Timeline: Zero Through Six

1980: I am born in Epsom, a town in the south of England known predominantly for its horseracing tracks. (My mother never much thought she wanted children, she says, until she walked past a pram on the way to the post office one day, looked inside, and realized that actually, she really rather did.) My parents bring me back from the hospital in February, England gray and frozen, and my dad carries me---his first daughter, his first child---from room to room. "This is the kitchen," he says to the tiny bundle in his arms, "And this is the living room, and this is the dining room, and out there you can see the garden." For these next three years, I will have my parents---gloriously, selfishly---to myself. But of course I don't know that yet.

1981, aged one: My mother has me in my pram, takes me out to run some errands. A woman in a shop looks into the pram, clucks sympathetically, and says "Don't worry, dear. It's always the ones that look like that who turn out to be beautiful."

1982, aged two: At some point during the year, we move to Paris. In the evenings, my dad comes home with a baguette; the end is always nibbled off just a little, and it's always because a pack of wild dogs chased him from the station to the apartment, every single time. Out with my mother one morning, I throw a handful of gravel into an escalator in the Metro station and the whole thing grinds to a halt. A few hours later, when we come to take the Metro home again, the men are still fixing the escalator.

1983, aged three: My dad holds me up to the window and I see my mother in her hospital bed. We wave. Later in the evening, or maybe some other day entirely, he leads me through the double doors and a nurse wheels a crib towards us from the other direction. It's the end of March and someone has placed a large Easter egg at the bottom the crib, and I'm never sure, when I think back to it, which I was more excited about: the Easter egg or my new brother, Tom.

1984, aged four: We move to Holland, where we build snowmen at Christmas, and the milkman gives us salty black licorice shaped like cats. My mother drops me off at school in the mornings and for the first week, I'm desperately, achingly homesick. On the third day, I glance out of the huge glass windows of the gym and see her crossing the parking lot. My spirits soar, she's come back to get me! But she moves closer and it's not my mother, it's someone else's. Her hair is far too curly.

1985, aged five: We move to Singapore. Our house has coconut and banana trees in the back garden and a pool that Tom falls into one day. I take the school bus for the first time, catching it in the early dark of the morning before the sun has even come up. One day, from the backseat of the car, I pipe up, apropos of nothing, "what is a reptile, anyway?" Two days a week, Tom goes to a preschool we dub Mrs Lim's School For Naughty Boys, and every time my mother comes to pick him up, the entire class is sleeping. Later, when my family moves back to Singapore in 2002, I will be amazed at what I remember from 1985: the peculiar rounded shape of the light switches, the noise the taxis make---"ting-TING! ting-TING!"--when the driver goes over the speed limit, the humidity that blankets you like a cloak.

1986, aged six: We move again, to Abu Dhabi this time, where Tom and I attend an English school that teaches us songs in Arabic. On Christmas Day, we go camping in the middle of the desert, running and rolling down ochre sand dunes. My dad drives us to school every morning in an enormous green Chevrolet, and one day he forgets his briefcase in the house by mistake, and so he leaves us in the back while he runs inside to get it. It takes a few seconds before I realize that the car's rolling backwards and then I shout for my father, bang on the windows, try not to panic, and then suddenly there he is, tearing wildly out of the house, the hapless briefcase abandoned for a second time. He yanks open the car door, and grabs at the emergency break just as we begin to pick up speed. He scrapes his leg so badly that his suit trousers are ripped and ruined, the gash etched deep in his flesh. For years afterwards, Tom and I ask to see the scar.

Feb 04, 2008

Absolutely fascinating! And then what happens?!?!?!

Feb 04, 2008

Looks like the lady in the shop was right about you :)

Feb 04, 2008

That was beautiful, Holly! I loved reading it.

gina in sc
Feb 04, 2008

is it your birthday??

such a well traveled girl you are.. .

Feb 04, 2008

I completely stole this idea for my blog.

Feb 04, 2008

Fantastic stuff so far! I'm excited to find out more.

Feb 04, 2008

fun fun fun! Can't wait for the next installment.

