A tiny girl, sitting outside her home, awaits her brother’s return from school, watching, as snails crawl by. She has been endowed with medium length light brown hair, big green eyes, freckles stretching from one cheek to the other, and a loud mouth. The porch on which she is sitting leads up to a small white farm house with greenish colored shutters (snails were always covering the top step of that front porch). Humidity was high, typical Florida weather, but it did not bother her too much. The shade from the huge tree in the front yard protected her from the beating sun.
This is a picture of me that has been stored in my mind for years and has kept the scene of my early home crisp. I have many fond memories of my early childhood years, including my many quirks and some unforgettable family experiences.
One specific recollection of my childhood is when I would often get into the stack of old books, take the biggest of the bunch, and find a nice comfy seat where I could just sit and “read”. Amusingly, I did not know how to read just yet, but I remember looking through those books wishing I could understand the words that filled each page. When I did finally learn how to read though, I would become upset, because when I had to read aloud, I could barely clamber over the words because of my thick stutter. Come to think of it, I was never very graceful; I was always spilling drinks, knocking over paint cans, and tripping over small objects. So, all the dreams I had of becoming such graceful creatures as ballerinas and princesses stayed exactly that. Dreams. I would thrive on hearing stories about them and would spend long hours playing “make believe” with my little sister. I knew those books contained whole new worlds, and an extra life was trapped in there, waiting for me to live it.
In reflection, much of who I was then remains the same to this day. Yes, there’s been some mountains in my life that have called for some serious climbing, and coming out of something like that is important and has made me a stronger person, but having the experiences like camping out on the beach illegally with nothing but a tarp under us and having to wake up early to sneak away before getting caught, that’s what really counts. It reminds me that, in reality, I haven’t changed at all. I’m still that little girl that plays “make believe” and has a deep love for her family and friends. I still love books, am as curious and mischievous as ever, adventurous, and can’t wait to find out what the future holds.
Johanna Oliver - 2009