apple juice

just a glass of apple juice and i am transported to a chilly connecticut autumn in 1989.

my family relocated there for 9 months while my father worked on some postgraduate research. it was a country that everyone but myself has been to and i think it’s fortunate that i was only 4 at the time and had nothing but the weather to adapt to.

for the first time, my little fingers touched snow. i carved a jack o’lantern and my mother toasted the seeds so we could eat them like kuaci. my neighbours gave me a pair of their daughter’s old boots, which had a leak in it that made my toes freeze.

and i went to kindergarten.

every morning, my mother dressed me up in layers upon layers of warm clothes. first, thermal underwear. then, a dress. stockings. a sweater. a brown jacket with a fur-lined hood that made me look like a miniature eskimo (i still have those photographs). wool mittens. boots. once she was satisfied that i had put on my weight’s equivalent of garments, we left the house together and headed towards my kindergarten.

it was a short stroll away, but walking through 3 feet of snow was no mean feat for a 4-year-old who was about 4 feet tall. i sank through the snow with every step, always scrambling back up again with the stubborn determination i once had but now have lost. i wonder what my mother was thinking back then. she must have been laughing at her youngest daughter, struggling to overcome the snow so she could go to school.

school was a whole-day event. we played games, coloured, worked with plasticine, learned to read and were taught how to behave ourselves. snacks consisted of celery, carrot or apple sticks served with creamy peanut butter. there was always a glass of apple juice to wash it down afterwards.

at one point, we’d be made to take naps in the many little cots around the room. and when it came time to go home, a bell would ring and we’d sing a “clean up song” while putting our toys away.

then my mother and i would walk home, hand in hand, through whatever snow was spared from the sun’s warm rays. and there, my day would end.

sigh.

i’m going down for another gulp of that apple juice.

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