Feb 04, 2008

Ahem... so by the time you were six you had lived in England, France, Holland, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates? Please tell me what line of work your father is in. And also possibly how I can marry into it?

Feb 04, 2008

Age 6 reminds me of our neighbors across the street. The mother must have forgotten something because she dashed into the house, leaving her kids in the minivan. The emergency brake wasn't on and the car started rolling. She didn't catch it in time so the car - kids and all - rolled across the street in a wide circle, finally stopping when it hit the tree in our front yard. All I remember is the woman screaming as she raced after the car and the crash the tree made when it hit the ground. No one was hurt - except for the tree.

Camels & Chocolate
Feb 04, 2008

Yay! Finally! Ever since I've read your blog, I've tried to piece your life together chronologically, so I'm happy you're finally doing it all for me! Happy early birthday, and I'll be your neighbor this time tomorrow!

Feb 04, 2008

Hey Holly I am wondering if it's your birthday? Mine is Feb 4th, 1980, and it would be cool if we shared the same exact birthday :) Never met anyone who did.

House of Jules
Feb 04, 2008

How fun! Loved this.
House of Jules

Nothing But Bonfires
Feb 04, 2008

Nope, my birthday isn't until Friday. The 8th.

Carol Snider
Feb 04, 2008

Looking forward to years 7 - 13! I was crazy enough to do this for each of my 51 years a few months ago on my birthday (http://northwestladybug.blogspot.com/2007/11/its-all-about-me-on-my-51st...). It must have been a very slow day around here!


Feb 04, 2008

your youth was heartbreakingly exciting! I can barely remember the boring-ness of growing up in the suburbs of silicon valley (before it was even called that!) Your ability to paint such broad vivid pictures with so few words is aMAZing!

Feb 04, 2008

Holly I love it! Enough info to get to know you better, but a fun style that is engaging without being overly wordy!

Also - what did your mum and dad do for work or for life that helped you guys move so much?

My guy and I are movers too :)

Feb 04, 2008

More more more more more!

Feb 04, 2008

Wow, such a fascinating beginning!

Feb 04, 2008

I can not place where the emotion comes from, but your stories always touch me... Nothing particularly tear jerking here and yet, I have a tear falling from my right eye.

Feb 04, 2008

Fairly new reader here. I'm also curious as to what your father did to bring you to all those different places. I'm very envious!

Feb 04, 2008

I love five-year-old Holly for her "what IS a reptile, anyway?" remark. Foretells a curious mind.

Feb 04, 2008

Ever since I discovered your blog months ago I've been a lurker. I had to comment today because your life echoes mine all too well - I also was born in '80 and grew up moving around overseas (Paris, Manila + HKG). Based in the US now but still have that "third culture kid" complex.. Love your blog - thank you for sharing your life with us!

Feb 04, 2008

This is very cool and you were so much more worldly at 5 years than I ever will be! What a fantastic upbringing and tale to tell!

She Likes Purple
Feb 04, 2008

This is fantastic. Happy almost birthday then.

Feb 04, 2008

Loved it Holly!

Feb 04, 2008

Lovely...what a fascinating life you've had thus far!

Feb 04, 2008

1985? Singapore? I was there too!!!! Of course, I was 17 yrs. old. Holland to Singapore, that had to be a rough weather transition.

Feb 04, 2008

Wow, how exciting! By age six I had mastered the art of picking my nose and perhaps of throwing a proper conniption. In America. Texas, no less. Your life fascinates me; your writing is fantastically intriguing.

FunnyGal KAT
Feb 04, 2008

I feel boring! I once burned my stomach on the stove when I was three... but, um, other than that, my life was pretty boring. I not only lived in the same country my entire childhood, but in the same house.

I can't wait for the next installment.

Feb 04, 2008

In 1976 when I was 16 (Never mind the math!!) I had to drive around in a lime green pontiac. What 16 year old can sneak around in a lime green car?!

Feb 04, 2008

I'm a long time reader of your site (always drawn by your writing style and travel stories) but never a commenter. I just wanted to let you know that for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, I think this is of the best writing I've seen you post here. If I were in a bookstore and flipped open a book to read this page, I would definitely buy it.

