I talked to numbers.
They were my friends - and each had a distinct, particular personality.
For example - number One was an only child, growing up on Summit Avenue.
His father was number Fourteen, who didn't believe in God.
|The wife of Six.|
Ricky Ricardo loved Nine. He almost married her, but Lucy came along - and ruined everything.
Numbers were my playmates.
I still remember when Five, Seven and I put pennies on the rail-road track near the Dunlap Avenue Short Line.
After the train passed, we knew we couldn't keep the flattened souvenirs - my mother would have beat the daylights out of us for playing in the ravine.
Instead, we sold them to Eight and Ten; a couple of red heads growing up in an over-crowded duplex on Lincoln Avenue.
How many kids in the house? Beats me.
I didn't know how to count.
The adults in my family would never call me "crazy."
Even so, they set about to change the way I thought about numbers, television and reality.
Howdy Doody wasn't a real boy, Crusader Rabbit was not my boyfriend and numbers don't marry and have children.
My folks came at this project from a variety of approaches.
My father asked me to "count" nails as he hammered them into a screen door.
My mother, ironing my dresses, asked me to fetch Ten hangers from the closet.
I counted the nails for my dad - but Ten thought ironing was silly - and my mother was a little stupid to spend her time doing it.
I told her to get the hangers herself .
You can imagine.
Flash cards and the jealousy of Three.
My dad tried to teach me addition.
He bought a set of flash cards and asked to add Two plus Four.
I tried to explain that the Two and Four could never be together. They were both in love with Three.
I thought everyone knew that.
He shuffled, mixed the Numbers together, and laid them on our kitchen table, row by row.
Some were face-up; others were hidden, snuggling against the back of an unknown stranger.
"This game," he said, "is called solitaire - because you play it all alone."
Silly man, I thought. A girl and a stack of Numbers is never alone.
And that's how I grew to love solitaire - hearts - gin rummy - all the card games that saw me through my childhood.
Saved by solitaire.
I'm happy to report that my schizophrenia abated.
By the time I started kindergarten I could count with the best of them, without regard for the emotional lives and social entanglements of the numbers I threw around.
Even so - even today - the ghost of old friends sometimes visit.
I bought my little bungalow in Como Park in 2002 - a lovely, orderly number.
I remember when I first saw the adorable little house. I parked my funky Volkswagen at the address given - and for some reason, didn't think of the address until I saw the numbers above the front door.
There they were - my dear friends - Seven and Five.
The price was perfect as well - I paid $175,000 for this great old house.
A fine price. A lovely price.
Not a Three in sight.
Still crazy - after all these years.