Sheila Grau grew up in an old house that had a secret closet nestled behind the bookshelves in the library. She was able to tuck herself into that little nook to ponder life's mysteries, like how her mother knew she was dropping her vegetables to the dog at dinnertime. (Answer: The dog didn't like vegetables, either, and spit them out on the floor.) Through the years, one mystery in particular seemed to have no answer: Where do evil overlords get their minions?
That's the official story, but some of you (my children, maybe?) may want more, so if you're wondering what I was like as a kid, I'll share some of what I remember. If I know me, and I kind of do, I'll probably delete all this in a few days because I feel weird sharing stuff about myself online. But then again, I may forget. That's something else I know about me.
First off, when I was a kid, I loved playing sports. All kinds of sports, but mostly soccer.
Unfortunately for me, I was also accident prone, and these two things about me weren't very compatible. I chipped both front teeth and had been stitched up twice before I was twelve.
I loved animals and had lots of pets growing up - dogs, cats, ducks, rats, guinnea pigs, and mice. I don't have any pets right now, but there is a family of raccoons who visit the crawl space beneath my house on occasion. They scare me.
That old house I mentioned? Well, we used to call it the Big Pink Barn because that's what it looked like. My mom picked the color and informed the painters of her choice right before we left on vacation. We came back to a pink house. She'd been going for a rusty brown and learned the hard way that there is a discrepancy between what colors look like in the paint store vs. how they look outside covering an entire house. (Sorry, Mom). Check it out, it's pretty pink:
So I lived in the Big Pink Barn with my mom and dad, an older sister, and a younger brother. My parents usually rented out the two tiny rooms on the third floor, so there were often strange people in the house. This didn't bother me, except for the guy who used to cook sauerkraut in the kitchen. That was not a pleasant aroma to come home to, if I'm honest.
This is kind of interesting - I went to Bing Nursery school and was one of the kids they tortured with marshmallows in the famous Marshmallow Experiment. If you haven't heard of it, the idea was this: they sat a toddler down and offered him or her a marshmallow. BUT, if the child could wait 15 minutes, he or she would get 2 marshmallows. It turned out to be a famous study about delayed gratification. Kids who learned self-control turned out to be better students and were more successful in life. I don't know if I ate the marshmallow or waited, but I think I probably ate it, given what I know about myself (I don't have much self-control around sweets).
That wasn't the only experiment I endured as a child. During elementary School I was taught to read using a nutty method called ITA (Initial Teaching Alphabet). The idea was to help kids learn to read faster. English is hard to learn because so many letters have more than one sound. It's confusing. They tried to solve that problem by creating an English alphabet with 44 different letters! That should make things easier, right? Take a look at the ITA alphabet, and a sample sentence:
An actual sentence in ITA. What does it say? Keep scrolling.
Mine was the only class at my school that learned to read with ITA (lucky me!) When we mixed back together, we ITA-ers had trouble catching up with kids who had learned to read the normal way. My spelling was terrible for years after. I attribute some of my reading reluctance as a young kid to this failed experiment, but it was a very long time ago, so who knows?
Ok. One last thing to share. When I went to elementary school everyone had to play an instrument, and I chose the trumpet. Once, during a school assembly, I got to meet one of the greatest trumpet players of all time. He was so impressed with my trumpet skills that he flipped me over his shoulder! (Okay, that's a lie. The truth is that he wasn't so impressed with my trumpet skills as he was unimpressed by my dancing skills).
That's Dizzy Gillespie, if you were wondering. Wouldn't it be great if famous musicians visited your school?
And there you have my biography up through elementary school. If I ever write a Young Adult book, I may add a section about my time as a teenager.
(And the ITA sentence says: The ice angel gave the owl a ring).