I remember rage—anger so intense I could pound a sibling with my fists; threaten the mean, biting dog next door; or tackle a neighborhood boy in the front yard. At four years old, the targets of my rage were usually bigger than me, so mustering enough force to inflict serious pain was unlikely. I could, however, kick hard enough to bruise a few shins and was often fast enough to catch an antagonist before he or she escaped at a full run.
At four, I wore hard, red leather shoes. My brothers, sisters, and the neighborhood kids feared them. My hard, red shoes were my go-to weapon and enforcer when I felt threatened or picked on. I remember angrily running to my closet, forcing the shoes onto my bare feet, and running for the front door with the laces untied. The boys who provoked me yelled before they scattered: "She's got her shoes on!"
Except for those moments of angry chasing through the yard, I hated wearing shoes. I'd pull off my shoes and socks in winter or summer, walking in the snow, or rain, or baking hot sun. My feet were tough, like me, so it didn't matter where I ran or played—the farmer's field with its head-tall grass, the wooded easement behind the houses, or the concrete sidewalk that took my brothers and sisters to school.
My family lived on a dead-end street. The house between our home and the farmer's field was an asbestos-sided ranch that leaned from overgrowth. A junkyard house with cars collapsed on flattened tires and galvanized-gray garbage cans dented and scattered by the back concrete steps. A six-foot fence blocked the sun on two sides, keeping the vision of light-filled grass and red-sided barn from reaching my backdoor. Tall oaks canopied, pressing darkness to the ground.1