. . . exerpt from Under the Birch Tree
We took photographs in front of the picture window at our brick house on Carlisle Street because it was the perfect suburban backdrop. Two-story homes sat like gems on their velvet lawns set with oak and maple trees and manicured hedges. I remember my picture was taken there on my first day of kindergarten with my favorite tree in the center of circling hedges. The birch tree’s branches did not shade my eyes squinty from the sun’s high noon rays. My pixie haircut was aglow in sun-bleached hair; my tanned body offset my navy dress, patterned in tiny white polka dots, with an appliqué of paint brushes and an artist’s pallet in primary colors at the hem. My white Peter Pan collar mimicked the roundness I constantly tried to evade. But the dress proved to be too small because the sleeves did not meet my wrists and the skinny elastic around my forearms left an indented pink ring on my skin. My chubby feet were crammed into blood red Mary Janes where Mom struggled to pull the strap just to the first hole on the buckle. Standing at attention with my feet together and my hands folded in front, I posed with my heels brushing against the yellow marigolds in full bloom. Even though my shoes were too tight and my dress too small, I had a smile on my face and a squint in my eye. My birch buddy stood aside to let the sun wrap me in warmth. I thought life could not have been any better.