We all want to believe in free will, and yet it's an undeniable truth that our opinions, choices, and personalities are shaped by the circumstances of our childhood. My love and yearning for the USA, despite the bajillion things that are wrong with it, traces directly back to the formative childhood years I spent there, between the ages of 1 and 7.
The other day I was sorting through my high school work; today, I dug up my work from first grade. I spent six months in the first grade, in the academic year 1995-96, before my family took a sabbatical in the Netherlands where I rounded out my first-grade education with three months of home-schooling (prior to the summer '96 move to Kenya; I know, my childhood history is ridic confusing).
As much as I despise my 2004 self, that's how much I love my 1996 self. I found all my first-grade “daily news”, a brief diary item we had to write every day in class. Check out this entry from January 1996, entitled “Fifteen”:
“In fifteen days is my birthday! But I will enjoy my fourteen days left in my whole life to be six years old. I must not wish for the fifteenth of Febuary [sic] to come too quickly. I must enjoy them.”
That's pretty frickin' existential for a six-year-old.
Even better is the magnum opus – a story of almost 2000 words – dated April 4, 1996, about a penguin who wishes he could fly (wherever did I get such an original concept?) and seeks out a magic wish-granting flower, along the way winning a trophy in a running race, describing his favorite movie Gnome Elves, and encountering the fierce bunny-monster.
The story I want to share with you today, however, is a tenth the length and sadly lacking in bunny-monsters. I type it as written, dodgy punctuation in place and nothing edited or changed in any way. I'm not sure if my favorite part is the head-scratching speed of the comet's journey, the description of the museum's emergency response vehicle, or the little detail of the dressing gown. (I do; it's the dressing gown.)
by Anna Rose (age 7)
Andrew Davidson looked out his window every night, and admired the tiny, far-away stars. He dreamed about planets that no-one's discovered, and things in far-away space. U.F.O.'s, E.T.'s, flying saucers, and all sorts. One night, he saw a bright, bright star shining just two million miles away. He ran downstairs and asked his father what it was. “It's a comet.” said his father. The next night, it was one million miles away. The next night, two thousand. The next, one thousand. And so on until early one fine Saturday, it crashed close to Andrew's house. It blew off the top of the house. Andrew yelled to his parents to call the National Museum. Mr. Davidson jumped up, threw his dressing gown on, and called the museum. “They'll be here as quick as they can.” he called. “Good.” said Andrew. In about fifteen minutes, a purple van with pink polka-dots and blue and yellow stripes showed up. Many people came out and heaved into the back of the van. They took it to the museum and put it on display. Now zillions come to see it every year. Maybe you will, too.