This is a story, my story, as true and honest as I can recall it. For as long as I can remember, I have existed in two worlds. The first, reality. My actual life, as I experienced, lived, loved and hated it. And then, the world inside my mind. The swirling, ever-changing ball of thought and story-line, of magical places and underground mazes, of made-up heroes and heroins and characterized versions of people I loved, and people I didn’t. Hours and hours I have spent there, hiding and creating, writing on the storyboard of my mind.
The year is 1985. There is a surge of activity in the hallway of our sweet, little house. It is a brick home, perfectly square to a four-year old. The front room, my favorite room, had a wall of mirrors that stretched from the ceiling to the ground, making the room feel bigger than it should, and green shag carpet that I pretended would swallow me whole if I lingered too long in one spot. There was a large family room, converted from a garage, where the washer and dryer had been installed. They were loud, and looked like monsters. Angry, hungry monsters that were never satisfied with the clothes we fed them. Outside, a beautiful back yard complete with a shed for my Dad’s things and a swing set. At the time my Dad enjoyed mornings in a tree stand, and spent the hours after work dispatching an arrow from his bow, aimed at a large hay bail with a target attached. So many times I heard a warning in his words, “stand behind me Chele while I am shooting. Get behind me Chele. Don’t run behind the hay bail Chele.” Excited but equally scared that a rogue arrow would find my frame, I jumped and spun, and ran, and did cartwheels behind him, watching every release of the arrow, imagining that he were Robin Hood competing for the heart of the fair Maid Marian. My mother.
Chele. That was my name. A shortened version of my middle name, Michele. That was the spinning girl’s name. Chele.
On the afternoon of Easter Sunday in April of 1985, the Easter Bunny brought me a baby sister. The bump that had been my mother’s belly was now a wiggling, bright-eyed, baby girl. Jacqueline. She had been named after her great grandfather and grandfather, both named Jack, and soon became the object of my adoration and curiosity. I had so many questions, including why she had lived in my mother’s belly, and why her hair was so blonde, unlike the brown that lay over my shoulders. Finally, I decided that she must have lived in the clouds on the wall of my bedroom before becoming my sister, and that only four-year olds had brown hair.
The light is on in the hallway. It wakes me, as it has so many nights before, and shadowy figures walk up and down, rubbing their eyes, mumbling echos and exhaustion, returning with hopes that the crying will cease shortly. It is my baby sister. Something is off, she doesn’t feel well, and hasn’t for months. Doctors have given answers, but the answers were wrong. The crying continues, and sleep hides from Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
One of my favorite books as a child was The Princess And The Pea. The story is about a Prince, who longed for a Princess. His mother, the Queen, decided to hide a pea under 20 feather mattresses, stating that only a true Princess had delicate enough skin to feel the pea under the mattresses. Many suitors came, and in the end it was the most unsuspecting of the them who turned out to be a real Princess.
I look at the wall of clouds. At the time, I don’t know it is wallpaper. At the time, it is magic. I wonder if my sister misses sleeping on the clouds. I wonder if she is a real Princess, and can feel the pea under her mattress. I wonder myself back to sleep, as I will continue to do my entire life, wondering if I could feel a pea under my own mattress.
Wonder, curiosity, questions, and then a story to answer the questions; this will be my way. This is how I will see the world.
My way of understanding things, that started so long ago in the clouds, kept me from smoothly transitioning into different stages of life. Instead of easing into my middle school, high school, college and then adult years, I tumbled. Head over feet, often times comically, without grace for or understanding of ANY concepts of my changing body or the pack mentality of pubescent females. I knew nothing. So I told stories, to myself, about everything and everyone, and tried, awkwardly, (and sometimes successfully) to fit in. Those stories, and that awkwardness, will be the Chronicles Of A Late Bloomer.
And my sister. My beautiful, baby sister. Well, she really was a Princess. It wasn’t a pea that was bothering her, instead it was her tonsils. My mother must have found the right doctor in the kingdom, because as soon as her tonsils were removed, the light in the hallway remained off and sleep came out of it’s refuge.
Even in the dark, I watched the moon dance across the clouds on my wall, a new story beginning. This story beginning.
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