Where I Grew Up


I grew up on a ladder — a mossy, disintegrating piece of wood leaned up against the chain link fence that separated my yard from that of the boy who threw sand in my sister’s eyes, where I stood and talked to the first in a series of best friends I would later fall out of touch with.

I grew up at the top of a hill, afraid to go careening down it on my shiny new scooter, as another best friend, sound of heart and scabbed of knees, convinced me that as long as I hit the brakes in time, I wouldn’t end up in the street.

I grew up in a dorm basement, earlier than the typical narrative demands. At a middle school dance, decked out in glasses and pleated pants, I ducked and weaved among the rest of the nerds who were spending their summers taking mechanical engineering classes at MSU, desperately avoiding the only boy who wanted to dance with me.

I grew up on a bridge, dangling my feet over rapids that seemed at the time like they would drown me if I fell, but would probably have dampened me at worst. I chased tadpoles with my fingers and told my best friend I wanted to be remembered.

I grew up in an auditorium, sprawled on a splintery stage with the final set of best friends, the ones that lasted, inhaling the fumes of fresh paint and sawdust, calling “not it” on boys we wouldn’t date, not that they had any interest, and waiting for our turn to stand in the spotlight and play pretend at being performers.

I grew up in a park, later than the typical narrative demands. We spent our last months flying kites, chalking murals on the blacktop, climbing Pride Rock, crossing the Bridge to Terabithia and swinging until the sun set and cooled the heavy summer air, clinging to the way things were, until life flung us away from the center.

I grew up in a pie-shaped slice of a room in a concrete box of a building, where I often returned to find assorted friends asleep in my bed, with no evidence to reveal how they got in. When the door was open, a steady flow of people streamed in, singing, dancing or impersonating the Swiss Family Robinson. We complained about the noise, but I liked it less when it was empty.

I grew up on a porch, where the beers and the bugs and my roommates’ softly strumming guitars became a ritual. We’d go out each night and I’d listen to them sing “Wagonwheel” for the millionth time, lit only by the moon and the street lamps until I shifted to scratch an itch and activated the motion-sensitive porch light. Sometimes our crazy neighbors broke the tranquility, sometimes a stray cat stopped by and tried to sneak in our front door, and sometimes it was just quiet. This was the end of something, but it didn’t truncate so much as taper.

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