|Photo by Trish Reda|
In a letter recently, Grandma told me that once, at a mall in Florida, an old Cuban man sitting on the tile floor giving fortunes, upon seeing child-me run past him in a whirlwind of oomph and pizazz, as was my wont back then, asked the crowd delightedly, “What was that?!,” and upon being formally introduced to me and my tiny palm, or however this worked, announced that I had an old soul, that I would be good with words, and that I would go far in my life, in this life
It made sense to my grandma. I was born on a Thursday, after all, and “Thursday’s child has far to go.”
She has a lot of mall stories about little me. I used to dance to the music filtering out of overhead speakers, drawing actual crowds, and I would stop teenage girls to discuss fashion, to show them my painted nails and tell them about my favorite dresses. I was a Leo, true and blue. I liked being the center of attention. I was bright and merry, vivid and loud, spoiled, sassy, and, on occasion, in need of a good spanking. Once, Grandma was in her kitchen and suddenly realized that the chatter in the dining room she was listening to was four year old me and my mother bickering back and forth. She stepped into the doorway to ask, “Val, why are you letting that child argue with you?” Perhaps, because there was something adult about me even then, or perhaps because my personality was so big that sometimes people got caught up in it and forgot, forgot that I was an infant, that I was totally new on this planet.
I’m speaking mightily romantically of myself as a child, I know. But please don’t mistake this for vanity. The fact of the matter is that that little girl with the ribbons braided into her knee-length hair might as well have been somebody else entirely. She, her attitudes and desires, are totally and utterly foreign to me. Even the fact that she used to have a designated time each day to slow dance with her grandpa, my grandpa, is somewhat mindboggling to me. I love my grandpa, but I don’t have nearly the same command of our relationship as I did at 5. I very much doubt I could get him to slow dance with me these days.
My grandma blames a stifling, strict step-father for the way I am now. Not that I am in any way undesirable now. But, I know at times, in her heart of hearts, as she watched me struggle through middle and high school to fit in, to hide (though my innate weirdness, passed along in the blood stream from our matriarch Wilhelmina Bentz, of course made it impossible to completely fit in), she must’ve mourned that fearless little firecracker of a girl, in her tutu and her saddle oxfords.
When I am most punishing of myself, I call myself timid. On a daily basis, I don’t feel timid at all, but occasionally, some hang-up will rear its ugly head and make my daily life a little less… just less. I’m getting over it, but when I first began working as an administrative assistant, I had to pump myself up before calling caterers, before going upstairs to get signatures on budget documents from the bigwigs. I’m reluctant to try new things, to sign up for the classes and projects I think I would enjoy. Before I met my Wolfman, I had never pursued anybody, for friendship or otherwise, and every day I am thankful for that glitch in my personality sub-routines which made me pick up a phone and call him.
When I daydream, it’s about a me who’s a little more of that small child, a me who is sanguine and intrepid, who grasps life and makes it bow to her. A me who eats whims for breakfast and tap dances on the status quo. And, every year, I think I come a little closer to reuniting with that child me, every year I am reintroduced to myself. I will, perhaps, never again be a true Leo, but a little humility never hurt anyone.