In terms of birthdays, I peaked early. My best birthday present came when I turned four, and my second best was when I turned three. Cognitive scientists would tell you that I don’t really remember my third birthday, that I’ve just heard about it enough from family members that I have constructed an artificial memory. That makes sense, but I do not believe it, because, you know, I remember my third birthday.
For my birthday my family gathered outside at the end of my house, where the family room would later be built, and ate watermelon and strawberry cake. And then my parents gave me the best gift ever: a green tractor that you pedaled like a bicycle. It was glorious. For years I rode that tractor around and around on my grandmother’s driveway, until I got too big to fit on it.
Years later, my father made a confession to me. “It’s not a John Deere tractor,” he said. “You wanted a John Deere tractor, but they didn’t have one, so we just got this one, and told you it was a John Deere.” I had never noticed.