50 years

by Rachel Creager Ireland

IMG_1417It will come as a surprise to some that I will be celebrating my fiftieth birthday this week. I can say without bragging that I look younger than my age. When I turned thirty, it occurred to me that I could lie about my age and get away with it, but then I decided that I won’t. There isn’t a year or a day that I would prefer not to have lived. Even the crappy times I might just as well forget about, I survived, and I claim that. I want credit for everything.

So to prove to the doubters that I have truly lived fifty years, here is a memory from each one of them, excepting the first, which I would think would go without saying that I don’t have to remember. Today we’ll have the first decade.

2. My earliest memory is of a memory. I was eating lunch in a high chair in the TV room of the house my parents built in Salina, KS. I suddenly thought of some people I hadn’t seen in a long time. In the memory, I was lying in a room in the dark, and they were silhouetted in the light coming from behind them in the doorway, watching me.  When that image came to me, I realized that I would never see them again., and I cried. My baffled mom wondered what I was crying about, and offered me a slice of bread and butter, the lack of which wasn’t what made me sad, but sounded good anyway, and it was.

This picture was taken in the room where this happened. rachelasnewbaby

Over the years I’ve concluded that those people were the foster parents who cared for me as an infant before I was adopted. I would like to meet them again, if I knew who they were, or at least to see a picture, if they’re no longer living. Would they look familiar?

3. My sister and I took our daily naps in cribs placed on opposite sides of the room, but the cribs had casters, so we could stand next to our respective railings and push our cribs, a little at a time, across the room to meet in the center. My sister said, “Wanna trade cribs?” It sounded like fun, so I agreed, and she swung her leg over the rails and got in my crib. I swung my leg over the rail and discovered that her crib was very wet. She wouldn’t go back, though, so I tried sleeping in my crib with her, but it was too crowded. I ended up back in her crib, trying to curl up at the top, away from the pee.

4. Sometimes us kids would gather in our parents’ bedroom in the morning, and once I was lying on the floor with my legs up, feet resting on the side of the mattress, and my parents were talking about moving to Emporia. I said I didn’t want to. My sister said she did. We got into a friendly yes-no thing and I punctuated my nos by tapping my feet on the mattress. Of course I didn’t think my parents were going to make the decision based on my preference, and I didn’t really mind the idea of moving, I just liked how things were, and didn’t see any need to change.

5. There was a boy who sat next to me in Kindergarten. I tried to make friends with him, but I think he may have been a bit spectrum, and he never responded in any way whatsoever. On the first day, he discovered that if he rubbed his pencil on the edge of his desk, it would scrape the colorful paint off the pencil. I guess he preferred a natural finish. He scraped it every day, all around the pencil, until the teacher told him not to do it anymore.

6. I loved first grade. My teacher was very progressive and let us work as fast as we wanted. I competed with a boy in my reading group to do more SRA reading units, but we were pretty evenly matched.

7. I had a best friend named Lisa Thomas. She was from Elgin, Illinois. She was always fun and easy to talk to. She’s at the far right front in this picture of all the Suzuki violin students, though I’m not sure why, as she played piano, not violin. suzuki70s

8. My second grade teacher was Greta Thomas (no relation to Lisa). She was old school, and strict, which I didn’t like, though later I realized that she was an excellent teacher, just not of a style that inspired me. She was the first person who ever told me that Columbus wasn’t the first European in North America.

9. I was nine in third and fourth grades. My third grade teacher read to the class after lunch every day. Whenever a character did something eagerly, it sounded like she was saying “iggerly.” When my fourth grade teacher leaned over my desk to help me with a question, she smelled like smoke. I liked them both a lot. Lisa moved back to Elgin.

10. Fifth grade was a difficult year for me. I didn’t have friends. I was the first girl in my class to have periods, and I told some girls whom I wanted to like me. Of course it didn’t work, and they told some boys, and they all called me Mrs. P for the rest of the year. I never told anyone this; I’m not sure I have to this day. Shall we name names? They were Marcy Nail, Shelly Dingman, Thane Thompson, and Roy Wells. They might be perfectly nice people now, but as kids they were assholes.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about my second decade.