The Spokane Woman, Age Six
At Madison’s wedding she will have cake that she won’t share, not even with her husband Brody. When she grows up she will probably be a fireman. But she also likes the idea of being a teacher because her first grade teacher, Mrs. Carol , is nice and pretty. If she couldn’t be either of those she would probably be a construction worker, or a police officer, or possibly a chef. She would learn how to make Pad Thai because that is her favorite food. Once a week she decides she doesn’t want to grow up. Being a grown up means doing a job, getting a lot of money, and involves a lot of dishes. She isn’t exactly sure she wants that kind of responsibility. Being six means that she is finally old enough to make a lunch with her parent’s supervision. The peanut butter and banana sandwich isn’t perfectly cut in half like she likes it, and there is sticky peanut butter all over her fingers, but she has done it by herself.
Here are the specifics about Madison: She is six years old. She has never exceeded the tenth percentile for her height and weight which means she is often mistaken for a four and sometimes three year old. She finds this endearing. Her blonde hair falls to the middle of her back. It is often wound like wonderful ivy, snarled around itself, so that every few days she is begging to cut it off. Her skin is fair and pale from months spent in relative darkness in her Pacific Northwest hometown, but each summer the faintest of freckles appear on the bridge of her small nose.
Madison lives with her mother and step father in Spokane, Washington. Their home is small and humble; a reminder of the valley in the 1940’s with hardwood floors and copper plumbing. Madison spends most of her limited TV time watching house flipping shows. She has decided that her home needs to be ready to sell for “top dollar” even though her family has no intention of moving from their current school district. She uses words like “wainscoting,” “outdated,” and “neutral-tones,” and begs her parents to reconsider the use of Chop-Stick paint in her bedroom.
Her mother keeps two jars, labeled Fun and Chore, stored on top of their kitchen cabinet. Each jar contains strips of paper; once a chore is completed from the Chore jar, Madison is able to blindly pick a paper from the Fun jar. She has on two occasions, picked the “freebie” from the Chore jar and been able to go straight to the Fun jar; this is her favorite thing to happen. So far Madison has picked the park, library, pumpkin waffles, and swimming from the fun jar. Her favorite park to go to is Riverfront because they have the carousel and her grandmother bought her a summer pass so she can ride for free, all alone, as many times as she wants. This is quintessential to being six.
But she also likes the library because it is quiet and yet not, she is entranced by the giggles of other children reading books. She loves that she can bring home a million books and keep them for months. Sometimes, if she finishes more than one chore she is allowed to pick two things from the Fun jar. Picking a pumpkin waffle is the tastiest treat in the jar. Her mother drives her to Boots bakery, where she orders a pumpkin waffle (which is vegan and gluten free so Madison’s grandma can have some too), and then when available, talks to Mackie, the Boots barista and lead singer of Spokane band, The Rustics. Madison knows every word to their album but is still small enough to interpret all the songs as being about rain, love, and trees, of which she understands a lot.
She was once asked by a relative from down south, about her hometown’s inclement weather changes.
“It gets hot but then it’s cold. Sometimes it rains, but other times it starts to rain and then snows.”
“Which one is your favorite?”
“I think snow because then you can build a snowman. But when it’s hot we go to the pool and they have really nice pools with slides here. When it’s grassy outside you get to play hide and seek. Then when it’s chilly we have so much fun.”
“What’s fun about chilly weather?”
“Well we go to Greenbluff and get pumpkins. Sometimes when it’s hot we go to Greenbluff and get peaches and honey sticks and those are my absolute favorite.”
Her parents are recent standard Americans turned northwest hippies. They have introduced Madison to canning and gardening. Together they have grown a garden, attended free canning classes at the library Madison loves, and begun the arduous process of cleaning, sterilizing, properly sealing, pressure-cooking and storing their home grown goods. Madison isn’t as interested in canning as she is in eating the tart pickles and juicy peaches that come from the cans. When asked what she thought about canning she said, “It’s important to make our own food because it makes us last.”
Although Madison has protested the idea that she will someday have to grow up, she once ventured that she thought the best part would be to play with your best grown up friend. She would go to the dog park and the carousel, she would let her dog ride the carousel and then later they would get ice cream. She doesn’t want to learn to drive so she would ride the bus instead. She would ride to the library and sit with her friends but if she didn’t have a friend she would sit by a stranger and make a friend.
She is entering a stage of awareness, no longer completely inhibited by a sense of isolation in her world; she lives each day in a state of consciousness to those around her. She watches the men hold signs on the corner, wants to know what their signs say. Will she have no home when she gets older? Why won’t anyone help them? When her mother attempts to explain homelessness and mental illness, Madison is dissatisfied with the answer because “someone should share with them.” She is acute to the changes in her peers as well; they are harder to play with and quicker to exclude. And she is devastated by their rejections but distracts herself by listing off things that are beautiful: flowers, dresses, family, dogs, rainbows, stars, cakes, and laughter, smooth rocks, smiles and summertime.
During the summer, when her parents have made a small fire in their backyard and she is unencumbered by any sense of duties or social interactions she is supposed to participate in, she will sit on her mother’s lap and stare at the stars. Although they live in the city, they are fortunate enough to live in a place that offers almost year round views of the celestial heavens during the late hours of the day. She and her mother will lean back in chairs, necks craned towards the sky, while the wind carries the smells of neighboring hay and wheat fields to their backyard.
And while they stare in bereft wonder of the moon, Madison will remark, “It makes me feel adorable because my face is round and perfect like the moon and I’m perfect the way I am.”