When I was little my mom told me there were forest fairies in our backyard. I got a small plastic aquarium that used to have a hermit crab in it and made a home for them. I put honey water in a little dish every day and waited to catch one. I became obsessed, and my imagination grew so vivid that I could swear to this day I saw one. My mom planted a butterfly bush outside my bedroom window and she said that like the butterflies, the fairies were attracted to the bush as well. My dad placed a flat boulder next to it for me to sit on. I’d curl up like a cat in the sun and lie there.
I grew up on Green Acres Lane and every time I talk about it the theme song to the late 1960’s TV Land show “Green Acres” plays on a loop in my head. “Greeeen Acres is the place to be! Faaaarm livin’ is the life for me!” It’s okay if you don’t know that reference; if you can’t imagine it, place a city slicker on a tractor singing like a hillbilly, voice cracking and everything. I only know because of a house warming gift. A family friend bought us a candy dispensing house that sang the song. The quirky background music played the tune to my life. We rarely watched TV, but when we indulged ourselves during breakfast on Saturday mornings, we always flipped to TV Land. “Bonanza” and “Little House on the Prairie” and “I Love Lucy” played. I’m not sure if those were all actually on the same channel, Hallmark was really the only other channel Mom let us watch. Grandpa always watched “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” I’m not sure where the trend of “Name, comma occupation” for TV show titles disappeared to.
With many horses, 20 acres of land, an arena and a barn, Green Acres Lane really was the place to be. My family went to rodeos every weekend and Cowboy Church on Sundays. Sometimes we left the Christmas lights up all year; we only locked the doors when we heard about a break-in near our area. My best friend and I would walk along the fence by Burgess Road waving and making honking motions towards passing cars, counting how many we got in return. We never wore shoes and were always outside. I remember many times when my dad would have a fit of rage, I’d hide in the forest plotting my escape. I’d run away someday. I’d ride away on my favorite horse, Jose. I never did, of course. I was bright eyed with big ideas that I never acted on. I’d plan them out and write stories about girls much braver than I running away from home and making it on their own, just their horse and themselves. I started writing bigger stories about girls going to bigger cities, for college, for jobs, for a bigger, better life. I started plotting my own journey, saving money and googling places new to me.
I always liked this word. The sound of it. The meaning. What does it mean to be infatuated with something or someone? To be infatuated. I liked the word so much better before I looked up the definition. I always imagined infatuation as a long-term thing, like a love for a person. But nothing is really long term.
My planning jarred to a halt when my grandpa died my junior year of high school. I vowed not to leave and to spend more time with my family. The heart ache convinced me I could never spend enough time with my relatives. The revelation of death persuaded me to believe that any of us could die at any moment, and it would have been worse if I was unable to be there in their last moments. My older brother was away at school, and he didn’t have a chance to fully accept it and say goodbye. But senior year I was ready to leave; I wouldn’t go far but I needed breathing room. I drove the six hours to Hastings, Nebraska.
We built a tree house, us kids and dad. Well, mostly dad. All three of us would sit up there working on art projects. We’d have our French toast with syrup and peanut butter for breakfast out there. We’d invite friends over and pretend it was our own humble abode. My older brother had a friend over once and we were playing with the hose under the tree house making small lakes and rivers. Trying to contain the water in places as it ran down hill.
“Dam it!” his friend kept saying. I giggle uncontrollably as I usually did around my brother’s friends.
Taylor was mad and telling him to stop saying that in front of me. I encouraged him as though I thought it charming and humorous.
We hung our artwork on the walls of the tree house and read books on the floor. I wrote in my journals, my mind running wild. There were many insects and spiders. But there were always spiders where I was. Slowly, the tree house was abandoned. I don’t know what point we thought we outgrew it, because to this day I would still enjoy sitting in that tree house. But now it has what I consider a spider infestation, and the last time I was in there I saw not one but two black widow spiders.
