On the morning of my first day of elementary school, uneasiness rattled my soul. Going to school symbolized my launch into the outside world; I worried I wouldn't measure up to the competition.
As I circled our cozy apartment in my red buckle shoes, spouting misgivings and general malaise, my mother offered no solace. "You'll be fine," she said. "Go tell your father breakfast is ready."
I found my father in the bathroom, shaving his face. A biology professor, his emotional remoteness was matched only by his ability to be counted on during existential crises.
"Daddy?" I said.
"What-ee?" he said.
I climbed up on the sink. "What if I turn out to be a fawlture in life?"
He continued to shave his face, keeping his eyes on his reflection in the mirror. "I think you mean 'failure'."
I'd been teaching myself to read, with uneven results, and indeed I meant "failure"... but to admit I'd failed to properly pronounce the word "failure" would prove that I'd already reached the fate I feared.
"No, I mean fawlture," I said.
He peered at me sideways. "Nancy, I promise you will never be a fawlture in life."
And I wasn't.