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Dear younger me

Create a story that explores the younger version of you, digging deep into your family history and dynamics, that reveals a key component of your personality, preferences, and development. Don't worry about where to start. Then, let it take you to the next recollection. Here is one of mine.

Someone once said “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will always believe it is stupid.” Aside from the peculiarity of this metaphor, it’s a good reminder that we humans, thankfully, can use our wits to overcome many obstacles, despite our nature.

Heck, Einstein said everybody is a genius!

Growing up in a family of intellectual giants, though, I often felt like a fish trying to climb a tree.

My hardheaded father once said to me, “Karen, your ignorance is abysmal.” Because I was a sensitive child, I received this news—and the words—as confirmation that I was simply dumb. A younger me got the message that my three siblings and parents were all smarter than me.

My father’s imperturbable confidence about his own mental powers set the standard for all of us.

It’s a good thing, too, because later in life I came to realize that his choice of the word “abysmal” could not only mean “appalling”—my first understanding of the word—but could also mean “very deep.” Seen that way, his statement to me was not so much a judgment, but a no-nonsense challenge. Classic Carl.

Many of my earliest memories are quests for knowledge and adventure. The book kind. The story goes that I learned to read when I was four. Of course, I don’t remember this. My mother read to us often, so it is not surprising that I picked up the skill so readily. I loved my Dr. Seuss books, and bought my favorite ones years later to read to my own children when they were small. Maybe it's no coincidence that the fish in the tree metaphor came to me, with One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish embedded deeply in my psyche!

Growing up in Little Rock, I was ahead of my fellow students in elementary school and Mrs. Owens, my first grade teacher, sent me to second grade classes to read to the older children. My mother was especially proud of this. She has retold that feat of mine on numerous occasions. In the family of intellectual giants, little “KK” was trying to keep up.

Cloverdale Elementary was a block and a half from our house on Juniper Road.

We could walk to the school, which I did every day accompanied by neighborhood friends or my older brother, who walked with me until our eventual promotion to attend 7th grade at the junior high—another half block’s walk across the grassy football field.

Back in those days, unless it was raining, a parent never drove you to school.