My earliest memory was when I was 2. I know I was 2 years old because we lived in Traverse City, Michigan (which I actually thought was Travercity until I was about 26). My parents had a friend named Cindy who used to watch me. Looking back, I’m not sure why she would watch me, as my mom was a stay at home, other than maybe it was the year surrounding my younger sisters birth and perhaps my mom just needed a break, as I was an unruly child.
Cindy had a home up on a little hill surrounded by woods. At least, this is how it is in my memory. She had a dog, a blue and white china tea set, and a black bear skin that still had the head. I’m not entirely sure how many times she baby sat me, but I do remember little things. She would make me Campbell’s Chicken and Stars, Lil Smokies, and Spaghetti O’s. She would get jelly bracelets and freeze them, or boil them, although now I’m not sure what boiling them did. I would sit on the bear rug and hug the head and pretend he was real and was giving me a ride. I wished we could have a black bear skin rug at home.
We used to go to department stores and squeeze the plastic grapes. There was one that had a horse outside of it and on the way out, she would always let me ride it. One time we got a whole bunch of sand toys and went to the sand dunes. I remember being disappointed we weren’t at the beach. She taught me how to make sand trees but grabbing a hand full of wet sand and extending your pointer finger out and pointing it toward the ground and letting the sand run down your finger until it made a tree. And for some reason, this memory also ties into us being at a playground with a really big slide that she didn’t want me going on, but I did anyway.
Another time, we had a tea party with her little blue and white china tea set. She pulled it down from the cabinets and we sat down and had a little tape recording of the whole thing, which in my teen years, I accidentally taped over and have regretted ever since. She sang me all the songs she would sing me on a regular basis. This must have been one of our last visits. She sang, 5 Little Kittens in the bed, Kumbaya, some lullabies, some old classics… and on the other side of the tape was our tea party. I, of course, sounded incredibly darling and quite opinionated. We decided what was on all of the different plates. Imaginary cookies and cake piled high on the plates. I think orange juice was in the teapot instead of tea. At one point her dog came in and tipped over all of the tea and plates. And we shouted “Oh no!” in the way that only 2 year olds can that make you melt.
My most vivid memory, however, was the one where I think I must have disappointed her the most. She had laid me down for nap on the floor with my glow worm from the 80s. She must have laid down too as I woke up first. I went into the kitchen and I remember her dog being there. In my mind she was sitting on the kitchen chair, although now that doesn’t make much sense since it was an average sized dog. I am not sure what I did, but I believe I was taunting the dog in some way. Anyway, she barked at me. I was two, remember, and began to cry.
I remember thinking, “This is stupid, all she did was bark at me!” But I couldn’t stop crying. She had scared me and I was too young to keep it together. Cindy came rushing in to the room and asked what had happened. I told her she bit me. Because that was a perfectly acceptable reason for me to cry. She asked me where and inspected my arm where I had pointed to for teeth marks. When she couldn’t find any she said that she didn’t think that it had happened that way because there were no marks and there was no way her dog would bite anyone.
At this point, I had to stick with my story, even if I lied! I had to keep it going. So I kept saying, “No! She did!” And I remember thinking she must have known I was lying and was so disappointed in me for lying about her dog.
The last memory I have of her, wasn’t really of her. It was when my mom came and picked me up one time. I seem to remember it being the last time I saw her. My mom had a doctor Barbie in the car that had a cast for her arm. I think it was to keep me happy over the fact that I wouldn’t see her again. We moved away to Bessemer, PA. A small town near Youngstown, OH, about 45 min north of Pittsburgh where my dad got a job as a pastor at a local church.
It’s funny how I remember so many little things from when Cindy watched me, and yet, I remember literally NOTHING of our lives in Traverse City. I don’t remember the house, or my mom and dad, my brother or sister or friends. I only remember Cindy and little things about our time spent together. I also have just realized this.