part werewolf, too, casting stories by the light of the moon until she cried for Mom who yelled at me for scaring my sister, and grounded me so I never did it again but I threatened to

whenever she crashed

through the border

Maybe I owe her, my sister,

for stealing the key, toying with my secrets, and thus igniting the slow-fused inevitability of me weaving stories

in the dark


1. Daddy loved Jesus, talked about Him so much when I was little I thought He was a cousin, maybe just a second cousin, which would explain why He was never at Grandma’s for Thanksgiving. Daddy was a preacher on a college campus, he worked in the chapel and I could walk there by myself to say hello if I looked both ways before I crossed the street.

2. My job was school, I was really good at recess and lunch, but I failed climbing the rope that hung from the sky in gym. I tried to be sick every Friday so I wouldn’t fail the spelling bee. The playground was a war of girls versus boys and now I feel shame cuz some kids must have wanted to stand with the other team, and some must have wanted new teams entirely, but the world was drawn for us binary in clumsy chalk lines, and we’d try to do better when we were in charge.

3. Protests against the Vietnam War echoed across the campus, our house filled with angry students every weekend, and my mom fed them vats of spaghetti and trays of brownies. Daddy worked all the time because students were getting so high they thought they could fly and they jumped out of dorm windows five stories up, which was awful, and the sadness and the rage and the protests and the soldiers and the yelling and the guns and the FBI tapping our phone and the corpses of Dachau made it hard for Daddy to sleep and he could smell the ashes again and my mom thought he was killing himself and he was, but he was doing it in slow motion.

4. I finally learned to read and they finally integrated our school and the new kids were really nice and long division was impossible and my mother cut my hair wicked short cuz swimming and everyone thought I was a boy which was NOT FUNNY because I wasn’t and I didn’t want to be one. Boys were gross.

5. Daddy was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and he forced us to listen to the Watergate hearings on the radio, he hated Richard Nixon with all of his heart and soul; when drunk, Daddy threatened to kill the son of a bitch because he was destroying the country. I watched the level of gin in the bottle and realized that counting the bottles was more important.

6. Spring of sixth grade, all of us crammed into the music room, sticky hot and stinky cuz we were almost seventh graders and the chairs were too small and our hormones were blowing UP. But we were children. Who smelled. It was a confusing time. Our music teacher, Mrs. Schermerhorn, dragged us through a rehearsal for the Spring Musical Performance That No One Wanted to Hear. We were terrible singers and horrible children, but

something happened

the planets lining up, gods playing cosmic checkers, a butterfly flapping in Bangladesh

she made us sing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” yeah, that one, from Sound of Music, when Maria and her family stop in a convent as they are escaping the Nazis, a song about doing hard things, we sang that song without fooling and when we were finished Mrs. Schermerhorn coughed, cleared her throat, warned us not to move, and she ran out

(of course we moved and gossiped and complained and farted and rolled our eyes it was June and we only had a few days left).

7. This all went down right around the time my parents stopped worrying about things like school concerts and report cards. I thought I was the only kid with a house on fire, but I wasn’t.

8. Mrs. Schermerhorn returned with our principal, Miss Hartnett, and she told us to sing again. Nervous, too many yearlings in a small corral, we didn’t want to obey, but we had no choice, we sang

letting go


and ninetyish voices, some cracking, some strained under weights unseen, murmurated, a flock of swooping starlings, harmonizing, resonating, shaking the windows in the pain, bending the laws of physics to the pure hearts of children for the length of a song from a Broadway musical

that made two brilliant, kind, ignored women cry


and lifted us to a place we weren’t old enough to understand.

first blood

When husbands raped wives in 1972, it was legal.

Property rights were all the rage you know.

I got my first period in 1972 and

I didn’t know why I was bleeding.

When bosses groped women in 1972, it was legal because bosses

(all of them male)

made the rules.

We girls saw a filmstrip in 1972, about hygiene and sanitary napkins, so confusing because it never mentioned the blood.

When women were fired in 1972

because they got pregnant in 1972, it was all very legal in 1972,

no questions were ever asked.

We learned boys were dangerous, in 1972, cuz their pee could get us pregnant and kicked out of school.

The FBI spied on women in 1972, and it was legal.

Men feared the liberation movement might change all of the rules.

My mother lacked a mouth in 1972, so she couldn’t explain the mystery of the blood.

She gave me a pink box of tampons, directions hidden inside, then closed the door between us.

No words.


Laurie Halse Anderso's Books