Timeline: Seven Through Ten

(This follows on from Zero Through Six, which is here.)

1987, aged seven: We are living in England again, but only for a short time. I attend a school where I have to wear hats: in the winter, a grey felt pillbox with a purple ribbon, in the summer a straw boater that makes me look like a miniature gondola rower. A few months later, we move to Hong Kong, where we live in the Hilton for a month while our new apartment is being built. We order a lot of sorbet from room service and watch old people do Tai Chi in the park from the thirty-seventh floor. When it's time to start school, I meet with my new principal who asks me to read aloud a paragraph from a book so he can assess which class I'll be placed in. The only word I stumble over is "species."

1988, aged eight: On vacation in the Philippines, no-one thinks about sunscreen. I lie under a towel on a sun lounger, reading Archie & Jughead comics, watching people swim up to the swim-up bar. When it's too hot outside, my brother Tom and I curl up in the hotel room with the air-conditioning on full blast, watching reruns of MacGyver, with which we both become vehemently obsessed. After a few days, all four of us are red and raw, tender and peeling. Tom gets blisters on his shoulders; they're the size of quarters and half an inch high. Frantic, my mother takes him to the hotel infirmary, where the kindly Filipino nurse tells him she's going to have to pop them. "Be brave," she says, holding him down. "Come on, be brave like MacGyver."

1989, aged nine: My mother is pregnant. She wears voluminous dresses and spends a lot of time in bed. In some small secret part of my brain, I wish for a sister, and then immediately feel bad for wishing for a sister in case I get a brother, and backtrack into wishing for a brother instead. When my dad takes Tom and I out for dinner and tells us we're getting a brother and a sister---Twins! Mummy's having twins!---I am convinced that my dual wishing had something to do with it.

They're born, Luke and Susanna, and when they come home, we receive a steady stream of visitors. Susie is vivacious, smiley, adorable; when people come over, they pick her up first. Somewhere in my nine-year-old brain, I worry that Luke---quieter, more serious---isn't getting enough attention, and so I vow to give him every cuddle, every kiss, every tickle that visitors give Susie. For the next few weeks, I keep a careful tally. When someone pinches Susie's cheek, I pinch Luke's. When someone picks Susie up, I pick up Luke. I'm seized by a passionate desire to keep score on his behalf, to take on the role of his silent defender. And then after a few weeks, I forget about it.

1990, aged ten: It's decided. I'm going to be going to boarding school in England. It won't be until next year, when I'm eleven, but I visit the school with my father over the summer anyway, just to see if I like it. It's a hot afternoon and most of the students have gone home for vacation and I wear a blue and white dress with butterflies on it---a dress, in fact, that we bought on that vacation in the Philippines two years ago.

Back in Hong Kong, I spend the rest of the year practicing mock tests for the exam I'll need to pass to get in to the school in England. I go to a tutor, an ancient Chinese woman called Mrs. Zaheed, whose equally ancient husband often wanders in from the bedroom in his pajamas while we're doing long division at the dining room table. I hate going to Mrs. Zaheed and my mother---guiltily, apologetically---knows it; every time she picks me up, she brings me some sort of small present.

At the end of the year, I take the exam in the principal's office of my school in Hong Kong while the rest of my class is on a field trip, and halfway through it, my fountain pen runs out of ink. I panic, tear out of the office and run wildly through the empty halls, looking desperately for a new one. Afterwards, I am stubbornly convinced that I've failed the exam. Weeks later, the news comes that I've passed.

Feb 18, 2008

I'm hooked.

Love the part about fighting for baby Luke's snuggle rights.

Do you still fiercely defend him?

Carol Snider
Feb 18, 2008

So your brother and sister, boy/girl twins born in 1989 need to meet my kids, boy/girl twins born in 1989 (on the exact day that the Berlin Wall fell)!

And yeah, same thing with mykids: Kat came out all cutesy and smiley, while Aleks was more serious and sensitive. Now they're still as different as night and day, but best friends.

