Mozart spiced up a house that always smelled like cedar. I needed to sit on two dictionaries to reach the piano, which was respectable, black and dimly European. On Thursdays, Lucy washed it with lemon to soak up the sun that coasted, at three o’clock, from my school to the high old window.
I was pigeon-toed and skinny, with flakes of dry skin at my elbows, wrists, and knees. I thought that eczema was a pet name for my special relationship with the sun. The sun, I thought, could be owned, like goldfish, and I owned it. Wherever I went, the sun was directly overhead, more stubborn than a shadow.
My father, who could fit his hand around my elbow, didn’t challenge this misconception. He thought it was endearing in the Santa Claus sense. Like most fathers, Jeremy Spell was a huge man. He was far too big to call Jerry, so I forfeited the nickname Jenny at an early age, to be fair.