I am 6. I am immersed in the reading of an Encyclopedia Brown story while simultaneously walking, at an unnecessary pace, around the raised wooden walls of my classroom’s sandbox. The child detective is about to solve a case by child dectecting that “bookkeeper” has three consecutive double letters. I trip up on the leg of a nearby desk and hit my face off the corner of the sandbox. It is the most pain I have ever experienced, and I involuntarily regurgitate a ham sandwich I had eaten for lunch, one that was initially packed in a container shaped like a cartoon bear’s head. I will not eat another ham sandwich for the next sixteen years.
When I return home from school, I expect that my mother will drop everything to take care of me. But she is in the kitchen, on the corded phone, ignoring my pleas for attention. I am her third child, and one of us falling down will no longer disrupt her day. I refuse to accept this, though, so I retrieve the fire extinguisher from under the sink, expecting her to at least acknowledge what I’m holding. She doesn’t, so I pull the pin and spray her with the powdered nitrogen. Her eyes burn through me instantly, but she’s unable to maintain her anger and she bursts out in laughter. I join her for a minute and then go to my room before she has a chance to send me there.