I was a pretty pimp toddler. Just look at that. Sunglasses and a binky?
YEAH A BINKY.
And my toys? They’re wherever I want them to be, which is EVERYWHERE so deal with it.
Shirts? Those are for babies. Pants are also for babies. So is caring about anything other than toys, napping, snack time, and getting naked and dancing on the table in front of the window so every other kid in the apartment complex knows who’s boss.
My New Journal: June 13, 1998
Does anyone know how to play Magic Carpet? I am flying around and I am on my carpet, but then this guy is throwing these balls at me and I die. And then I come back, and this flying dragon made out of balls bumps into me and I die. And then I get angry and try to play Sim Town instead, but that’s not as fun as flying, so I start Magic Carpet again and I get killed by some guy on a another carpet throwing balls at me.
Why can’t you just fly and not have all the balls? Why do balls kill you?
It’s like Mario. Like a mushroom would just kill you from touching it real quick! Yeah right! No way. I think you should be able to punch the mushroom in the face and you should be able to kick the balls back at the guy and kill him instead.
It’s hot dog time.
My New Journal: June 4, 1998
School is almost all done. There is not a lot of stuff to do anymore. When we do social studies we don’t even read or learn anything new, we just play Mad Libs or someone brings in their favorite game that everyone can play and we do that.
Today, I brought in chess, but only two people can play that and the only other person in the class who knows how to play like me is my best friend, James, so we didn’t play it except for during lunch time.
Justin keeps telling everyone to call him megazord.
I always don’t like lunch sometimes because I always have lunch from my mom, but the hot lunch kids sit in a different room and a lot of my friends eat hot lunch, so I can’t sit with them and even my mom says it’s stupid but the aids won’t let me go in there to sit with them unless I have hot lunch so today I asked my mom and she gave me three dollars so I can have hot lunch too, but then Carl said whoever the arrow on the top of your milk is pointing at is the person you love and mine was pointed at Jen and Jen is funny but I don’t love her and when Carl said that, she moved so I don’t think she loves me either.
And then Justin said we should call him Shredder, but no one talked to him anymore after that because he keeps trying to make us call him something cool, but nobody likes him.
A Girl Out of Time
Each year on the night before Chelsea left to stay with her Grandfather at his house in the woods, she would read her favorite story with her father. It was a book called You Are a Child of the Universe, and even though she couldn’t remember anything about being a baby, Chelsea knew that it was the first story she was ever told.
Listening to her father read it out loud to her made her feel warm. It wasn’t the way a campfire made the bottom of her feet warm, or the way napping on the couch next to the electric heater made her feel warm. When she heard her favorite story, the warmth Chelsea felt came from inside her body. It was like someone had put the campfire deep down in her belly, or turned on an electric heater in her heart.
This year, Chelsea was tired on the night before her month-long retreat at her Grandfather’s. It was only seven at night and she had just finished eating her dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread, but she already felt ready to sleep. Chelsea started to panic. If she went to sleep now, she wouldn’t get to hear her story.
She looked at the clock. Seven-thirteen. Too early. Why was time going by so slowly? Chelsea thought hard, trying to imagine a way to stay awake until eight-thirty. When her dad was tired he always drank coffee. No, that wouldn’t work. Her father already had the coffee-maker all set up for the morning. She’d mess it up if she made coffee now and he’d know she did it.
“What about hot chocolate?” she thought. “Yeah! Sugar can keep you awake! Perfect! …No, that’s right. We don’t have any more.” She sighed. Chelsea had drunk the last package the night before.
Only another two minutes had gone by and Chelsea was only getting more tired. She needed something to distract her, to take her attention away from the clock and make time move faster. She thought about watching TV, but immediately changed her mind. It was just about Summer time now, so all the good shows were done. Anyway, TV always made her fall asleep, which is what she was trying to avoid.
“What about a video game?” Chelsea asked herself out loud, a bit louder than she meant to.
The creak of her father’s desk chair trickled out of his office, “I’m not really in the mood right now,” he replied, thinking she had meant the question for him, “but you can play something if you want.”
Finally, Chelsea had a plan. She would go upstairs, get her Nintendo DS, pick out a game or two, and play on the couch for an hour while she waited for her story. It was a good, simple plan and it had been a long time since she played a game, so she definitely wouldn’t get bored.
Chelsea went upstairs to her room. She collected her DS and her games. She went back down stairs. She sat on the couch and started playing. Then she slouched a little. She changed games. Then she slouched a little more. As she slid lower and lower down in her seat, the fabric of the couch massaged the backs of her shoulders. Finally, she decided to lie on her back and hold the game up above her head.
Chelsea noticed it had become almost completely dark outside. The sun must have finished setting at some point between switching from her Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game to Pokemon Black and lying down. Chelsea paused her game and looked away from the screen for a moment. All of the light in the room came from fixtures that were set into holes in the ceiling that reminded her of the holes on a mini-golf course, only these were bigger and upside down. And her ceiling wasn’t green.
She kept looking at the lights. The longer she looked at them, the darker the rest of the room seemed to get. She imagined that each one was a star, far off in space. Chelsea imagined herself floating through the galaxy, watching as new stars turned on and very, very old stars blinked off. There were planets too. Some looked just like Earth, blue and green and covered in clouds. Others looked very different. One was an orange ball of swirling gasses. Another looked almost pink. Space was cold and dark, but Chelsea was warm, just the way she felt when she heard her favorite story.
