The Early Years

or: Why I Should Never Have Grown Up

My life has, to this point, been a somewhat confused mish-mash of experiences, perceptions, ideas and Energizer Bunny type surprises. Couple this with a haphazard, stream of consciousness (literally: whatever pops into my head gets put on paper and I'm too lazy to edit) style of writing, and the resulting chaos should cause the reader to throw his or her hands up in disgust. I hope this doesn't occur, but this work is not for the squeamish.

From all objective experience, my life began a bit before I can remember it beginning, and long before I was able to make any sort of sense out of it. This discrepancy hasn't caused me to lose any sleep. Anyways, from what I can discern, I was born in a naval hospital in Oakland, California (two weeks early. If nothing else, I can be punctual). I came out a bit small, somewhat dehydrated and gifted with a stomach valve problem that made it possible for me to puke half way across the room. Mom and Dad couldn't have been happier.

I'm sure my parents gave me all the love and attention that I needed, making sure that I didn't put anything weird in my mouth. I was introduced to my older brother fairly soon after that. Obviously, I looked up to him. He'd been around, had developed a few muscles, had learned the ropes in his fifteen months and, word has it, had it in for me. He tried to scratch my eyes out one day. This was promptly stopped, but I missed several lessons that I should have gleaned.

Lesson 1: The big people are nice to me. I should have noticed this but, being the arrogant squirt I was, I just assumed that that was the way of the world. I milked it for all it was worth. Had I been a bit more advanced, I probably would have been interested in who they were and why they had this obsession with my diaper.

Lesson 2: My brother is out to get me. I learned this eventually.

Lesson 3: A baby rattle is not an effective weapon of self-defense.

What was it about the big people? Looking back from this new perspective, I still don't have many answers, but I've got ream upon ream of data...

Xxxxx Xxxxxx ("Mom") was in the strange position of being a good LDS girl and a California hippie. Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx ("Dad") was in the U.S. Navy. Her father despised the idea of her bringing home a "swabby". His parents thought he was wrong in considering a flower child for an eternal companion. Both wore bell bottoms and had letters for middle names, so it was to be a match made in heaven. The manufacturing process, however, was the product of a deranged angel's mind.

The first time Mom saw her true love, he and his friends were standing arm-in-arm around a manhole cover, engaging in a process known as "huggling." Now Mom, being a reasonable person, immediately dismissed them as uniquely worthy of her avoidance and ignored their invitation to join in on the huggling. But, she says, something whispered to her that she should go back. She isn't sorry.

Now, Mom was already engaged to a young man named Nick [name changed to protect innocent]. They were engaged to be married in a few months. Eventually, she followed her heart and decided to wed Xxxxx, the result of which was an enormous phone bill.

Let me explain. The Oakland temple had been reserved for Mike and Laura on a certain date. When she called to change the reservations, she asked for the date to be postponed for a few weeks. "And while you're at it, could you please change the name of the groom to..." Now, secretaries live for breaks in the routine, and this was probably the best they'd had in weeks. The receptionist immediately got everyone in the office together to tell them of the unusual request. It took quite a while for the somewhat embarrassed bride to extricate herself from the call. Soon afterwards, Craig asked Laura to marry him.

Let me explain! The plans were, in fact, being arranged. They had discussed the idea of marraige, weighed it, deemed it good and gone ahead, but one small yet vital detail had been overlooked. Dad, when he thought of it, simply breathed a sigh of relief and thanked whatever fates had spared him the ordeal. Mom saw things a bit differently. She finally sat Dad down and told him that she would not go anywhere with anything less than a confession of love followed by a sincere proposal. It was probably the easiest proposal any man has ever gotten away with:

"Laura, I love you, and I want to spend eternity with you. Will you marry me?"
"But the wedding's in two weeks!"

...and I was the eventual product. I'm quite surprised that my life, to this point, has been so normal.

My early life was spent entertaining myself in the usual ways: eating, sleeping, hollering and urping on the big people. Leon settled down and, letting bygones go by, we became fast friends.

