By the sink where I was stung on the bottom by a wasp, where I attacked my mother with a squirtgun when she stayed too long on the phone, by the windowsill where we lay our collection of crystals and rocks to catch the garden sunlight, I watched my mother fill up the iron pot and put water on the stove to boil for mac and cheese. I waited, kicking my legs high at the maple table, the same table where I spewed beets as a baby, where I lay out my paints and paper at age three, where I blew out birthday candles on a white frosted cake at age five. Yoda came sauntering across the carpet, rubbed his back high against the sturdy legs of my chair, and looked up with saucy yellow eyes. Cat my mother despised. Same cat I later taught – at age six, in our new house in the country – to sit on the stoop railing and ring the doorbell to be let in.
But at this point we still lived in town, in an old Victorian with a bewitched basement and silent upstairs neighbors, a long screen porch filled with birds and fingerpaint and books, and a garden and grassy yard with a white wooden gate that stuck when it swung open to the white picketed yard surrounding the butter yellow house that always smelled of skin, Guatemalan baked beans, and Eskimo stone carvings cool to the touch. Their yard was always full of flowers and tall grass, a pool where we splashed in summer, long laundry lines where we hid under sheets in the white sun, a patio where we had long afternoon barbeques. In our quiet, unfenced yard we planted corn and tiger lilies and tomatoes. I prickled my feet on thorned weeds and swang on the steel swingset. We dressed up in gowns from the Goodwill and hid behind the ferns, princesses in the jungle. We took the seeds from the maple tree and watched them flutter in the air, silent green helicopters. I helped my mother dig in the garden, smelling the damp dark dirt unearthed by her green-handled spade.
And then I sat at the table, honey and cinnamon in hot milk when I couldn’t sleep; mac and cheese for an easy lunch, cheese that melted into the noodles and onto your mouth, an orange so mellow it made my stomach warm at the sight.