When I was 6 what was essential was to have school supplies that were exactly the same as everyone else. I did not want a pencil my mother had been using for her crosswords or old scribblers of my sister’s that still had some blank pages.
When a science experiment – such a grand word for a simple demonstration to a grade one class – required vaseline to smear on paper, my mother sent me to school with a jar of cooking oil. The teacher sent me home with a note and that night my mother walked to the store and bought the smallest jar of vaseline they had. I was told to make sure to use no more than was needed and to bring it home afterward.
When I was 14 what was essential was having an alpaca sweater and Adidas running shoes. At Christmas I finally got the sweater. My mother refused to let me have the running shoes when there were the boots that no longer fit my sister sitting unused at the back step. She knew the boots would keep me much warmer than the running shoes I would have insisted on wearing to school in January.
My father was a teacher. What was essential for him was to provide for his family. It fell to my mother to make a teacher’s June pay cheque cover food and clothes and supplies for their children through to the next cheque at the end of September.
What is essential to me now is to say I understand now what my 6 year old heart could not see.
But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you.