I started talking when I was three.  My first memory is potato-on-the-spoon relay races in nursery school.  I felt humiliated and appalled at my lack of spoon/potato acumen.

Grown-up humor I remember as being beyond me.  No clue what made people laugh.  Adults felt terrifyingly foreign.  I stuck with kids.  Not that kids felt particularly safe.  They just felt more familiar.

Next door I had my own personal bully.  Mostly it was verbal abuse and a little pushing.  Kevin grew up to be a sensitive poet.  Perhaps I encouraged memories that inspired metaphors for his poet’s inner shame.  Regardless, that house that I grew up in has now been torn down.  Kevin’s house still stands.

My sister once asked me if I felt sad that the house we had grown up in had been replaced.  I looked at her, astonished.  “Sad? I feel relieved.  With the house gone, childhood feels more finished, buried and far away.”

They kept me in nursery school an extra year so my speech would catch up a bit.  Finally, I started kindergarten, but evidently I was still difficult to understand.  For the next few years, I would be taken out of class each week for “speech,” where I practiced my Sammy snakes and other rare and evidently difficult to pronounce creatures of the wild.

All my childhood, while in story, story felt real.  When someone told me something that sounded true but was not true, I could not tell the difference.  Gullible was how I was described.  Kids took delight in searching for the boundaries of what I would believe.  Like little scientists, they probed that envelope, seeking to stay just within the line of what Andy could tolerate as real.  Clearly, my contemporaries enjoyed relating to me in this fashion.

I matured slowly.  In the junior high locker room after gym class, I would note no hair where hair sprung, then hung, on the bodies of boys around me.  Felt like I was losing the potato-on-the-spoon race yet again.

At the age of 16, I was sent to a speech therapist, a legless ballerina.  Mrs. Blinstrub told me the story that she’d lost them in a car accident while starting a career in ballet.  I was speechless.

With time, I discovered that Mrs. Blinstrub was a Rogerian psychotherapist, not another speech therapist.  The occasional question suggested she thought I’d been traumatized in a past that had been buried.  Sixteen years of therapy later (two therapists and many moves), answers to her questions would emerge.

Last night, I dreamt of the world coming to an end, and I was unable to communicate to the members of my family the importance that they follow me to safety.  I awoke nauseated.  This writing is punctuated by bowl-embracing visits to the bathroom.  No insights this morning.  I’m going back to bed.

OK.  I’m back from bed and feeling better.  Nothing tastes more like childhood than bile.

Here’s my point.  Clearly, I grew up delayed in maturation.  Four generations of my family were seeded liberally with left-handers and the ambidextrous.  That kind of delay is often a feature of the left-handed.

I have several friends with Asperger’s (mild autism) or at least left-spectrum temperaments.  I had family members with such signs.  The point is I felt and feel comfortable in this world where story and reality are confused, communication is a struggle and the motivations of others are a mystery.

At the same time, I was traumatized as an infant, resulting in a number of personality characteristics that signaled an unnatural progression of developmental stages.

In many ways, genetic maturational delay and developmental delay induced by trauma look and behave similarly.  In my own history, I have trouble separating where the two have been engaged in a lifelong conversation I’m only beginning to understand.  For example, many left-handers are left-handed as a result of early brain trauma that forced a switch in hemispheres, simulating features of naturally maturation-delayed, genetic left-handers.  Emotional trauma produces gaps in development.  Autism produces two groups with different etiological origins.  One group is naturally slow, sometimes encouraged by environmental changes to slow even more.  In the other group, an environmental impact forced development to go awry, often unrelated to genetic based maturational rates and timing.

Traumatize a society and a similar thing occurs.  Naomi Klein goes into detail with her book, Shock Doctrine.  Severely abused humans and societies regress.

There are benefits to growing slowly.  You become sensitized to the journey.  Even walking the seemingly arbitrary potato-on-spoon path holds hidden promise.


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