birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Denim and Wool

I was 10 years old and it was picture day. I didn’t wear dresses and my parents accepted that. By day I wore the same dirty basketball shorts and a shirt that faded into a weird beige color. My legs were hairy and pocked with picked scabs. I was dirty, unkempt and what my Jewish grandmother would say, a “Schmutz.” My parents were out of down on picture day and it was up to our pretty babysitter, Kristy, to dress me in crisp denim jeans and a navy wool sweater. I exploded, standing only in saggy purple panties, red faced and screaming about how I hated that outfit. I didn’t just hate it, it physically hurt me. The jeans scratched and irritated my skin. The wool sweat choked me and was too tight. My skin scawled and withered underneath the Oshkosh brand clothes made for cute girl like me. Only it was torture. I don’t remember how Kristy got me into those clothes, or how the man behind the camera got me to smile. But I wore them, only to dispose of them as soon as I stripped. My mom still had the photo. Under the crisp denim and wool sweater I was still snuggle-toothed, dirty, scaby legs and cropped hair. I smiled while being tortured.

Obeying the Rules

The Hat