed and scarred, battle-weary and broken, a lingering PTSD that still haunts them to this day. They surely welcomed my sister into this world with open arms, a sister, might I add, who was speaking fluent English at one month old (I assume). And then my brother came along, a child who deconstructed a car engine when he was two months old (I assume). I was a restless, sweaty, talkative bundle of energy, a human blur who rocketed around the house, careening into items with un-coordinated abandon.
If you know me, you’ll agree that nothing much has really changed since then. Which is why I wanted to go back in time a bit with this post, show you what I was like as a kid and why I am the way I am today. I’ll finish with a look into why I’m so social, but first, let’s take a look at my stubborn restlessness:
“Toys,” I whispered, belly pressed up against the pew, my chubby arms dangling over the back, eyes still scanning the church for the toy box.
“No, Michael,” my dad replied, equally quiet so as to not disturb the droning homily. “You already played before mass. You have to sit.”
He pried my arms off the pew and turned me around, planting my butt on the seat. I squinted up at him, determined.
“Toys,” scrunching my face. “Toys. Toys. Toys toys toystoystoystoystoystoystoystoys.”
“Michael, come on,” seethed my dad, trying to hold me down. I wasn’t having it. I squirmed, wriggled out of his grasp, and hit the ground running. Well, I assume I hit it running, dodging his hands, but in actuality I probably just waddled quickly out of the pew, eyes on the box at the end of the aisle. My dad reached out and grabbed my hand as I tried to slide away, but the momentum was already there. A force in motion is tough to stop once it gets going, unless something gives.
My dad said that the cry I released after my arm popped out of its socket stopped the priest cold in his tracks. It didn’t stop my dad, though, as he scooped his wailing banshee of a son up in his arms and sprinted down the aisle, my mom following right behind him, a look of abject terror on her face, not because I was injured, but probably because she’d have to return next Sunday after our dramatic exit and face the congregation.
“Alright, where do we take him now?” my mom yelled in the car, over the din in the backseat, me.
“Well, we can’t take him to St. Mary’s Hospital, remember? Took him there when he made that flying leap onto the dog and smacked his head on the corner of the fireplace. Still can’t get the blood out of the carpet…”
“How about North Central?”
“Nope. Took him there after he grabbed the knife by the sharp end.”
“Nope again. That’s where Child Services separated us. Asked us what we’d done to him, asked him if he was alright and if we ever hurt him. Can’t go back there. They’ll think something was up.”
They eventually settled on a place, I assume a hospital, but at this point I like to guess that it was some backwoods voodoo shop that helped them out only after they traded two chickens and a goat to pop my arm back in place. But honestly my parents (most likely) took me a nice children’s hospital, because that’s what great parents do when stuck with a child like me.
I sat in the grocery cart’s child seat, waving my pudgy hand at the stranger as she walked down the aisle next to us. She smiled awkwardly at this oddly friendly child, looked down at her laundry list, feigning indifference, and moved past my dad pushing our cart, silent.
“Humph.” I sat back in the cart as my dad pushed us around the end of the aisle and down the next one. I turned around again, spotted my next victim, and leaned a bit out of the cart as we approached him.
“Hiiii!” I waved my arm in his general direction this time, upping my dedication to forced friendship. He jumped a bit, frightened, away from our cart and into some packs of Nilla wafers, trying to escape the waving arm. He shuffled away, looked over his shoulder once, then disappeared around the bend.
I turned back around and faced my dad, my forehead creased in consternation, lower lip beginning to pout. I didn’t look sad, my dad said, but more frustrated, angrily determined at this silent treatment I’d been dealt in the grocery store.
“Why won’t anyone say hi, Dad?”
“Well, Michael, they’re all probably really busy. But how about you give it one more try, huh? I’m sure someone will say hi back.”
I nodded. No words necessary: I had my marching orders.
We came to the end of the aisle and rounded around to the next one. And there he was. My target. An older man, hunched over the Campbell Soup cans, cane in hand. He won’t run, I must have thought to myself as we approached. My sweaty hands gripped the metal cart as I prepped for execution. The cart edged closer.
“Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” I leaned over the railing, half of my body out of the cart, my arms now pudgy tentacles threatening to hit the old man’s glasses off. They swung back and forth, keeping time to my keening introduction. I was going to get him to say hi. But once I saw through my gyrating arms, I noticed the man wasn’t there anymore; in fact, he’d run down the aisle, cane dragging behind him, without a word. My face darkened as I turned back yet again to my dad.
“Dad,” I said, utter seriousness in my coloring my voice. “I’m getting madder and madder and madder.”
A silence descended on the cart, the calm before the storm.
“Shit. Dammit. Shit! Dammit! Shitdammitshitdammitshitdammitshitdammitshitdammitshitdammit!”
This continued, ad infinitum, as my dad, horror plastered on his face, didn’t even try to calm me down, my chubby hands pounding against the cart’s push bar. He simply scooped me up out of the seat, leaving the full cart in the middle of the aisle, sprinted out of the store as my screams yet again followed him out of a building. But at least these ones were articulate, for better or worse.
In this case, my parents were a bit to blame, because their son is a sponge, as they soon found out in the post-op. I like to imagine the conversation went a bit like this:
“Hey Linda, have you ever cursed in front of Michael?”
“I think I’ve said shit a few times. You?”
Beer I drank – Aunt Sally by Lagunitas
Song I heard – Aftergold by Big Wild
Book I read – The Cartel by Don Winslow