A "Book Of Life"
My life in years, written in 2004-2005, revisited in 2017

Year One

© JAL, 8-7-05, (from photo)

I was born November 10, 1958, before color photography was common.

"What happened in my life physically, socially, and mentally/psychically during this year?"
I'm told I cried often and loudly as a baby!

I'm cold, I'm wet, I'm hungry!
Is anyone listening?
I'm cold, I'm wet, I'm hungry!
I'm cold, I'm wet, I'm hungry!
I'm cold, I'm wet, I'm hungry!
Perhaps if I scream louder,
I must scream louder!
I'm cold, I'm wet, I'm hungry!
I'm still cold, wet and hungry!
I'll strain my noise maker to the maximum!
"I'm cold, I'm wet, I'm hungry!"
I am dried,
I am blanketed,
I am fed.
I am secure, I am happy.

Perhaps even then, I was learning the exercise of my strong will, that only in persistence would I get results.

Year Two

All around me is noise, is colors shifting and moving. What is all this? What does it all mean? So many sounds from the big humans. What do they mean? Those shifting patterns, some of them seem connected to the humans.

So many puzzles. This wetness which I find so uncomfortable, I am learning I am making it. I can hold it back and if I cry in a certain way, big adults do something about it. So many puzzles, and I think I'm getting a clue or two.

As then, so now. Life is filled with 'so many puzzles', and I think I'm getting a clue or two.

Year Three

Early in the year, still so much confusion, but I think I'm getting clearer on this voice thing. The big beings have different sounds for different meanings. "No!" is one I've learned and like a lot.

Later on, I am learning so many words. Walking is fun, too. I like to explore things. This house is so big.

Still later on this year, my world changes. Old house was big, new house is bigger, and it's scary. Those huge stairs, they are immense. This is scary, this is all scary. What does it mean, that big dark red drape across the door to one room? There are mysteries there, scary mysteries. And who is that tall man of the booming voice who calls himself 'Uncle Bill' and seems surprised that I do not know him? Was I supposed to have known him? He seems so certain that I should. Have I missed something? There was a clue somewhere, and I missed it, or I'd know him.

How could I have missed it? And what's behind that curtain? There is something big and important behind that curtain, I know it! I will learn this mystery in time.

Year Four

© JAL, 8-7-05

As I drew this portrait, I remember I felt real special the day the original photos were taken. Everyone was fussing over me, curling my hair, picking a special dress, posing me this way and that.

I got bigger this year. Was this the year I learned to write my name? I remember I was at my Mother's Mother's house, a crowded house filled with very old things. My Gramma wore flowered dresses and she dyed her hair black. Together my Grandmother and my Mother showed me the letter formation. I knew that the squiggles which stood for sounds which stood for meanings were very important. I loved the feel of the pencil in my hand and the motion of my hand while making the letters.

Fifty five years later, I still do!

Four or Five?

One thing I remember, I cannot recall whether I was four or five. It was late, and it was time for me to go to bed. I'd strewn all over the living room floor a wide variety of my toys. ''Put your toys away,'' my Mother told me. ''No!'', I petutantly answered. Let's see if I can enter that moment:

''Put your toys away!''
Why is she telling me that? I don't want to do that. I want to leave them all out here where I can get at them the next day.

''Put your toys away!''
Why is she insisting? I don't want to do that. I shout, ''No!''

My mother shouts back, ''Put your toys away!''
Well, I shall have to generate maximum volume. Clearly, she does not understand I don't wish to do that. If I scream loud enough, she might get the message. (This has worked for me in the past!)

Wait! Angry Father! Where did he come from? He is grabbing me and hauling me upstairs! He is hitting my butt so hard. Mother starts screaming, ''Stop! You're hurting her, you're making her red!'' Father screams, ''She has to learn!''. Mother is still protesting. I will endure. I will endure this mean man who calls himself 'Father'. But it hurts so much. ''Stop!'' Mother screams again.

I can take no more. I burst out sobbing. I can't fight this mean man. Great heaving sobs. My butt hurts. Finally, he quits. I do not like him. I do not like the conclusions I've reached, that sometimes I have to do what he wants. I really don't like him.

As I lay in bed, still sore, I simmer on low heat. I don't like that man, his judgements are too harsh. When I am bigger, I will do something about that.

And so the 'rebellious angel' plots...


The most vivid early childhood memory occurred when I was about five years old. I remember well the golden checkered tablecloth, the lemon walls, the faintly tobacco yellowed refrigerator. It was Saturday. Saturdays were special. Dad didn't work on Saturday. He would often make fried egg sandwiches, with bacon garnish. They were delicious. I was enveloped in the aroma it produced, smoky, for he cooked with high heat. As I savored the sandwich, every sense so fully engaged, my mind also was engaged. Why was I here? Why are any of us here? There had to be a reason.

I looked at my Dad in his shorts and white T- shirt. Maybe he knew. I asked, ''Why am I here?'' This threw Dad for a loop, momentarily. He stammered and stuttered, ''Well, because we loved and wanted you.'' That was comforting, but not quite what I was asking. ''No, Dad, I mean, WHY am I here? Dad became really flustered, not quite believing a five year old was asking about the meaning of life. Suddenly, the answer came to me, with sparkling brilliance. ''I'm here to do great things, to make the world a better place. Oh, I know it!'' I felt triumphant with the coming of the answer. I looked forward with eagerness to all life had in store.

That's how I described it in a 'short bio' written in 1995. In 2004, these words offered no new insight into this day.

However, I remember it as a significant day in my life. I've thought of it often, when examining my past. I didn't know then that I was a serious child. I didn't know that other children my age were not busying themselves with asking the meaning of life. All that mattered for me was that I'd received my clue, the answer. Actually, it wasn't a passive 'receiving', for the answer arose out of myself. Also, it shows there is deep roots for the optimistic view of my life which I hold now, for I had even then the belief in my own power to make changes.

In time, indoctrination with the concept of being a wretched sinner would try to change this original optimism. But having once had it, I was later able to reclaim it.

Four or Five or Six?

And then there was the time I threw up all over the Woolworth drugstore floor. It was summertime, and I didn't have to go to school. My mother wanted to go into town, and I remember the big red Ford Plymouth car we had. I didn't feel so good that day, and I told my mother. She seemed to pay me little attention. Meanwhile, the tummy turbulence increased. Our first stop was the drugstore. I followed her as she went to get whatever she was after, and when we were in line to pay for it, that turbulence reached the explosion point. Bla-a-a-at all over the floor. A five year kid's tummy can't hold much, but it still has an amazing ability to spread. I can't forget the look of that gray speckled floor covered with a huge round coating of pink slightly chunky throw up.

I think my mother believed me after that.

Next section, 6 to 11
Book Of Life Index
© Joan Ann Lansberry