I’ve always lived in my head. And, although it’s undoubtedly in my nature to be that way, nurture also played a role. Or rather a certain lack of nurture, which is not to say that my parents were neglectful. Far from it. My very love of story is rooted in those heavenly times when I would squeeze between them in bed (becoming the “&” in Mom & Dad) and listen to fairytales from a spell-casting hardbound volume (oh, the smell of that book!). Or the time I wriggled in agony when my eardrum was attacked by an alien infection and medical soldiers had to be sent in one drop at a time to defeat it. Stories alone had the power to protect me until that horrendous war came to an end.
Still, life is messy. It was particularly messy and sad when my father, whose truck-driving for the Herald-Express was paying the mortgage on our little suburban bungalow, lost his job. His driving literally came to a halt when an old man stepped off the curb in front of him. Result? The old man spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, and Dad, who wasn’t really at fault, lost his driver’s license. The Herald offered him a loading dock position at half the previous pay.
So Mom returned to work at a venerable leather goods company in downtown Los Angeles. But that, of course, meant I had to spend my days under someone else’s supervision. Grandma Teemley lived nearby, but after Grandpa died the year before she too went back to work.
Mom tried taking me with her a few times, but a creaky old ten-story factory wasn’t the ideal place to set a three-year-old amuck. And amuck I was, as my “Wild Indian” phase had demonstrated. The law and common sense agreed that a kid my age—and with my imagination—needed close supervision or the human race as we know it was doomed.
And so I was enrolled in preschool. Yeah, that was a disaster. Six months and four warnings later, I was summarily expelled for continually “correcting” the teacher. I mean, how was she ever going learn if someone didn’t point out her mistakes?
Enter Frieda and her Magical Garden. The most wonderful babysitter–and place–in the history of, well, maybe not humankind…
But my kind anyway.