When I was a child, I couldn’t wait until my legs were long enough to touch the floor when I was sitting on the subway. And I wanted to be tall enough to hold on to the subway bar when standing—not just tall enough to touch it, but to hold it and have a significant bend at the elbow so that my arm created an “L.” And now I realize that day came and went unnoticed and uncelebrated. One day much later (by months or even years) I had the thought, “Wasn’t I once eager to be able to do this?”
When I was a child, I was dreadfully afraid of the dark. The absence of light filled me with panic. I didn’t just have a nightlight; I had my bedroom light on when I went to bed. My father would dim the light gradually, but only once I was asleep were my parents able to save electricity.
As I got older, I started to need some darkness to sleep, but pitch-black can’t-even-see-a-shadow darkness still terrifies me. I don’t need to be able to see much in the dark, but I need to be able to see something. I need moonlight or a streetlight coming through the window. At the very least, I need a digital clock—something to train my eyes on.
When I was a child, I wanted to be a ballerina. I took ballet classes twice a week, and I was very good (in my own estimation, at least). I even had a stage name—Danielle. That’s actually my middle name, but for some reason I thought it sounded more authentically ballet-like than my first name. And so that’s what they called me at Miss. Janet’s Dance Studio in Brooklyn.
When I was a child, I knew what I knew; and I knew what I knew was the truth. When I was a child, my faith in God was absolute. He was up there, out there, somewhere, everywhere, and He loved me. I knew this to be true. I was not plagued by doubt or guilt. I considered my mistakes and sins of little consequence. I prayed for forgiveness, and then I moved on unencumbered. I did not dwell, and I bore no suspicion that God was keeping a record. And even if He was, as a child, I wasn’t worried. I was certain that I was doing a bang-up job as a Christian.
As a child, if anyone questioned the existence of God or contradicted my faith, I had a simple response, “You idiot! Look out the window. You see that tree? How could that tree be there if God didn’t make it? God is real because so are we.” When I was a child, that’s all the proof in God I needed. How unlike now when I am sometimes so full of fear and doubt I wonder how God could possibly stand to put up with me—especially after all He’s done for me. I have to pray for faith now. Though I suppose that at least means I believe there’s an entity out there listening—and able to help me.
When I was a child, I loved to travel—especially by plane. I loved to plan my travel outfit days in advance. I laid everything out on a chair—down to the very socks and underwear. And I always packed a complete spare outfit in my carryon. I do that now in case my checked luggage doesn’t make it. Then, I did it in case my primary outfit got dirty. You can never be too careful when turbulence is likely.
When I was a child, I loved watching other travelers and imaging what they were like, where they were going, and why. I also liked assuming that someone was watching me, admiring my outfit and wondering the same things. This was before I knew anything about pedophiles.
I loved everything about traveling by plane—the destination was secondary (and usually boring anyway). I loved the odd little pillow, the fleecy blanket, and that tiny silverware (back when coach got metal). At one point or another, I smuggled each of those things off a plane—especially the eating utensils. And I had a little city farewell and greeting ritual that I still perform to this day—always just before the plane’s wheels leave the ground.
When I was a child, I was bold. I was cute, and I knew it. I had no insecurities. I had no doubts of my great worth. I knew my parents loved me. I knew I was smart. I knew I was good at some things, and I didn’t worry about not being good at others. I never feigned humility.
When I was a kid, I knew who I was and what I believed in. I knew what was right and what was wrong. There were no gray areas. When I was a child, I didn’t censor myself—didn’t worry about people liking me or being offended. When I was a kid, I was confident. Hopes and dreams were natural—inborn; fears and doubts I learned later.
When I was a child, I had copious amounts of hope. I broke rocks open in the backyard with my father’s hammer. I was looking for amethysts and diamonds, and I was genuinely surprised when all I found was quartz.