An early memory

Today, for the first time in a long time, I found myself thinking back upon a particularly intense moment in my life, when I was about five years old, in day camp.

I and my fellow campers were playing in a sandbox. Within that sandbox, not all kids were equal. One or two five year olds were very powerful, easily lording it over the others. Another one or two were the weaklings in the group, treated with no respect and generally picked upon. I was, more or less, one of those quiet kids between these two extremes, who manages to fade into the background simply by doing a very good job of not being noticed.

I would not have remembered any of this, but for an odd thing that happened that day. A group of women happened to walk by our little sandbox. When they saw us playing together they immediately started cooing to each other, saying things like “Oh, aren’t they just adorable?”

I remember marveling at the time how odd it was that they could find us cute, feral little creatures that we were. This is a fairly precise description of how I remember feeling at that moment, although it would be quite a few years before I would even know about such words as “feral”.

That might very well have been the first moment in my life when I was exposed to one of life’s great mysteries: The vast difference between how life looks from the outside and how it is experienced on the inside.

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