My childhood memories are, for the most part, happy ones. Skating on a freezing cold pond in Minnesota, then warming up with hot chocolate from a Thermos. Dancing with my mom and siblings around our living room, while The Beatles and Three Dog Night records played on our Hi-Fi and we laughed and laughed. I remember camping in the Arizona mountains, where my dad taught me how to shoot tin cans with a rifle, and where - after ditching our family tent in favor of sleeping on a boulder under the stars - I once awoke at dawn to find a squirrel sitting on my chest, eating a pine cone.
Of course, I have a couple of not-so-happy memories, too. One in particular stuck with me over the years. I was about 6 or 7 years old, I think, and my parents had taken us out to Baskin Robbins for ice cream. It was busy. As we waited for our turn, I remember trying to get a peek through the crowd at the big tubs of ice cream, then feeling a little overwhelmed by the grownups blocking my view. Without looking, I instinctively leaned against my dad, hooking my arm around his leg. A voice said, "Oh, hi there," and I looked up to find that I was hugging not my dad, but a strange man, who was smiling kindly down at me. I backed away, panicking for a second, then heard my dad laugh as he realized my mistake and gently pulled me close to him. Dad held my hand, and a few minutes later I was happily eating my single scoop on a sugar cone. Thinking back, it wasn't really anything so terrible. It was just a mix up, a fleeting moment. I was never in any danger. But in that exact moment, I learned what it was to feel fear.