When she woke up, all the lights had been turned off and her Nintendo was on the table next to her. Her head felt like it was trying furiously to inflate and her eyes seemed to be stuck behind a black cloud. Chelsea looked for the clock.
“Eleven!?” she said to herself, “I am so stupid.”
Chelsea left her Nintendo and her games behind, rubbing her eyes as she walked around the couch to the stairs. She didn’t understand how she could have let this happen. One minute she was playing a game and thinking about stars and the next, it was hours later and she had been sleeping. She couldn’t remember anything in between.
She wondered why her father didn’t wake her up to read the story.
“Maybe he forgot about it,” Chelsea thought, “or maybe he just thinks it’s stupid. Maybe I’m stupid for caring about it. Maybe I’m too old for stories now.”
Chelsea crawled into bed without changing her clothes and lied on her back. She stared at the ceiling for a long time. There were no lights in her ceiling, just some star shaped stickers that used to glow, but had completely stopped a few Summers earlier. She could still make out their outlines in the dark, but only because she had memorized exactly where each one was placed over the years since she and her mother stuck them up there. When Chelsea finally fell back to sleep, she didn’t dream about anything.
It was early when Chelsea woke up. The birds were whistling to one another in the tree near her window. It was light out, but the Sun hadn’t started to roll over the horizon yet.
“Beat you up,” Chelsea said to the Sun. It was something her mother used to say to her every morning before school.
Chelsea got out of bed slowly. Once she swung her legs out from under the blankets, she realized she was still wearing her clothes from the day before. Not wanting her father to know she had gone to bed in dirty clothes, she changed into some purple sweat pants and put on a fleece zip-up sweatshirt, lifting the hood over her head. The tired, young girl was finally ready for bed, only a day too late.
Chelsea arrived downstairs to the smell of crispy waffles with bananas and chocolate. Like her bedtime story, waffles were a tradition before she left to go to her Grandfather’s house. She walked across the living room and into the kitchen where her father was still cooking.
“Good morning!” he sang, without turning around. “You were pretty tired last night, huh?” her father asked.
Chelsea blinked then rubbed her eyes. “Yeah. Tired.”
“Well, breakfast is almost ready, so wake up!” her father said, scooping slices of banana onto a waffle. “And I made you something special.”
Chelsea looked at the clock. It was a little after six now. She thought about the night before and wondered again why her father hadn’t woken her up.
“There!” he said, placing the biggest plate in the house in front of Chelsea. It was completely covered in waffles and bananas. There were ten waffles, one larger one in the middle and nine small waffles arranged around it. Nine circles of chocolate syrup covered the plate too, each one connecting to one of the outer nine waffles. Little circular slices of banana were placed near each of the smaller waffles. “Do you like it?”
“It’s the solar system,” Chelsea said.
Her father smiled. “You got it.”
“Can I just eat big, normal, grown-up waffles?” Chelsea asked.
The smile faded from her father’s face. “Oh, Yeah. Obviously. I made these for me. I just wanted to show you before I ate it!” He pulled the plate away from her and pushed the big stack of waffles, the bowl of bananas, and the chocolate syrup towards Chelsea. “Help yourself.”
Chelsea didn’t speak for the rest of breakfast, but her father kept making what he seemed to think were spaceship sounds as he ate the solar system. Her waffles just didn’t taste as good as they normally did. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t very good. She added extra bananas and chocolate, but they still weren’t the same.
Eventually, Chelsea gave up.
“I need to finish packing.” Chelsea pushed herself away from the kitchen table and went upstairs to her room. She looked at her completely packed bag on the floor. “It’s just not the same.”
Chelsea grabbed her favorite pillow and put it on top of her bag. “Done,” she said out loud. You Are a Child of the Universe, caught her eye from the shelf next to her TV and Chelsea thought about packing it for a moment. “We skipped you this year, but maybe we can go back next year. Would that be okay?”
Chelsea and her father didn’t talk much on the ride to her Grandfather’s house. Instead, she looked out the window, staring blankly at nothing in particular.
The Summer was always Chelsea’s favorite time of year. Like most kids her age, she liked the warm weather and staying up late every night. Sometimes she was even allowed to drink hot chocolate far after her usual bedtime, a treat she would never dream of asking for, but always happily enjoyed. Still, her favorite part of the Summer was her yearly stay with her Grandfather.
Chelsea lived near the ocean in a busy town filled with busy people. The people in her home town were always up to something. They filled their days working, shopping, cleaning, and talking to each other about all the working, shopping, and cleaning they had to do. It was all very boring to Chelsea.
On the other hand, her Grandfather wasn’t like those people at all. He lived alone in a big house that he built in the woods, far away from the lights of the big cities and towns near the coast. He grew his own food in a garden in his front yard. Of course he had to clean, but not much. Sometimes he had to shop, but only sometimes. He had to work too, but he only worked when he needed to. He talked just as much as the people in Chelsea’s little town, but when he talked, it was about the way the clouds looked happier than usual, how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, or a new animal friend who had starting visiting his garden in the afternoons to nibble some of his vegetables.
Chelsea’s Grandfather did many of the things the people back home did, but he spent much more of his time reading good books, taking long naps in the swing on his front porch, and looking at the stars through his telescope at night.
To Chelsea, the month she got to spend with her Grandfather every Summer was like a dream.