My parents picked up and moved to Utah when I was about eight months old. As I recall, we lived in a small house in an area of Salt Lake City that, in retrospect, was a lot more run down than I remembered. We attended a fairly large ward, although I can only remember a few things about it. One was a deaf girl (I think she was named Emily) who taught us all sign language. Also, I got picked up and carried out of Sacrament Meeting for doing the most trivial things. The last thing I can recall was trying to give a talk in Sacrament. Mom had written everything I had to say on a piece of paper (in red ink) (I suppose this was after I learned to read. Mom would never set me up for failure like that...) I got through "I know that Jesus loves me," when I started giggling uncontrollably. After about fifteen seconds, one of the big people expidited my ungraceful exit.

Being three has its ups and downs. You want to do everything the older folks are doing, but you can't really reach the counter. On the other hand, there's Saturday morning cartoons, which make it all worth it. But I don't harbor any really fond memories of those cartoons. They're all just a colorful, vertigo-inducing blur now. Trying to be a grown-up, on the other hand, was a wonderful adventure.

The ABC's are fun, although I doubt anyone really understands their key role in their education until well after the fact. For me it was just a cool game and my parents got really excited when I played. Eventually I mastered that and moved on to actual words. It was an exciting time in my life. Since I was only three, I figured that, by showing off my incredible intellectual abilities, I would be able to gain acceptance and win many, many friends. It worked for a little while.

I remember that Dad had a textbook on human anatomy. He must have been using it for a class of some sort, because I saw him read it a lot. Eventually, I began perusing on my own. I became happily obsessed with my digestive system. Between the book and reruns of "Mister Goodbody" (a show where Richard "Give Your Feet a Hug!" Simmons dresses up in a full body spandex costume with all the organs and bones in the body painted on it. He sat inside "your body" and told you just what sort of strange and disturbing things go on in it), I got the hang of it.

My parents were quite entertained by my overly broad application of the principles. One day, Dad was working on the green car. I wanted to be "Daddy's big helper," so I climbed up onto the bumper, where a whole new world awaited. Chances are, I'd never seen the innards of a car before, and it was such a tangle of parts and gadgets, I could only make sense of it by relating it to more familiar things. Pointing to the big air intake, I asked him, in all seriousness "What do the large intestines of the car do?" I really had hoped for a sincere response...

Finally, after months of impatient waiting, my formal education began. Head Start is a wonderful program that has helped many children prepare for the rigors of life in Kindergarten. But all I can remember learning was where the boys room was and that the teacher would give us Froot Loops at nine o'clock. It was enjoyable for a while. Especially Halloween. There was a parade, where we all walked around the school, sporting our costumes. I can't recall what I was that year, but I can remember this one big monster in the gymnasium. As soon as I saw it, I screamed, ran up to it and gave it a big hug. A familiar voice that was trying to sound scary only made me happier. Dad had shown up.

Fridays were always good days for me. I got to go to kindergarten with Leon. I learned all about the "Letter People." All the nouns were girls and all the consonants were boys (even back then, I thought that was unfair, but I couldn't think of another way to divvy them out.)

I'm not sure when they gave me "the Test." I was still in pre-school when they called me out of class, walked me down the hall and made me sit in a chair for forever. Finally they called me in and a nice lady asked me a bunch of questions like "what's this word" and seemed really proud of me when I got them right. Maybe it was just a big, scary experience, but afterwards everything seemed different. Did it finally sink in that I wasn't normal? In a small way, I guess it did.

But this was a good thing. The teachers liked me and the other kids didn't mind. In kindergarten, I had to go read with the first graders, but that was it. I had lots of friends (though I had a lot of trouble remembering who was who), got to play duck-duck-goose and even got to eat in the cafeteria! Life was idyllic.

The good times kept on rolling through first grade. Mrs. Roberts was the most wonderful teacher in the known universe (well, certainly my universe). She understood my situation better than anyone, having graduated college at age nineteen.(need fact-check here...I'm pretty sure...) She always got me "extra work" from the second grade classes that I got to do. I remember spending that next summer writing many, many "I miss you" cards that probably never got sent.

You can ask anybody, and they'll tell you that I was one of the worlds tiniest dinosaur freaks. I loved reading all sorts of books about these huge, wondrous creatures. Maybe the idea of being that big got me on a teeny-bopper power trip. Nobody would dare tell me to go to bed.

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