When I was little, I lived in Germany.
We lived in a rented house off base, out in a rural area. The whole setting was a study of verticals. We lived on a steep hill that was great for sledding. There were gentle rolling mountains with cattle trails where civilization stepped back to a time before cars. Local farmers would drive cattle up the road every weekend, taking them to market. I remember that my sister told me that the brown cows gave chocolate milk. The house we rented was three-stories; each level was its own apartment. We lived in the middle. The people above us stomped and I was fascinated by how they could be so loud. I think they were a single mother and a couple of little kids. She had red hair and was American.
I remember the fog and snow more than the blue skies or sun. Sometimes the fog would be so thick it could limit sight distance to the length of an arm. It was a white a blanket of muffled isolation that my sister and I still had to forge our way through to get to the bus stop at the top of the hill.
The road to school was long and narrow with fields on either side. I couldn’t talk to the bus driver, but he thought it was funny when I made animal sounds at him. I recall the bus being generally empty most of the time. If it had other children, they didn’t register on my mind enough for me to remember them now. Likely they were children that went to school on the base and generally shunned me because I was weird, or they were German children I couldn’t talk to anyway. The most vivid moments of that bus ride were the ones with an overwhelming color; the bright green of the fields on either side or the heavy fog.
The neighbors were native Germans. I had a memorized phrase to ask if I could play with their children. I don’t really remember playing with the kids there, though. They seemed disdainful towards me. They had rabbits and chickens in pens in the back yard. It was there that I realized that “lucky rabbit’s feet” weren’t lucky for the rabbit. The idea that bones and toenails are beneath that brightly dyed fur bothers me and I haven’t touched one since. This was once a living creature and it was killed for its foot. Likely not just for its foot, but I was doing good at the time to comprehend that it was undoubtedly dead and what that meant.
Bored with my own back yard and solitude, I went to visit them once. I was in a sitting room at the back of the house. My sister hadn’t accompanied me. I was with the man of the house though I’m not sure how old he was, I think he may have been their grandpa. He was a quiet and gentle man, that couldn’t speak English. Maybe if he could, he could have told me not to grab that wasp. His granddaughter was playing piano in another room; laboriously plucking Moonlight Sonata in the Summer heat with all the windows open. She had no interest in me. She was several years older than me and not interested in my sister’s company either, though they got along better than I did with anyone. The window in the room looked out into the dusty backyard chicken coop. Afternoon sunlight streamed in, bright against the shadows of the room. A wasp landed on the window sill; its body jewel-yellow and glistening black. The German grandpa was nice and put ice on my sting, but I didn’t go home even then.
After all, no matter where I went, I’d be in pain and alone.
Now that I think of it, perhaps I was being babysat because my sister was at her dance class. She got to do a lot more things than I did. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t expressed any interest or if I was too young…
I played in the back yard by myself a lot.
Once, I was pretending to be Paul Bunyan. I was pretending to be a giant as I stomped among the overgrown grass and swung a jump rope around like a scythe. I was lonely and not at all entertained by my imagination. The overcast sky suited my mood. I wanted a companion of some kind, and that’s when I found a bright red cardinal. He let me pick him up. I wanted to feed him but I didn’t know what cardinals ate. I called him Peter. Peter was a good bird, he didn’t bite or struggle, so I assumed he was okay with me holding him. I showed him to Dad, hoping that this was the start to my career of being a Disney Princess. Dad took him from me and threw him into the field behind the fence in the back yard. I was devastated and went inside to spend the rest of the day sulking.
There was no point to this post, btw. Just talking about myself.
I’ve been hiding this draft away for a while now. Not sure if I want to publish and expose myself to the world. But I guess now is a good time as any. It will get buried by newer posts and hidden away and no one will ever find it.
I have anxiety and depression and these are some of my earliest memories containing those feelings. I don’t know what caused it, whether it was biological or induced by circumstances. This is just a thing I’ve come to realize will never go away. It may have something to do with why I worry about what others think of me and also have something to do with my outlook on life in general. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am, but in a way I’m glad of the journey and the lessons learned.
Even though thinking back on it now makes me sad because of how lonely and ignored I was. Living off-base in Germany was certainly hard. There wasn’t anyone my age with a shared language I could talk to or play with. I had no friends in school either. Nothing really connected me to anyone there except location. As a result, I talked to myself a lot, made weird noises all the time, and lived in my head during school hours because it was better than getting told to sit down and shut up by an abusive teacher in first grade. When she wasn’t ignoring us, she was yelling at the class. She watched me sit and chew my bangs off with safety scissors one time.