My mom brings my sister home from the hospital. I am so happy to see her — my mom — that I feel like crying. But this new person — I am not impressed. Suddenly, my mom and dad have no time for me, are always tired, and the baby is always crying. I do not like her. I think they overhyped this “sister” thing.
My mom still reads to me at night, while my sister is asleep. I am always restless, more wide-awake than anyone else in the apartment, and I sit in bed at night and listen to the television, which I am never allowed to watch. Then I pull out a well-worn book and flip through it, hearing the words in my head as I scan the pictures. I know the stories by heart.
One night, I pull out Cinderella. I crouch on the bedspread, beige with yellow flowers and green stems, and hold the book in the sliver of light coming through the door from the kitchen. I stare at the familiar picture, hear my mom’s voice in my head, and read slowly, “Once upon a time…”
Again. I focus on the black-and-white letters. The jumble swims before my eyes for a moment, then solidifies. “Once upon a time.” I keep going, and turn the page when I reach the end, and then I scramble off my bed and out to the living room, holding my Little Golden Book because I can read every word in it and this is just the coolest thing ever to happen to me, cooler even than the flat tire, and it makes up for my sister pulling my parents’ attention away because this, this, will get their attention. Watch me read!
I stand in the middle of the living room and read the first three pages of the book. They don’t believe me. I know the story by heart. But I insist, and they realize I am telling the truth. Their faces light up. I am smart, I am their child. I am three, and I can read. I cannot go to bed for at least an hour after that. I want to keep reading.