Ever the precocious child, having begun speaking months before the developmental standard, I taught myself to read when I was three. I used words such as “fascinating” and “interesting concept,” having no idea at the time these words in particular would later brand me the dreaded “different,” preparing early for bullying. I chose a glossy, ceramic plaque, covered in pastel zoo animals as my first teacher. The animals appeared to be holding up a scroll, which was representative of my birth certificate, or really more of a birth announcement. Welcome home, little girl, and cheers to your new life, per various random, smiling animals hanging on a pastel plaque, forever.
Prior to my special birth plaque being fired, Mum had written my birth details on the ceramic scroll in red pencil. After asking her once what it said and receiving a barely pacifying answer my prematurely logic-obsessed brain wasn’t satisfied with, I began conjuring up ways which I could find out, once and for all, the burning question plaguing me. The ever repeated “Don’t ask me again” taught me if I were ever to be curious, to keep my mouth shut and figure it out on my own—a lesson I’d love to say I’d unlearned today, but can’t honestly.
She wrote the details in cursive writing, which posed as quite the challenge for a three-year-old, but I was confident I’d decode it soon, Sherlock Holmes’ style.
With a crayon and piece of paper, I’d draw the letter I had in mind and ask,
“Mama, what is this letto?”
“That’s a C.”
“What does C sound like?”
“It sounds like kuh. Like cat.”
“Mama, what’s this letto?”
“That’s an H, like hu, for house.”
I painstakingly went through every legible letter attempting to sound out each one, putting them together like a puzzle. My first major challenge was sounding out the C and H together as they just didn’t seem to mesh. I’d add the other letters, which thankfully seemed appropriate. “Cuharlees” was the sound of the name I proclaimed to be my biological father’s.
Excerpt from chapter three | look at me | Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir