In my junior year of high school I took a developmental psychology class and loved it. One of the projects in the class was to compose an autobiography and pay attention to the stages of development throughout our lives. So here is what I wrote, with a few edits for brevity and privacy. Even with my edits, this is super long, so I’m going to break it up into 3 posts. Keep in mind that I was sweet (and innocent) 16 when I wrote this!
Infancy and Early Childhood
I was born EEC Chick in June 1980 to Mark and Susan in Abington, Pennsylvania. I was a healthy 7 pound, 21 inch baby, but it was a shock that I was born with a cleft lip and palate and cleft hands and feet. My mother didn’t even get to hold me right away because the doctor rushed me off to examine me. I had to have many surgeries those first few months of life to close up my lip and palate so I would be able to eat and look presentable.
I was an only child for the first four years of my life. I remember we lived with my grandmother, who I called Gram. Both Mom and Dad worked so Gram took care of me during the day. I started talking at about a year old. My first words were cookie, eye and flower. I began walking in September 1981. I stood myself up with the help of the television stand and walked towards Mom and Gram as they sat on the sofa watching Lawrence Welk.
Our family went to Sunday School and Meeting (Church) every Sunday, so I had friends there from the very beginning. Becky, who was six months older than me, and Joanna, who was six months younger. We had a lot of fun together. Becky’s older brother Ben would play with us too.
I don’t remember much about my surgeries except for the one I had to fix the big toe on my right foot. It stuck out so far that my mom had to cut a hole in my shoe so it could stick out. I remember Mom, Gram and I got up really early and went to the hospital. When we got there we had to wait for a while and then my doctor came and asked me if I was ready. I said I was and he picked me up and carried me into the operating room. There he put me on a table and put a funny mask on my nose and asked what flavor I would like, strawberry, banana, chocolate, or bubble gum? I asked for banana and soon I was sleepily breathing the banana scented anesthesia. I was really grouchy when I woke up. As soon as I woke up I was taken to the physical therapy room so I could learn to walk on crutches. I was really mad and I screamed and yelled until they let me go back to my room and go back to sleep. All I wanted to do was go home! Once I did get home it wasn’t long before I was walking again despite the cast on my foot.
When I was three, my mom became pregnant with her second child. I was going to be a big sister! I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a girl or a boy but my mom told me not to worry, God would choose what it would be. So, 6 days after my fourth birthday, my first brother Kris was born. That year I began taking swimming lessons at the YMCA. I couldn’t wait to begin. I loved swimming in our pool at home and I was ready to make new friends. My mom was nervous about how the other kids would react to me, but her fears were quickly overcome when she met my teacher, Suzanne, who had exactly the same things wrong with her as I did! I had a great time there. Swimming was my favorite, but I also loved arts and crafts and gymnastics too.
Around that time, my great grandfather died. I wanted to go to the funeral but Mom wouldn’t let me. I had all these questions like, would he be naked? What would he look like? Was he going to be a skeleton? And of course, why can’t I go? Mom said funerals weren’t for little girls. Oh well, I had fun because my cousin Karen babysat me and I thought she was really neat. She was 16 and I wanted to be just like her. Not long after that, Gram moved out. She was going to go live with my great grandmother, who needed someone to take care of her. I was very sad that she wouldn’t live with us anymore, but I would still see her a lot because she would be less than an hour away, in New Jersey.
One day I was out playing in the yard when I heard a voice. “Hello, little girl!” At first I was scared because we didn’t have any neighbors and I couldn’t imagine where the voice was coming from. Then I realized there was a woman and a little girl about my age standing between the grapevine and the big pine tree that separated our yard from the next. “Hello, this is Christina, your new neighbor!” said the woman, motioning towards the girl, “and I’m her grandmother. Who are you?” She smiled as I walked over shyly. “I’m Heather,” I whispered “Let me go get my dad.” I ran into the house and found Dad in the kitchen washing dishes. He came outside and talked to the woman. I shyly asked the girl to play and we hit off well. Actually, to say we hit off is rather funny considering how much we fought. It seemed that we finished each of our play sessions with a fight and I would swear that I wouldn’t play with her again for a year, but by the time the next day rolled around we had forgotten about the fight and were ready to play again.
In September 1985, I started Kindergarten at McDonald Elementary School. I was very excited, I couldn’t wait to go to real school like a big kid! The first day came and I climbed onto the enormous yellow school bus that would take me to the even bigger red brick school. I thought Mrs. Schulden, my teacher, was kind of scary because she was so strict. Once, we were taking a test and she had set up books on our desks so we couldn’t look at the person next to us. I was confused about one part and I leaned over to see what the girl next to me put on her paper. (Little did I know that Mrs. Schulden was standing behind me.) She pushed my chair in hard and fast so that my ribs hit the edge of the desk. I tried not to cry, not because it hurt, but because I had done something bad and I felt ashamed.
One day just before it was time to go home, Mrs. Schulden asked if any of us had left an umbrella in the coat closed the day before. She held up a blue plastic handled umbrella with a clear plastic top that had little fish on it. Wow, I thought, that is a really neat umbrella! I raised my hand when I saw that no one else was claiming it. “Are you sure it’s yours Heather?” asked Mrs. Schulden. I nodded, and the umbrella was mine.I told my mom that a friend had given it to me at school. A couple of days later, Mrs. Schulden asked who had taken the umbrella because a girl in her afternoon class had lost one. Everyone knew I had taken it but I claimed it was mine.
Riding the bus was always interesting. Chrissy and I sat together and once we got in a big fight and the bus driver told us that if we didn’t knock it off, he’d send us to prison. That quieted us down quite a bit. We also had problems with boys. Once, I got punched in the nose by one and then Chrissy tried to beat him up before the bus driver intervened. One boy in particular, whose name was David, made fun of me to no end. he called me blondie and was always teasing my friends and I, until one day Mom got on the bus (much to my embarrassment) and told him that if he didn’t leave me alone, he’d have to deal with her. I guess that was a pretty scary thought, because he never bothered me after that.
—- To be continued —
Whew! My hand is tired from typing all that out. Obviously I don’t have the original word document from 1997. Hah. For some reason when I type, I just hold my left thumb up in the air all the time, and after a while my hand starts cramping up. Awkward.
Anyway… If you’re curious to know what I edited out of this wordy introduction to my life, it was about 20 “I remember”s and a section where I talked about the senile old lady who lived next door before Chrissy’s family moved in. How odd that I found that to be something relative to my life when I wrote this autobiography.
Also, it’s kind of alarming to realize how much of my early life I have forgotten. I have NO memory of being punched in the nose on the bus, and I definitely had not thought of Mrs. Schulden or the umbrella I stole in many years. (What is with me and umbrellas?)
I hope you enjoyed this throwback within a throwback. Next week I will post the ‘Childhood’ section, where there was lots of learning and playing and a couple more surgeries to boot.