Picture scraped knees, elastic waist twill pants and quick-bitten nails; I was not a baby but barely a girl. Stuck in a small farm town that didn’t have a swimming pool and whose library was just a little too far to walk alone.
I never had to beg my mother to take me to the library. If there was one thing I could count on, it was that when I wanted to go, she would take me. The summer before I turned nine, I discovered Harriet the Spy in that little library. I devoured the novel, and instead of learning from Harriet’s mistakes, promptly converted the book into a How-To manual of sorts.
I set up spy bases underneath the overgrown junipers surrounding the cool foundation of our house and others beneath the neighbors’ often-open kitchen window. Each base was supplies with snacks, sometimes pretzel sticks but usually tiny red boxes of raisins, and little pink cups from tea party sets that I would fill with metallic water from the garden hose. I made tin can telephones that went unused, as spying is a singular activity.
My plastic binoculars were of greater value, always around my neck, even though I almost strangled myself on handlebars, slides, and branches. I carried a small notebook to record all my newly acquired information, and I guarded its hastily-written contents seriously.
My parents observed all of this with barely contained amusement coupled with relief that I was entertaining myself all day. I never learned anything remotely interesting that summer: no divorces, fights, repeated grades or surprise puppies. It was a great summer as I perfected the art of being alone without being lonely.