When I was 8 years old, my second favorite place in the whole world was the Campbell Public Library. I liked to go in by myself because I was treated like a grown-up even though I wasn’t. I would walk into the fiction section, walking up and down each of the aisles and stopping to look at anything that caught my eye. If I couldn’t find a particular book I wanted, I would use the library computer to look it up and if I couldn’t reach something that looked interesting I would get a chair to stand on top of. I would carry a towering stack of books by authors like Judy Blume and Meg Cabot to the checkout counter, feeling very adult as I used my very own library card and successfully held a polite conversation with the librarian and told her yes, I would like a receipt please because I liked how the due date for my books was written on it. I found my mom parked in her Mercedes Benz convertible that cost far less than she wanted people to think and we would drive back to our house with her desperately trying to fill the five minutes with the sort of conversation that is normal for a mother and her daughter, except unlike most normal mothers and daughters, her understanding of me as a human being went as far as my name, age, and that I was full of wasted potential even as a third grader. She liked to say, “The apple don’t fall too far from the tree,” but I could tell she was disappointed. Every time we were about to pull into the driveway, I would unbuckle my seatbelt in eagerness to escape into the half-dozen books on my lap and every time without fail my mother would ask me where the fire was. It was a stupid expression and I resented it a little more every time I heard her say it. My first favorite place in the whole world awaited me in my bedroom, a snug corner on top of my dresser where I always kept some blankets and pillows for the hours I would spend up there post-library visit. It was a tight space, perhaps a little bit precarious, but it was quiet and it was safe and whenever my mom would come in to check on me (every few hours or so), she wouldn’t know where I was. You would think that after spending the majority of my time on this specific spot on top of my dresser, she would one day figure out that if she doesn’t immediately see me that I would be there like I am every other time she entered my room. But like most things, she ignored what she observed and I could not find it in me to be amused at her ditzy incompetence. Directly across from my dresser was a window with a view of an aspen tree, frequently inhabited by birds who would sit on the birdfeeder that I made a point to fill every few days and squirrels who would scurry up and down the trunk, occasionally pausing to look curiously at me. I liked sitting on top of my dresser and watching them because if you stared for long enough, one of the squirrels would do something really funny like stand on its hind legs to eat from the bird feeder. When something like this would happen, I would call for my mom so she could watch with me but she looked at what I was looking at wrong and didn’t understand. Sometimes if I watched for too long, I would start thinking about things that weren’t birds or squirrels or aspen trees or Judy Blume books. Sometimes if I watched for too long, I would get really sad because it was a Saturday that I should be spending with my dad, whose understanding of me as a human being went much farther than my name, age, and the false idea that I was full of wasted potential even as a third grader. If my dad walked into my room, the first place he would look would be on top of my dresser. He wouldn’t ask me what I was reading or if I was hungry or if I would come out and be social; he would watch the birds and the squirrels with me and he would understand.