I was born in early September in a small hospital in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, in the wee hours of the morning. My father, in a gallant show of appreciation of my mother's long, hard hours of labor, purchased for her a 1 lb. box of chocolates.
While my mother slept off her labor, pale and weak in her hospital bed, and I slept off being born, pink and chubby in my basinet in the nursery, my proud father sat patiently at my mother's bedside. As he waited for her to awaken so they could take their newborn daughter home, he got hungry and ate the entire box of chocolates he'd so lovingly purchased for her.
Which resulted in an explosive case of diarrhea.
My early September birthday affected me not at all until I reached kindergarten age. Apparently, I was born after the cut-off date for which the school officials would allow students to register. It was up to my parents whether or not to have me tested to put me into school immediately, or wait until the following year.
If my parents had waited it out, perhaps my fine motor skills would have had more time to develop, and I wouldn't be the uncoordinated mess I am today, with bruises on my legs from bumping into random objects and chipped polish on my toes from constantly tripping over miniscule cracks in the sidewalks.
But they didn't wait.
My parents sent me to "get tested" to see if I was ready to start kindergarten. I don't remember much from that day, except that I was painfully young and painfully shy and that everything around me was large and frightening. The echoey hallway. The heavy doors. The hard plastic chair upon which I sat, in the middle of a brightly lit room, in front of a vast expanse of table.
Across from me sat two adults, a male and a female, who asked me various questions to determine my I.Q., and then let me draw with crayons, which I loved. Burnt Umber. Magenta. Bittersweet.
Anything else that may have happened during that meeting in that big room on that fateful day is lost to me. Somehow, though, it was determined by the two strangers that while I was bright enough to begin school, I lacked fine motor skills. The two strangers then relayed this to my parents, who made it a point to relay it to me for the whole of my childhood.
So how does a shy four year old girl develop into a confident, graceful, coordinated adult when she is told repeatedly by those closest to her that she lacks fine motor skills?
She doesn't.My Motor Skills: A Brief HistoryKindergarten
: Perhaps hoping to help me build up my motor skills, my mother enrolls me in ballet class with a teacher named Miss Bonnie. I love prancing around in my leotard, tights, and pink ballet shoes, but I find the loud piano music disagreeable and the ballet positions completely impossible, and I soon begin to dread going to class.
Still, I stick it out until the first recital, which my father records for all posterity on his cutting edge, top of the line 16 mm camera.
The film, now slightly blurry with age, does not lie:
On the stage eight tiny ballerinas stand in a row. Seven of them dip and swirl and bob in time to the music. The 8th ballerina stands slightly back, staring at the others in confusion. When she tries to execute a turn, it is in the wrong direction.
I was the 8th ballerina.Third Grade
: It is Christmas time. My best friend is Julie, who is the prettiest girl in the class and has milky skin and long, flowing hair. Because I am not pretty, I’m in love with her and emulate her every move.
I have short hair feathered into ridiculous wings on either side of my head. I also have a long gangly neck and stys on my eyes, which makes them red rimmed and creepy, basically giving me the very uncuddly appearance of a freaky, female, third grade version of E.T.
Don't believe me? See for yourself:
Julie wants us to try out for the Christmas pageant as dancing reindeer. The thought of dancing in front of others, as a reindeer or otherwise, fills my heart with dread. But because I love her, I follow her down to the auditorium, where the school music teacher, Mrs. Pasquerelli, a large, heavily made up woman with a penchant for stage performances done completely in blacklight, a voice like Julia Child’s and hair like Charlotte Rae’s on The Facts of Life
, is pounding out an angry-sounding version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on the piano.
Mrs. Pasquerelli hands us our props--huge pieces of poster board cut out in the shape of Christmas bulbs and--of course--slathered with special blacklight paint. She lines us up on the stage and shows us the reindeer moves--lots of swaying back and forth with the blacklight bulbs, a couple of turns, and finally a series of bizarre and difficult Rockette-style kicks--before returning to her piano and banging on it while we attempt the routine.
The little girls on stage become eight dancing reindeer. Seven of the reindeer sway back and forth with their blacklight painted poster board Christmas bulbs, singing about Rudolph. They execute their turns and begin the Rockette kicks. The 8th little reindeer loses her balance when coming out of a turn, drops her poster board bulb, and watches in horror as it disappears through a narrow crack in the stage floor.
The music stops. Mrs. Pasquerelli scolds The 8th reindeer. The other reindeer snicker, causing the 8th reindeer to cry and run out of the auditorium.
I was the 8th reindeer.