In my most recent post, I shared some of my deepest, most irrational fears. I failed to include a story that my parents love to bring up at expertly chosen group events (dinner parties, holidays, etc.). I decided I would give this tragically neurotic tale a post all to itself, to stand alone in all its shining, slightly crazy glory.
I spent the first 5-6 years of my life living in Brooklyn. I loved it there--we lived in a condo in Prospect Park with high ceilings and lots of light. I shared a bunk bed with my younger brother, and I had the top bunk. I loved this because it meant I had the window that looked into the living room where, on nights I couldn't sleep, I would peek down and watch grown-up TV (which in our house was often Law & Order). Our neighbors were perfectly eccentric: the gay couple next door used to give us free office supplies from their business, cool things like triangular highlighters with a different color neon per point; Mei-Ling and her husband lived downstairs, and when she got pins in her leg after an accident, she made her leg X-rays into electric yellow tshirts for her friends, and in the process gave me my favorite pajama shirt for the next three years. (I really, really wish I still had this shirt.) I went to Catholic school several blocks from our home. Every morning on his way to the subway to go to work, my dad would walk me to school. Along the way, there was a huge, beautiful cherry blossom tree that bloomed in the spring; these days, my dad would often pick me a flower and I'd stick it in my hair, accessorizing my kindergarten ensemble. It was a fun neighborhood: most of my clothes were from the countless street fairs that would come through the area; movies and TV shows were often being filmed at a quasi-famous cafe a few blocks from home; and we had the best bagel and Chinese takeout places on planet Earth. Life was lovely, and I was a toddler. I should not have worried about much.
But then my parents let me start ballet, at a studio just a bit further from home than my school. (And when I say "ballet," I actually mean "ballet/tap/jazz/creative movement," all in one hour.) I loved the classes--the teacher was sweet, and I had my own pink bag (read: a smartly designed box-with-a-shoulder-strap) with a ballerina and the words "Ballet Bag" in flowery cursive on it. I got to wear a leotard and a skirt, and I loved jumping over the scarves and moving across the room. The actual class, once it got started, was never the problem. It was the moments just before and at the very beginning of class that proved somewhat difficult for me.
Out of nowhere, I decided that my parents had signed me up for this beautiful extracurricular activity so that they could get rid of me. (I think perhaps the four-year-old me had sneaked in one too many episodes of Law & Order.) I dreaded the moment when my mom or dad would drop me off at the studio, because I was certain that would be the last time I would see them, and that I would have to make my own way in the world, living at the studio forever, suddenly orphaned. My parents, naturally, thought I was insane, but I didn't want to quit the classes. So I devised a surefire plan, one that would prevent me from ending up in an Oliver Twist sort of situation.
I decided that grown-ups like their clothing. So my plan was this: every week, when either my mom or my dad dropped me off for my ballet (and more!) class, I asked if they would "accidentally-on-purpose" leave behind an article of clothing. For my mom, this was usually a glove, or maybe this one beautiful scarf she often wore, or sometimes sunglasses. My father would leave his gloves as well, and on warmer occasions, his entire trench coat. This Cinderella sort of plan was, to me, quite foolproof: despite the fact that they would knowingly "forget" some item or accessory at the studio each week, I chose to ignore the "knowingly" part. Once the glove--or whatever--was left behind, my parents would go home and realize they had lost or forgotten a prized bit of clothing. Each week, they would make their way back to the studio to retrieve said forgotten token, and this retrieval mission would always be magically sync up perfectly with the end of my class. My parents would have picked up their missing item by this point, and upon seeing me, I figured they would think: "I suppose we'll take her, too. I mean, might as well: she's here now, and hey! I've got my glove back."
Perhaps this early display of neurotic tendencies should have been a big, fat, glowing red flag for my parents, a sort of flashing: BEWARE. YOUR ELDEST DAUGHTER IS THISCLOSE TO CRAZY. But they were game, both then and now, to put up with my nervously-wired self. And besides, my plan totally worked: they were never even late to pick me up from ballet class.