It's funny that I think of myself as having been a happy child, and yet all my stories turn out wistful when I tell them. It must be the Irish in me. ("The Irish--all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.")
So I will try again. Although I look fairly wistful in that picture, if not downright crabby.
This picture was taken in St. Joe, at my grandparents' house. The summer I was 2, we moved from Louisville, Kentucky, where I was born, to St. Joseph, Missouri, to live with Gramma and John while my father looked for work. (Which he ultimately found in Duluth, which is why I am now a northern girl and not a southern girl.)
My father's little sister, Iny, stitched me a rag doll, which I named JoJo, after myself, and which I loved. We are not a family that touches, much, but look at how I am gripping JoJo: She was mine, and that made us inseparable. I am not all that different now.
Over time, because she was made of cloth, JoJo got dirty. She grew dark with grime, she began to unravel, she began to stink. She was often damp. But even then I knew that love was stronger than decay, and I went nowhere without her.
My mother began to plot. The doll was filthy, and she wanted to get rid of it. She couldn't wrest it away from me; she had to wait until I had briefly abandoned it. One afternoon, she saw her chance. I was in the front room of the house with my siblings, watching TV. Trish went out into the yard to hang up the laundry, saw JoJo lying in the grass, and without hesitating, picked her up, carried her over to the trash can, and tossed her in.
The way my mother tells the story--this is not one that I remember, myself, though it is one that I cherish--some time later I strolled out of the TV room, through the kitchen, out into the yard. I walked to the trash can, lifted the lid, hauled out JoJo, carried her into the house, and settled back in to watch the rest of my program.
That magical intuitiveness that tells you when your loved one is in danger--it started early in me.