For whatever reason, my room always had the most spiders. Perhaps I noticed them more than the rest of my family, like the large black pregnant spider in my bed. But I learned how to squish my own spiders because by the time I’d run to the kitchen to find my dad and run back in hysteria to show the proof, the ugly creature would be gone. And I would sleep somewhere else for a few nights, unsettled by the thought of a spider sleeping in my bed. I received no pity as well in those psychologically scarring moments of my childhood and my dad showed no hustle following me to the horror scene.
Living in Oklahoma for the summer, where the bugs are much greater in number and size, I religiously sprayed the house with bug repellent but to no avail. Spiders inhabited every space they could, spiders that looked exotic and poisonous. One day while I was cooking in the kitchen and Toby was messing with the TV, I heard a small squeak and I looked up. Toby stood with broom in hand jabbing at something on the floor.
“What?” I asked.
“Spider,” he said, eyes wide. I realized now the squeak came from him.
I moved closer to see a monster of a spider, the size of the palm of my hand. I tried taking a photo of it but couldn’t get close enough. Wouldn’t get close enough.
The first night I slept in our house in Hastings senior year, a bat flew out in the middle of the night swooping down and flying in chaotic circles. Nobody believed me, and I wished it was a dream. The next evening it came upstairs. I’ve never seen three girls move quicker. The shrill shrieking was terrible. If my fiancé wasn’t there we probably would have lit a match, slammed the door, and never looked back. Eventually he shooed the damn thing out, and we crossed our fingers there wouldn’t be any more. I love animals. I’ve always surrounded myself with them, cats, horses, dogs, hermit crabs. Now I have no animals near me. No horse to feed every morning and evening; no cat to cuddle with at night. It’s rather lonely. Animals were my muse. I wrote about horses from the perspective of the horse. I envied their freedom I imagined in the open range. But it seems now I’m mostly surrounded by the ugliest of creatures.
People called me a giggle box because instead of talking I would laugh. I was a silent child but a giggling one. Teachers spent their time trying to help me to find “my voice.” I used my voice on paper. I’d write stories. My little brother was a talker and he’d make up stories for days. He would tell jokes he made up too that weren’t funny and didn’t make sense, but the whole family would bust out in laughter. I was the opposite. I wrote stories that I didn’t want anyone to read. I wrote in my diary. I had so many journals; I’d beg Mom to buy a new one before I’d finished the first. I was the child that received extra homework, not as punishment, but because I was too good at it. My third grade teacher emailed my dad extra difficult spelling word for me to learn. I won every spelling bee from first grade to seventh grade, except for one. I don’t remember what year it was, but I was simply tired of people remarking about how likely it was I’d win again. I didn’t know it was such a big deal to some; I was simply spelling words correctly when they called the next person in line. That year I lost on purpose. A boy who was not very good at spelling was the last person standing with me, so I purposely spelled my word wrong. But then he spelled that word wrong, too, and it was my turn again, and I spelled that word wrong too wanting to hit him in the back of the head if he messed up again. But I think he won. I’m not sure; I’d have to go through my spelling bee plaques.
The first time I had a gulp of liquor, I was at home and this was during my new obsession of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. I’m not sure if anyone actually likes the flavor or if it was the joy of self-inflicted pain, in any case, my mouth was on fire. My dad and brothers have a habit of filling up large glasses of ice water and leaving them on the counter. I rarely filled up my own glass because I was always taking theirs. So, my mouth on fire I marched to the counter and grabbed the large glass of water and threw it back. The burning sensation in my throat out matched the one in my mouth. I was sputtering for air, surely the vein on my forehead was bulging and ran to the bathroom. To this day, I still do not understand why anyone would drink (what I now believe to be) straight vodka. Positively not after a mouth full of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
There’s really no point in these stories, except the fact that they still have lingering influence in my life. These are stories that I recall; they shaped my writing. Many stories I conjured in my mind came to life while sitting by that butterfly bush. The first time I saw a forest fairy is engrained in my mind, and that was the beginning of an imagination that still tells stories today. I still have “Green Acres” theme song stuck in my head since writing this, I still have a lot of spiders in my room, and I’m really good at spelling and laughing at myself. These are the moments of inspiration for my love of words and writing.