I’ve kept a journal since I was eleven or so.  The first one was a green notebook with sketches of The Beatles on the back cover. My name was spelled out in flowery stickers.

I wrote about my two best friends and called them Sus and Cri, which seems silly now, but that’s what I called them.  To me, it was the same as “honey,” like saying “I love you” every time those three letter words came out of my mouth—a secret language or twin talk.

And I wrote about boys, a friend of my older brother’s with long curly hair and John Lennon glasses. I would sit on the steps of a school friend’s house to wait for him to dive by on his way home from work, and dreamed we got married and had a baby.  I named her Julia after John Lennon’s song on the White Album.

I wrote about the boy in my algebra class with long, pale fingers and glossy black hair.  He drew patterns on his hands with a Pilot pen and scored perfectly on tests even though smoked pot outside the lunch room doors, blowing the smoke into his sleeves.

I worried that I was the underdog, not as pretty as my Sus or my Cri, and not as smart or unique, either.  I was afraid I would never fall in love and stay that way, but would always be fickle and passionate—twelve forever.

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My best friend Mikey and I used to play “leprechaun land” when I spent the night at his house across the street.  We took all the couch cushions from his mother’s sofa sets and set two vertical with one horizontal to stabilize the structure, then we covered it with blankets and held it erect with a fan and scotch tape—a bubble tent.

To his mother it looked like a mess, but to us, it was Ireland, beautiful and green, rabbit holes and little burrows with earthen floors and kettles, pantries with grain and barley, over stuffed chairs for little people, fireplaces and pots of gold—a perfect little world of nooks and treasures, warm and cozy.  

The fans were not cold and the tape was not sticky, Missouri was very far away, perhaps not even real.  

It was a time when being an adult meant “running errands” (which were fun places you wanted to go and your children did not) and keeping an erratic schedule of your choosing.  It meant no bedtime, and that scotch probably tasted like butterscotch and brandy was a little like liquid shortbread with vanilla.  This was when thimbles were darling and rose buds amazing, the layers and layers of delicate petals growing as they pleased, and that black olives must taste like chocolate chip cookies to some people, just not to me.

“And no longer be afraid of the darkness or the bears, or the cracks in the ceiling upstairs…”

Grownup, Carly Simon, No Secrets

I slept with the light on until I was eleven.  At eleven I decided enough was enough and began to turn the lamps off but keep the closet bulb lit…and the door wide open, which kept the room in a pseudo-daytime glow even at midnight.

My mother would tell me the light was sure in interrupt my sleep patterns.  That doesn’t mean much to an eleven year old.  

The fear of the dark wasn’t of a specific thing.  That was the beauty of something as engulfing and vague as darkness.  It could be any number of things, or maybe just one, a person, bogey man, animal with large teeth, bug with a long stinger and so on.  Even worse, sometimes it wasn’t a “thing” at all, but just an essence.  

There is absolutely nothing worse than having made it down the hallway to the bathroom, gone pee and on route back, just feet from your bedroom door, (your bed and the elevation of the bed—which in case you don’t know, some how equals some sort of safety) to all at once find yourself over come by panic, by anxiety, your gut screaming so loudly you hear it in your ears and feel it pump through your blood—YOU ARE IN DANGER.  

The only times I wet my bed as a child were from waking up, being afraid of the darkened hallway and coercing myself back to sleep.  Once in a dream, I successfully stumbled down the hallway to the bathroom.  It was always hard, probably because some part of me understood I was nowhere near the toilet.  But I woke up to find myself warm and wet, then cold and wet, dreading the trip to my mother’s room down the hall to tell her I needed new sheets.

As a very little kid I was so paralyzed by fear of the dark I would simply wake up and scream.  To this day my mother asks, “was it you or your brother that had night terrors?”  It was my brother, but from the way I used to scream, she might have thought it was both.

I would fall asleep with the light on and wake up in a dark, quiet house hours after everyone had gone to bed.  My mother would have shut the door and I would sit up, blink and begin to breathe.  HARD.  To reach blind through the dark and find the door was unthinkable.  Instead I simply screamed until she came, her feet heavy on the wooden floors, turning on lights as she came.  And I sat, toes curled, fingers clenched around my sheets, waiting for the gold of the ceiling light to illuminate the unknown of the dark—to make what ever might be there simply evaporate.

Even now, after a particularly scary movie, I leave the bathroom door open and turn on the kitchen light at night.  Regardless, about halfway back to bed I find that familiar panic and quicken my step, turning on the bedside table to make sure that Moses is, in fact, still Moses, and not some sore-faced hag who’s slipped into his side of the bed to lunge at me in my sleep.

I grew up not knowing how to cook and never eating home cooked meals, but assuming it was something anyone could do if they followed instructions well.  Because I’ve always transcribed numbers, mixing up oil and water on microwave brownies to get oily chocolate soup was always disappointing/humbling/awful.

But, when I would go to visit friends and their mothers or fathers made some home cooked dish (green bean casserole with french onions and cream of mushroom soup, tenderloin, chicken and dumplings…)I always pushed my hair behind my ear and swallowed…HARD.  Home cooked food was strange.  It sat in pans so long, to me, I could smell the hidden undertones and essences of the person who made the dish.  Even cupcakes for elementary school birthdays had a hidden scent of so-and-so’s house.

And now I cook, reading cook books like tabloids and scratching notes in the margin.  Cooking, I know now, is all about adapting and being flexible.  If it doesn’t quite work, can you save it?  If it implodes, falls on the floor, tastes bland, burns…can you smile and make it look like you meant to do that?  Or, can you take something every day, mundane and simple, and make people realize what they were over looking?  Cooking, it turns out, is art.  My art.  I’d have never known from the drive through at McDonald’s.

I rarely like to be alone during daylight hours.  When I am, the association is illness or melancholy, but even in melancholy, I generally seek company.  That’s not to say I’m not a some what solitary person.  Once the sun begins to slide down the blue, it’s usually me who’s ready for a book and a bath, clean sheets and a soft nightgown.  To be alone at night is a comfort, a relief.  To be alone during the day is depressing, frustrating—like a being too hot or having a slight headache for hours—it wears on you.

Despite all this, I love giving dinner parties—but I have to know those nights are coming.  And without a doubt, the next night I keep the existance of a nun or a cat, regaining my strength.

My favorite thing?  Brunch.  I love that brunch is a beginning—after brunch, some mimosas and baked eggs, coffee to pep you and potatoes to sink you, there’s still an entire day to share before the sun goes down.

I cannot remember having green beans as a kid—not even once.  When I was 12 and began taking French in school, green beans, haricot verts, became my favorite thing to say.  I began asking for them at the grocery store, mostly because my French was limited and it was far easier to say (and eat) than endive.

Once we’d get them home my mother would get out a strainer and run them under cold water, snapping off the ends.  When she was young, my mother had played the mother in “Our Town,” a play done as a pantomime.  Her character sat on the porch (which was real), snapping beans (which were fake), into her apron (also real).

I’m not sure how much I really like green beans for the taste, but they certainly have a lot of positive associations.