A journalist observes life in the far north.
It started at a very young age when one day as a toddler I was playing in a sand box at a park in the city of Chicago, where I was born, and I decided to take a walk. Mom had been somewhere nearby keeping an eye on me—or so she thought. As she told the story later, she was watching a little blonde head with a little pink shirt. My back was turned most of the time. When it was time to go and mom went to get me, it turns out the little blonde head with the little pink shirt was not me.
I can only imagine the panic and despair my mother must have felt. Apparently, someone spotted me walking down the busy road outside the park because the cops picked me up and brought me to the station, where I proceeded to write on a wall with a pen. If someone tried to take the pen from me, I screamed so they just let me have it. Hours went by. There must have been a search by my family and some neighbors. Mom told me the cop called his wife and told her to buy a box of Pampers. Just before the cop took me home, my mother claimed me.
I’m pretty sure this happened before I pulled a hot water vaporizer down on myself, causing second-degree burns on my face, shoulder and arm. It’s a miracle that I am not disfigured, although there is a scar on my left wrist. I’m sort of fond of the scar. It’s been there as long as I can remember and feels like a part of me. As a toddler, I also slid in the bathroom, smashing my face against the tub and knocking out my front teeth. If I rub my tongue across my gums, I can feel the scar from the stitches. There was also the time I road a scooter down a flight of stairs, breaking my collar bone. I was in the hospital so often that social workers suspected abuse, my mother later told me.
I must have been about 10 when I almost burned down my house. I was alone and bored. I saw my mom’s pack of Benson and Hedges and lighter on the coffee table beside a box of Kleenex. So I began lighting pieces of Kleenex and watching them burn. I dropped one, lighting the carpeting on fire. I panicked, but managed to stamp out the flames, which charred the rug about the size of a deck of playing cards. To cover up what I had done, I used scissors to shear the burned carpeting and moved the coffee table so that a leg covered the spot.
A few years later, my mother finally left my dreaded drunken stepfather and we moved to the next county. I missed my friends so one night after mom went to bed, I stole her car and drove across county lines to the arcade where my friends hung out. This was before I had a driver’s license. Mom was a deep sleeper so I suspect my brother woke her and told her what I had done because she eventually pulled up at the arcade. My sister, who had moved out and started a family by then, had driven her.
By then, I had run away from home countless times. Mom eventually put me in a psyche hospital for drug addicted, suicidal and anorexic teenagers. I’m not sure where I fit in except that I had been exhibiting some self-destructive behavior, I suppose. I think mom was scared I would really hurt myself someday, and I think she was too exhausted from her own problems to deal with me. A few of my friends spent time in a psyche hospital, and I suspect it was a trend of sorts at the time. Anyway, I was “cured” as soon as the insurance coverage ran out. They put me on some heavy-duty narcotic that made me mellow. I sort of liked it. It curbed my teenage angst. My childhood pediatrician, Dr. Wong, threw a fit thank goodness so I only took the drug for a few weeks.
As you can see, raising me was a joy. I was too smart, too deceitful and too insecure for my own good. Jade is mischievous sometimes. I hope I can keep her busy enough to stay out of trouble.