who I am
"My pen hesitates as I write this. How much of myself should I reveal to you?"
I am 6 years old, and my dad is often working on the crops owned by my grandfather. He drives an old dusty truck, and we have a scrawny mutt named Henry as well as a German Shepherd named Sheba who is my guardian and best friend. My mom stays home with us and often sews our clothes from patterns she buys at the local fabric store. She also makes wonderful things from salt clay, things she paints by hand and gifts to us. The best thing she's made for me is the tiny set of dishes for my dolls. The flowers she painted onto their surfaces are tiny and perfect and I often look at them in wonder, thinking my hands could never be so accurate with a brush.
My dad takes me to a field one day. The sun is shining, gloriously, and it is so hot I'm sweating after five minutes out of the house. We drive out on a dirt road and he parks. I carefully step around everything green like he's taught me, and follow him out to the middle of the field. Slowly it dawns on me that these are watermelon growing here. I step over and around them and keep an eye always on my dad, who right now is my best friend in the whole world. He stops, squats down and pulls out his pocketknife. I watch as the knife sinks into the rind of the closest watermelon, his hand pushing into it until he's opened a section with his blade. He takes hold of the rind and pulls on the square he has created, and out comes a huge piece, leaving the melon with a giant hole all the way to its core. This juicy red fruit he gives to me, and he solemnly explains that I am about to taste the heart of the watermelon itself. I stand there, feeling the sun on my back and I bite into the fruit. It's an explosion of flavor, sweet and juicy and absolutely perfect. I know at that moment that I will never forget it, the heart of the watermelon, and am thrilled that he's shared this with me.
I have been through so much in my life and that one instant has always stayed with me. It is possible my brother and sister were there as well, but I don't remember their presence. I can still taste the dust in the air as we drove to that field with the windows down. I can still feel how cold that watermelon felt on my tongue and how surprised I was that the sun hadn't heated it through the rind. If I close my eyes and think back I can see the shiny black seeds on the dirt after I spit them out.
That was the year my mom started substitute teaching. My parents divorced the next year. For months after my dad was gone I pestered my mom to let me have a friend sleepover at our house. When she asked who, I always said, "Daddy."