I was born in Ann Arbor. My Texan momma assures me the winters there were bitterly cold, but my only memory of Michigan is of a lake in the summer. Sitting on a blanket on the beach, I was startled by a daddy-long-legs. My father gently picked it up and held it out to me, telling me not to be afraid. I could see how tame the spider was, crawling up and down his arm, and so I asked to hold it too. My husband told me years ago that daddy-long-legs are the most poisonous of spiders, but their jaws are simply too weak or too small to pierce human flesh. I’ve never verified that fact, but I like to think of it whenever I see one.
My family moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia when I was three, into a rented house in Bryn Athyn. My memories of that time are hazy visions based more on photographs I’ve seen or stories I’ve been told. But I can clearly picture the headboard of my childhood bed. It was matte brass, hollow metal, in a tic-tac-toe pattern. I used to wind my fingers through its squares at night, grabbing onto the bars and plucking them to make sounds. Sometimes I would use them to pull myself backwards, up into a bridge, and I would look around the room. I’d imagine what the house would be like if the ceiling was the floor. Stepping over the door frames to get into the rooms instead of gliding through them effortlessly. Climbing the stairs, ascending and descending ramps, instead of using the steps. I still find that idea fascinating.
When I was 4, I saw an Indian pow-wow in the backyard of that house in Bryn Athyn. I was watching TV in the sunken rear room when I heard a noise outside the window. I rose and pulled back the scratchy curtain. A group of Native Americans in full feathered regalia sat in a circle in the grass, chanting. A man who appeared to be the Chief looked up. The rest of the men turned to follow his gaze and when they spotted me behind the glass, they looked angry. The Chief leaped up and raced towards the window. I threw back the curtain and just FROZE. It felt like forever before I was brave enough to peel back a sliver of curtain and peek out. But nothing was there. The noises had stopped. The men were gone. But the memory remains.