Post-a-day (12/30) prompt: Childhood

The prompt today is: Write page three of your autobiography.

During the years in which I was between six and twelve years old, I continued developing my nascent creative interests in drawing, writing and using my imagination. Social relationships were extremely important to me, as well as difficult to secure. Most of my friends were the other children who lived in my neighborhood.

My nearsightedness worsened slowly throughout this period and I began to wear glasses all the time in elementary school. Because I was not very coordinated, I did not do well in sports, particularly competitive sports. I therefore did not like sports very much nor being forced to participate in them, which was a source of humiliation. The only sport I was pretty at was swimming, and I took lessons every summer. When I was about seven, I took ballet lessons at a private dance school. In spite of my poor balance and klutziness, I loved dancing and after I had learned some steps, I taught them to my neighborhood friends. There is a home movie taken by my father showing me and my friends giving a “recital” in the front yard. I would demonstrate the dance step over and over across our front lawn, then one by one each little girl would take her turn across the lawn. I was only the expert in ballet because my neighborhood friends did not take ballet lessons! However, I loved being the center of attention and being the leader in other games as well. When we played school, I was always the teacher. It made this girl with low self-esteem feel important.

I did not lack in exercise, in spite of my lack of athleticism. My friends and I played in the woods behind my house, running up and down the hills, climbing trees, playing make believe games. In the winter, we went sledding on a nearby hill and ice-skating at a local park.

By second grade, I continued to enjoy drawing and now began using written language as a creative activity, writing and illustrating story books. I was imaginative and made up stories all the time. When I wasn’t writing them down, I would use my Barbie-sized dolls to act them out – I had a whole “family” of dolls and furniture which I put on my shelves to make rooms in a house for them. As I grew older, my doll stories grew more complex – Barbie had a boyfriend, or she was distraught because he broke up with her or went away for the summer. Good gifts for me were crayons, pencils, pens and paper.

By the age of twelve or thirteen, I was reading books from our family library. The first one that interested me was called Being Born. My friends and I would page through it and look at the pictures. We giggled with embarrassment at the anatomical drawings of female and male reproductive organs and the development of the embryo.

With the backdrop of race riots in cities across America in the mid ‘60s, I began reading about the issues of prejudice, racism and injustice. I loved The Diary of Ann Frank and couldn’t get over the shock of realizing she died in a concentration camp at the age of 16, only because she was Jewish. At school, I devoured certain required books, such as Animal Farm (I read it in one day) and To Kill a Mockingbird (which I read in three days). At my aunt and uncle’s house, I found Manchild in the Promised Land, which I took home to read. These books took place in a world that was totally alien to me in my white small-town universe.

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