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Day 11, Sunday. Earliest memory.
I am wearing a terrible striped shirt, a pair of blue shorts, and my very first pair of actual shoes – brown leather sandals that are a size too big and so slip out from under my heels when I try to walk, but as I prefer to crawl, this doesn’t bother me. I’m lying on a brand-new wine-colored shag carpeting, so new its chemical smell tickles my nose, though it lacks the nauseating sweetness of the paper mill runoff that clouds the air at my grandfather’s house. I’m lying on my left side, nose to nose with the dust ruffle on my great-aunt’s couch, an equally new tan-and-orange affair that is probably spending an ignominious retirement on some Salvation Army loading dock. I’m pleased, and proud, because I know the adults sitting on the couch above – my mother, my grandmother, and my father – are all talking about me.
It is my first memory, and it is the last time I remember my parents being together. My next memory after it is just over six months later, and it is also of carpeting: of the colorless Berber, much reduced, that carpeted my father’s Sears and Roebuck tin house on Willow Creek, the first place he lived after the divorce. The creek and most of the properties around it would later be placed on the National Priorities List – a name that sounds impressive but actually designates a Superfund site.