My American Childhood || I Am America (and So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
My earliest memory is from when I was three years old. My mother came into my room—I can still smell the perfume she was wearing, which I assume they don’t make anymore, because I’ve spent a lot of time in department stores looking for it. She swooped me up and told me that she and my father were leaving me.
Then she carried me to the living room to meet Ruth. I was not entirely clear on what a “babysitter” was, so I naturally assumed this old woman was going to replace my parents forever. I was not on board with this plan. I may have been only three years old, but I already knew that a family was a mother, a father, the kids and the pets—there was no room in that model for an ancient crone wearing slacks and (in my opinion) too many rings.
The minute my parents left, I ordered my stuffed animals to attack. No response. I threw them down the laundry chute and tried my luck with a real animal: our cat, Cleopatra. I carried her to my Emergency Bunker—the linen closet behind the vacuum cleaner. From there, we could lead the resistance against this new Ruth Regime.
That’s when the enemy struck. Ruth was making fish sticks. I held Cleopatra close, but she scratched my face and dashed for the kitchen.
Desperate, I started praying—mostly to God, although it’s possible a prayer to Santa may have snuck in there. I prayed He would bring my parents home and make our family whole again.
And when I woke up the next morning, not only had God gotten rid of Ruth and brought back my parents, but He also moved me from the linen closet to my own bed.
Now that’s service.
Why do I share this memory? Because it perfectly captures the Five Fs of childhood: Family, Faith, Furry Friends, and Fear of the Elderly. These are the fundamental relationships that teach us Where We Belong, What Belongs to Us, and Who We Belong To.
My second memory is when we went to the zoo, and I saw two rhinos do it.