I OWE EVERYTHING I AM

to scraped knees and fireflies swarming in glasses
under pencil-poked cling wrap and Oshkosh B’gosh
overalls and mushroom cuts for my 2-year-old hair
the geometry perfected by my mother in the tile-floored
bathroom of our townhouse. My cousins and I used to
choreograph dances for our families every Christmas
Eve without fail. I owe everything I am to the Sony
camcorders that captured our basement recitals.
To every couple that picked me to play flower girl
though I threw petals and temper tantrums at
every wedding I walked. That taught me grace and
I owe everything I am to whatever taught me that.
My father used to pitch nylon tents in the living
room so I could pretend to be a runaway. I hauled
all of my Beanie Babies and pretend picnic food
and plastic dinosaurs and lined them all up so I’d never
feel lonely or imaginary hungry, even for a fugitive
on the run. One day Mom and I helped Dad paint
our entire white-walled home like the inside of
a kaleidoscope. Dandelion yellow kitchen salmon dining
room lilac den lime green hallway malaya red front door.

It was only until I was older that I understood
the significance of such fumes. I owe everything I am
to the ones who made sure I would grow up in a castle
of color, fenced in by dreaming, inside a safe life where
I couldn’t owe anyone anything but my best. To pink
dollhouses and perler beads under hot irons and Mom’s
sewing fingers that could always mend the rips on my
tattered teddy bears and accidental tears on ballet costumes
so nothing bad would ever happen or even could. I owe
everything to everything I’ve had since the beginning.
I was born into the right world and I owe everything to that.

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