Feb 04, 2008

Holy hell you were one well traveled six year old. I can't wait to read the rest of your childhood adventures.

Feb 04, 2008

God my life is boring... my timeline would go something like this:

Age 0-6 Watched a lot of Sesame Street and Mister Rodgers. Had a giant crush on the creepy King puppet.

Feb 04, 2008

My favorite is the curly-haired woman you mistook for your mother coming to get you when you were four. Your writing brought up a similar kind of memory I have-- a memory of emotion, really, about seeing a woman I thought was my grandmother come towards me when I was small. I can still conjure the excitement and the swell in my heart when I thought I saw her, and then the disappointment when I realized it was not my grammy. I haven't thought of that in a long while.

You have quite a gift, you know. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

Feb 04, 2008

Ah, daddies. Mine used to come back from the fields with armfuls of chainey-briar (wild asparagus) for mom and very scratched ankles. Instead of wild dogs, he claimed his girlfriend Fi-Fi had clawed his ankles when he tried to leave her.

Feb 04, 2008

Oh, wow. Shortly before 1986 when I was roughly 5 years old, my dad drove my brother (aged three or so at the time) and I in our super old, beat-up VW bus to my mom's office where she worked for a dentist. My dad ran inside for some reason or another and left us in the car. The van started rolling backwards, I became terrified and desperately tried to free my brother from his car seat because I envisioned us crashing through a fence and bursting into flames. My dad came running out, threw open the door and pulled the break. No harm done to his pants.

I've never commented before but do really enjoy your writing. It's just fantastic. Amazing how we can all have such different experiences and yet share such vivid similar childhood memories.

Feb 04, 2008

i'm riveted!!! i can't wait to read more!

i'm a lurker btw...been reading about 2 years. love your writing!

Feb 04, 2008

I loved following your early years and then seeing how it nearly overlaps with mine (though maybe 20 years earlier than me), since I was born in Hong Kong, grew up mostly in Yemen, and am now living in Holland! The stories are wonderful and nostalgic in the best way.

The Over-Thinker
Feb 05, 2008

Oh Holly---you had me at "pram" :)

Someone Being Me
Feb 05, 2008

I had no idea you were the same age as me. I was born in October of 1980. But I was born in Texas and the world pram makes me laugh. It sounds so proper unlike stroller. I can't wait to hear more. I'm sure you were a beautiful baby and if not, you did turn out beautifully so theres that.

Feb 05, 2008


Sarah Marie
Feb 05, 2008

I love the handful of gravel story. Laughed right out loud. Did your mom scold you for breaking the Metro escalator? Did she even know you did it?

Feb 05, 2008

I was traumatised by that salty Dutch liquorice when I went to Amsterdam. Not at all like nice English panda licquorice.

Feb 05, 2008

God, I need some more interesting life experiences. I'm going to tell my mother that we didn't move enough. I'm also going to look into memory recovering hypnosis or something, because I just can't remember ANYTHING. I must be old.

Feb 05, 2008

I loved these little snippets, such fun to read.

Feb 05, 2008

Only six years old and already you've lived three lifetimes!

Camels & Chocolate
Feb 06, 2008

Holly, I'm sure you've seen this, but the new Bachelor was announced! And he's a fellow Brit!


Can't wait for SBTs to recommence in March!

Feb 06, 2008

My daughter's birthday is February 8, too (but 1998). The sample size of my study is small, but the results are indisputable: those born on February 8 are intelligent, funny, creative cool kats.

And, freaky -- I was in Singapore in 1985 too! But I was a 25-y-o au pair traveling with the family I worked for from France to New Zealand, homesick as heck for the San Francisco Bay Area..

Feb 07, 2008

How in the world do you remember all the details?? My early life, make that my ENTIRE life, rolls into one long, mish-mashed timeline of "I went to pre-school then elementary school then middle school then high school then college then started working." Okay, maybe not that bad, but you get the point.

Feb 07, 2008

Saw you via Nathan's contest.

Wow! What a great timeline!!
We live in Dubai part of the year. I can't imagine what Abu Dhabi was like 20 years ago. Though it's green and beautiful now.

Feb 09, 2008

Inspired by Sarah Brown?