I BECAME JENNY HARRIS

Published September 12, 2021 by Nan Mykel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMARTY PANTS

I was born in June, but I became me oh, about March. I didn’t know that this would be the best time of my life.  More’s the pity if you can’t remember the gentle, reassuring warmth of the timeless sea rocking you. One with the world—no, the World itself.

We can all hear while still in the womb, but few are sufficiently fortunate to receive an early education through the pulsing walls of their mother, as she taught her first grade students. I suspect it was her sprightly voice delivering my first knowledge base that helped sharpen my hearing.

What was fortuitous for me posed small problems for my family, because I was reluctant to talk during my first three years. I wanted to think and absorb the daylight scene. I was busy absorbing and disinterested in verbally engaging.  I already knew there were three people in my family: Annie Harris—Mom, quick-witted and energetic with soft flowing dark hair and twinkling eyes, although I wasn’t sure what color her eyes were; Harry Harris—Dad — balding, horn-rimmed glasses, smiled a lot when he looked at me; and Tristan Harris, big brother, who took some getting used to.  Just kidding, he was at that awkward age, I think they call it.  I soon learned to recognize my own name, Jenny Harris.

The information I took in visually, however, was brand new.  I had to sort out colors first, having no idea what colors were when my mother pointed them out in her classroom. Although I was slow to learn my colors, I spent days absorbing my family’s features.  Mom had lots of hair, and it was curly.  Dad’s hair wasn’t much so I didn’t know if it was curly or not.  Tristan’s hair was longer than my dad’s, and not curly.

For a long time I studied their eyes, but not knowing colors I couldn’t label them at first. They were all crinkly and reassuring, however. The family was glad to see me, although later I caused problems for them.  I gained weight and crawled as they expected, even walked and ran.  But as the months passed and they peered at me expectantly, I didn’t talk.

Mom took me to the doctor regularly and finally told him about my not talking. He looked at me and smiled.  “She can. There’s nothing wrong with her vocal chords.”  He tapped his eyeglasses on his hand and said, “Can she cry?”

Suddenly Mom recalled my word-free howls when displeased, and laughed.  “Can she ever!”

The doctor gave me a conspiratorial wink and said, “She will when she wants to, I ‘spect.”  I knew he was my buddy.

Soon after I came out, my family got a new member.  A black and white kitten –Mom said it was a girl– came to visit, and stayed.  Mom thought she had been abandoned, which made me feel sorry for her, so I kind of mothered the kitten, I guess.  Her lips were colored—I later learned they were “pink,” and Tristan named her “Tulips.”

While other children might hug their blankies, I had my Tulips to snuggle with.  Note that I considered myself a child from birth. There wasn’t a lot of baby still in me at birth, other than size.

Mom was intuitive, which means comprehending without being told. She could tell from looking in my eyes that I understood more than I let on, so from almost the beginning she began to read me stories.  I sat in her lap and followed along, and that’s how I learned to read—painlessly, the way it should be.

We soon used up the story books left over from Tristan’s childhood and so one fine sunshiny day Mom popped me in the stroller and headed for the library.  Oh, that magnificent building!  Mom gave me a choice of books, by holding several out until I pointed at one.  Or two. (I was secretly reading to myself when Mom wasn’t around.)  Tulips would snuggle and purr, and I would silently read.

Mom took me to the library every week, and gradually I began pointing at books for juveniles, not infants.  Intuitive Mom got the hint, and followed my lead in reading selections. So it was that one evening in my third year, as we were dining on spaghetti and meat balls, I said my very first word.  It was not “spoon,” which I was reaching for, but “Meowr.”

I was half joking, but Mom became tense and said, “Don’t over react.  We don’t want her to become mute again.”

They resisted handing me the spoon, however, until I said the magic word, thereafter continuing to live up to the new name they gave me: “Smarty Pants.”

Luckily my uniqueness was kept secret, even from the neighbors, who had no children.  We just took me for granted, a blessing compared to what some special children are exposed to in the media. My dream was to become me.

I can remember back to when Tulips was “fixed.”  I was horrified.  I didn’t want to be fixed!  What if my mother had been fixed?  I knew Mom had enjoyed teaching school and I also knew I was a bump in her road.  As the family’s ever questioning pest, I asked her about it.  .

Her answer was reassuring, just a warm hug, a kiss and her dear smile. Then she added, “We chose to have you. When you grow up you can choose what you want to do with your life”. That sounded pretty good to me, so I went back to Tulips and Google.

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