I learned to walk in a village, not far from Zurich, which has a river running through it and whose name means smooth fields. I was nineteen months, a late developer. Gripping the bars of my grandfather’s crib, I hauled myself upright and took my first steps. Great Aunt Lotte clapped. Grandfather’s crib stood in the smallest bedroom of a big pink house with a redcurrant orchard, the first on its street. Before the house: just fields. Smooth ones.
A maple staircase led to the attic, where bygone playthings waited in corners. One summer, I tugged out a china doll by her leg. She had no arms, so Lotte sewed a special dress to mask the deficiency. For three weeks I carried her everywhere, like a talisman, and when it was time to leave I tucked her into a bed I’d fashioned from a shoe box. Some years later, a new family moved into the pink house. They tarmacked over the orchard and installed a carport.