As a Child

Things I Knew Then

Aabye-Gayle F.


“When I was a kid, I knew who I was and what I believed in.”

When I was a child, I couldn’t wait until my legs were long enough to touch the floor when I was sitting on the subway. And I wanted to be tall enough to hold on to the subway bar when standing — not just tall enough to touch it, but to hold it and have a significant bend at the elbow so that my arm created an “L.” And now I realize that day came and went unnoticed and uncelebrated. One day much later (by months or even years) I had the thought, “Wasn’t I once eager to be able to do this?”

When I was a child, I was dreadfully afraid of the dark. The absence of light filled me with panic. I didn’t just have a nightlight; I had my bedroom light on when I went to bed. My father would dim the light gradually, but only once I was asleep were my parents able to save electricity.

As I got older, I started to need some darkness to sleep, but pitch-black can’t-even-see-a-shadow darkness still terrifies me. I don’t need to be able to see much in the dark, but I need to be able to see something. I need moonlight or a streetlight coming through the window. At the very least, I need a digital clock — something to train my eyes on.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a ballerina. I took ballet classes twice a week, and I was very good (in my own estimation, at least). I even had a stage name — Danielle. That’s actually my middle name, but for some reason I thought it sounded more authentically ballet-like than my first name. And so that’s what they called me at Miss. Janet’s Dance Studio in Brooklyn.

When I was a child, I knew what I knew; and I knew what I knew was the truth. When I was a child, my faith in God was absolute. He was up there, out there, somewhere, everywhere, and He loved me. I knew this to be true. I was not plagued by doubt or guilt. I considered my mistakes and sins of little consequence. I prayed for forgiveness, and then I moved on unencumbered. I did not dwell, and I bore no suspicion that God was keeping a record. And even if He was, as a child, I wasn’t worried. I was certain that I was doing a bang-up job as a Christian.

As a child, if anyone questioned the existence of God or contradicted my faith, I had a simple response, “You idiot! Look out the window. You see that tree? How could that tree be there if God didn’t make it? God is…