Ok, there is puberty, and high school graduation, and trying to find a job that doesn't kill your soul until it finally does 30 years later (something I've managed to avoid thus far and work hard at keeping it that way), but all those events involve time. What is planted in your mind at a young age usually carries over to your adult body and heart. I noticed this last weekend when Mom, Dad and I were at Walmart Supercenter, but I have to start way, way back, when I was a kindergartner at Sterling Park Elementary in Casselberry, the only school I went to that was in the same neighborhood as my house.
For years, ever since writing it down when I was 8, I thought my first memory, the first time I noticed that I was alive, was when I was in line with my kindergarten class, coming back from lunch. (I remember that life was pure black all around me, until that moment, when it all faded and I saw those pictures in front of me. Since then, I've recalled memories from when I was three.) We were all waiting to go back to the classroom, and Mrs. Moffat was probably doing a head count. Next to me were drawings that older students had done and I turned to look at them. I got so absorbed in them that I didn't even notice my class had already begun walking back to the classroom way across to the other side of the rotunda. When I finally looked up, the door to the classroom was closing. I was on my own to walk back. When I got back, Mrs. Moffat noted that I was late by making me move my name, written out on a long strip of paper, from the "Happy" list to the "Sad" list on the wall.
I was acquainted with a few of my classmates, but never on such speaking terms that they would have told me it was time to go when our line started walking, or even pushed me along. It was the same for the rest of elementary school, then middle school and high school: I preferred to do things on my own, which is why I hated getting into groups for projects. I felt I could get them done faster on my own. Also, this was Mrs. Moffat's first year teaching, which explains why she didn't call me to join the line. Either she didn't think to do that, or she was secretly sadistic, taking pleasure in a student moving their name over to the "Sad" list on the wall. I don't know, and only years later did I learn from Mom that I was in Mrs. Moffat's first kindergarten class.
That close attention to artwork has not faded over time. At Walmart Supercenter, as long as I have a book with me, I can go anywhere in the store. This time, I needed a pack of Fruit of the Loom socks so I didn't have to put my dwindling sock collection in the laundry every five days so I could have clean socks.
Before that, Mom and Meridith looked at the pens in the pen aisle, and I was behind them at the head of that aisle, looking at the posters on offer. There's an artist named Christian Riese Lassen who creates such stunningly beautiful artwork that you just stand there in awe, staring, wondering on which wall of your house you can put a poster of one of his paintings. One of the posters featured at Walmart was this one, of two horses standing in front of a waterfall background. He uses stylized colors to create a scene you'd want to rush right into if you could, to bask in the tranquility and pure love of life in it. I'd seen it also at the Walmart on Kelly Johnson Parkway, the one that overlooks Six Flags Magic Mountain, and stared at it just as intently.
This time, I'd been looking at it long enough that when I finally teared myself away from it, Mom and Meridith had already left the pen aisle. I walked past it, looked to my left and found them walking past the electronics department, far from me. Once again, I was what I have always been. Paintings do that to me.