Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Oldest

I remember the oddest things.

Small things, things hardly worth remembering.

It was picture day in elementary school, maybe 4th grade. My parents were out of town, and my grandmother was staying with us. She was a take-charge kind of woman. That's almost all I remember about her. I also remember that she made the girls take naps well past nap-taking age while the boys got to stay up and watch television with her. She was raised at a different time in the small-town south, I suppose. It always made me angry on principle, and I would spend the entire nap time coming up with elaborate schemes to escape as if it were Vietnam.

It was picture day, and my parents were out of town. My grandmother gave me the order forms and the money. I set out for school. When I arrived, I learned that it was not, in fact, picture day. We'd been confused about the dates. I freaked out. I was convinced that I would get in trouble if I returned home with the money and the order forms. I suppose I thought I would be blamed in some way. I think I thought I'd be accused of being wrong--that she would think it was, in fact, picture day and I'd simply screwed up. That was me at that age, constantly worried that I was messing everything up and would eventually be caught, even in situations where there were no mistakes to be made. I've always been what they call "hypervigilant."

I panicked and threw the money in the trash at lunch.

What I don't remember is how I got out of that. I just have this memory of me walking toward the trash can, determined yet full of self-doubt. As far as I could tell in that moment, it was my only option.

I have always, always, always believed that if I can't be perfect I will die.

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