Figuring Out Life At the Age of Four
By the time I was four I had most of life figured out. I knew how to generate real good speed and I could ride a bicycle in the trees. I knew where Mom hid the candy corn and how I could eat it under my blanket when someone hadn’t been fair. I knew how to climb up on the desk in front of the bookshelf to get Brett’s model motorcycles, play with them and put them back so that he couldn’t tell I had accidentally broken them.
I knew how to pretend I was asleep and sneak out of my room to watch Mom and Dad watching cowboy movies on the black and white TV. I would just stand in the dark hallway in my Fruit of the Looms and peek around the corner until I was too scared I would get caught.
I knew that Mom and Dad weren’t always fair because when Brett got to go to the hospital they bought him the GI Joe scuba gear with the plastic white shark and it wasn’t even his birthday! I stole some extra candy corn that evening.
I knew that if I behaved Mom and Dad would be happy and that if I cried there would be a good chance of getting Brett into trouble. I knew that no one made poached eggs like Mom, that graham crackers tasted best when dipped into milk, and that the only way to eat liver was by soaking it in ketchup. I even knew an hour looked like a big hill. Half hours were big hills cut in half.
I knew that our Siamese cat’s name was Why for two reasons: the funny one and the sad one. The funny one was because if a visitor asks you for your cat’s name and you say “Why” then they’ll think you asked “Why?” They will then look at you for a moment, smile and start answering the question they think you just asked. When they are done then you just keep saying “Why” until they get it. And when they get it everybody laughs!
The sad reason for the cat’s name was that Uncle Tim had actually given the cat as a kitten to his girlfriend and then she gave it back to him because she didn’t want to be his girlfriend anymore. Uncle Tim just looked at the cat and asked “Why?”
I knew that you had to say a prayer every night and that Mom would kiss each of us after saying our prayers. I knew “O God guide me…” by heart and I knew that someday, when I was as old as Brett, I would also learn “Is there any remover of difficulties?” because you need that one when you grow up.
So I had figured out most of life by the age of four. The only thing I hadn’t figured out was how to deal with three kinds of people: the kind that rode my bike in the trees without asking, the kind that made me be Magnolia the ostrich when I wanted to be Albert Chipmunk in the puppet show, and the kind that wanted to talk to me even though I didn’t know them yet.
I thought I would figure out the rest of life when I turned five or six, but then Mom and Dad shared their plans with us: “We are moving to Puerto Rico.” I didn’t know what that meant, but it sure did make me feel like eating some candy corn.