I must have been five and a half when we arrived in the States… it was March 2003. I remember bits and pieces of the flight over, the red colouring packs with rhinos, my Disney princess magnet book. We layed over in Brazil, where my mother slept with Michael and me under the ticket counter while my father kept watch. We didn’t have money like we do now – just six boxes and a thousand dollars.
Our initial six months were spent in Colorado, first at my great aunt and uncle’s house, then in a big brown one with a green roof where my grandparents stayed with us. From the first house my memories are mainly family gathered ‘round with CCR playing in the background and a big white dollhouse. From the second, Barbie dolls, miniature electrical cars and a bear digging through the garbage one night as we watched from the second story window feature prominently. I’m told I hated going to school there, but I remember nothing of it. Probably for the better.
That autumn we moved to Idaho. I did kindergarten over again because I’d only had a few months in Colorado, and I couldn’t read yet. They wanted to put me in first grade, but I staunchly refused. I thrived in the small private school, quickly abandoning my Afrikaans accent and learning “sneakers” and “garbage can,” not tekkies and “dustbin.” I didn’t enjoy being laughed at. At that school I met a brown-haired social butterfly of a girl who was a year younger than me. She took me under her wing and taught me what I needed to know about America and the Northwest as a first grader, and eleven years later she remains my best friend, despite being some 1,000 miles away.
Many happy hours were spent in our house on Superior Street, with the two little girls we befriended in the house next door and the lady with the zebra finches on the other side. (She sewed us maroon blankets with our names embroidered when we moved away… it’s lost now.)
We sold lemonade, formed a band, climbed the trees, slid down the stairs on mattresses, did gymnastics, fell off the trampoline…everything any child does and more. Malcolm and Cliff came to visit – they were in college then, and my brother and I absolutely idolised them. I remember Malcolm could climb up onto the big branch of the tree in the backyard, way above our little heads, a place we never thought we would be able to reach. Our youngest uncle, he was our playmate and second only to our dad in superhero-dom.
My dad taught us to ride our bikes on the grass, running along behind us until we got the hang of it and picking us up every time we fell down. I haven’t ridden for at least a year now…I used to love it.
William was born in that house in the summer of 2004, a sick baby who had to stay with my mother in the hospital while my grandmother looked after us. That’s when I bought my stuffed dog Ginger, in the Bonner General Hospital giftshop, whom I gave to William last year when he was in the hospital again getting serious stitches in his mouth. I thought it fitting.
I turned seven that October while we were visiting Florida, and we must have left Superior Street not long after that for Baldy Mtn. Road – my favourite place in the whole world, a ranch-style house on acre and a half of land with a forest behind it. But that’s a story for another day.