She was an energetic child, running ahead of her parents everywhere they went. She was full of laughter and joy and her long golden hair flew behind her as she ran. She was a child of the sun.
They tried, one summer, to put her on one of those leashes for children. It was at Klondike Days in Edmonton. After the third passer-by asked what was wrong and could that child not walk (she had lain on the ground, flat on her back, and refused to move, in the middle of the fairway), her parents removed the leash, handed it back to the rental office, and asked for their money back. They made it clear to the child that she was not to run so far ahead that she could not see her parents’ eyes. So the child ran backwards through the fairway. After that, her father carried her. Her favourite was when he pushed her up onto his broad, strong shoulders so she rode above the surging crowd. She could reach the sun. She was the colour yellow.
She was the child who loved everything she found. There was never a middle ground for her. Once her heart had begun to open, it opened all the way. She loved the dandelions that littered the lawn, their little fuzzy heads tickling her lips. She loved the scratchiness of her grandfather’s unshaven jaw. She loved to hammer nails into boards in the driveway. She loved the kittens born to a stray in the garage. She loved the dead animal she found in the bushes, and the little white worms that wriggled inside it. She loved the snakes and the frogs in the garden, the cooing of pigeons, and the way gophers wagged their tails. She loved the endless peacock-blue sky, she loved the wind that took away her breath, she loved the stones that made ripples in puddles. She loved the people into whose arms she wriggled each night, and the stories they whispered in her ear before she was sent off to bed.
As for the things she didn’t love, she was very clear about that too. She hated when people were mean. She hated stones in her shoes. She hated that the old fart who lived across the alley told all the kids to call him “old Bonehead”, and she thought he was being mean to himself and so she decided she would never call him “old Bonehead”, and that made him angry and he threw onions at her. She hated weeds in the lake that brushed against her calves. She hated liver. She hated that so many people were too busy. She hated the colour pink. She was a child of hyperbole.
She was friendly. She was never shy to meet new people, even though sometimes she didn’t like being around a lot of them. She always preferred being just a little way away. She liked her distance, but wasn’t afraid to get close. She didn’t so much unfurl as explode, throwing her arms wide, as wide as her smile. She was full of just as many shadows as she was full of light, though, and sometimes was afraid of the dark, afraid of thunder.
It wasn’t the dark itself that frightened her, but the stillness it brought with it. The dampened sounds, the whispered voices. The movement she could only see out of the corner of her eye, there by the edge of the dresser. The ghostly images that swam, reflected in a looking-glass or a window, half-seen then lost on second glance. It was the loneliness that darkness brought that scared her the most. She didn’t so much mind being alone, but dreaded the feeling of being left behind, being left out, being forgotten. If the lights went out, would the world forget her?
She comforted herself with words. Long after the lights had gone out, words tumbled from her tongue. Like soldiers marching across uneven terrain, they came one by one. Words she’d heard but didn’t know: chrysanthemum, pneumonia, adjunct, fallow, carburator. She tried these words out in tiny whispers while the house grew still around her.
Words enveloped her, comforted her. She dreamed if she ran fast enough and said the right word, she could jump and become airborne. When she rode in the bed of the truck on bumpy gravel roads, she could stand up and hold tight to the rear window of the cab. The wind that smashed against her face would steal her words, and that’s when she most liked to shout the words she was most curious about – when only the wind could take them. She was a logodaedalian.
She was never afraid of death. It was all part of a cycle, and cycles made sense. Even when death came for her grandparents, she was not afraid. Sad, yes, but never afraid. Death was not a dark place. It was simply unknown. A blank page. Unnamed. Something unnamed was something to be explored. Something to be learned about. Something new.
The sadness death left in its wake, though, weighed heavily on her. She could not bear to see others’ tears and suffering; she felt her own heart breaking every time. Sometimes it was unbearable, and the heaviness of sadness would send her from the room. This was when the darkness became comfortable for her. Where the sun could not reach her, she could be perfectly blue.