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When I was 5 years old, I thought our apartment was haunted by the spirit of a girl exactly my age who’d been pushed down the stairs and killed by her parents. I thought I slept in her room. I thought she lived in my closet and made the room cold at night.
A year or two later, I believed the spirit of my father’s little sister, who died when she was 7, would try to drown me in the shower. I looked behind myself dozens of times every time I shampooed my hair. I would wash as fast as I could and leap into my towel.
These were scary years. Dead children aside, our family went through several changes. When I was 3 years old, my mother drove the two of us across the country, from Phoenix to Buffalo, to meet the man who would become my father. When I was 4 years old, my mom and new dad married. We moved to nearby Hamburg, N.Y., where it was not uncommon for it to snow 6 feet in one day.
I have one of those hyper-distinct memories of walking behind my father as he shoveled a path. It was like being in a dream or an ice-cube tray. I felt absolute trust in this tall man clearing away the freezing, wet snow. That was the moment I knew I loved him.
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