Are your sibs best friends? Are they heading to college next year like mine? Or are they already there?


Feb 18, 2008

"Brave like MacGyver" = new favorite saying.

Kalynne Pudner
Feb 18, 2008

I'm loving these vignettes, amazed by the vividness of your memory! But I'm even more amazed by the coincidence: I have boy/girl twins (born in 1998 instead of 1989, so they are most definitely NOT best friends right now) whose names are SUSANNA and Nathaniel LUKE.

We didn't have to worry about anyone's cuddle deficit, though. With six older siblings, each baby was always in someone's arms with someone else waiting on deck. Unless they were crying, in which case both were suddenly Mama's problem.

Feb 18, 2008

I think it is awesome that you kept score for your brother and gave him the hugs and kisses he did not get from others.

Feb 18, 2008

Did you want to go to the boarding school?

I always think that boarding school is what parents do to the kid and the kid never wants to go.

Twice Five Miles
Feb 18, 2008

Oh, I love the part about equal love for Luke...

Natalie 42
Feb 18, 2008

"Brave like MacGyver" is simply awesome. What do your parents do that your family moved around so much? Or was all the moving just b/c you wanted to move?

Love these posts! It's fun to hear how others have grown up in this world!

Feb 18, 2008

I can SO see that bit about Susie and Luke -- Susie is pure sunshine, but Luke through your entries has stolen my heart. I'll never forget the song he wrote for poor Victoria.

Feb 18, 2008

I remember being like that with my sister - having to protect her from the big, bad babysitter, and making sure she had someone to play with. Of course, when she got older and could actually do things back, it became more of the love/hate relationship it is today.

Camels & Chocolate
Feb 18, 2008

Why are you Brits always so vehemently opposed to sunscreen? I went to Greece and Turkey with my former flatmate from Northampton, and she's the same way. And what do you know, on day two, she was raw and crispy and peeling at the edges. Is it just something about proving to the world that that pale-skinned stereotype is not deserved? =)

Nothing But Bonfires
Feb 18, 2008

Hey, it was 1988.

Feb 18, 2008

I'm curious about what 10-year-old Holly thought of the boarding school plan as well. I am pretty sure I would have been terrified to do something like that when I was 10, but I was generally a timid child. Did Tom go off to boarding school as well?

Feb 18, 2008

You have an amazing memory. If I attempted this, the years and events would get all jumbled up and messy. I'll just read yours. :D

Feb 19, 2008

This is beautiful. It reads like the very best of fiction.

Why don't you write it all down?

Also, I'm obsessed with pillbox hats. My mom wore one when she married my dad. She looked like Jackie Kennedy, pre-O days.

Feb 19, 2008

What a sweet sister to stick of for Luke.

Feb 19, 2008

I'm reading the story of your first decade, and I wonder out loud: What in the hell have I been doing with my time? Your first ten years have been more eventful than my entire life.

Feb 19, 2008

I just a saw a commerical for the shoe Mythbusters and they are going to be doing a project from MacGyver to see if it would actually work.

Feb 19, 2008

So the twins don't like to be referred to as The Babies!!(I took a peek at one of your old posts about them).Well, my boyfriend's brother, who just turned 40, is known as Baby Brother on my blog, and he will always be Baby Brother! BTW, I thought I was only person in the world with such vivid childhood memories. Mine actually go back to the age of 2!

Feb 19, 2008

Your story reads like an Ian McEwan Novel. So engaging, so interesting. I love the little details that are so very ordinary and yet your life feels so very exotic.

When should we be expecting the film release?

Feb 19, 2008

I love your blog....so very interesting and fun to read. Thanks for sharing.

Just wondering what your father does for a living...love all the travel. Pretty much white bread here in Kansas. :(

Feb 20, 2008

I'm convinced that Holly's father is the real life James Bond, or something of that nature. "Hi, I'm Burns, Holly Burns..."