The oldest memory is a scent: musty, rosy, perfume. It filled her small bedroom, not unpleasant, but not invigorating. It was a scent that lulled her child mind to sleep very easily, and still does, to this day, if she catches a whiff of something similar, her eyelids will begin to droop.
Shortly after that, moving up the ladder of time, there is a picture of that bedroom. Orange walls, green carpet, one large window, upper floor of a split-level home. Outside the window is a large old-fashioned dogwood tree, partly dying, so that each spring half of it bursts into bloom.
A single bed, low to the floor, with a little shelf built into the headboard to hold books. It will, later, be stuffed to overflowing with them, but in this first memory, it holds only a few picture books and a toy dog.
The footboard is painted with a golden scroll around the name “Genevieve.” This is how she learned her name, how to spell it, and that it belonged to her.
But she could not pronounce it well. The grownups said “jahn-vee-ev.” Her tongue tripped over the syllables so that what came out sounded more like “jheevee.” Later that would be shortened to Jeev, and then Jeeves would become her nickname, assigned in college.
And these grownups didn’t mind at all. They always called her Jahn-vee-ev, but never insisted that she call herself that, or that her friends mastered it.
These grownups that she learned to call “Mother” and “Da” although she knew they were not related to her, these grownups who loved and cared for her, but never explained how she came to live with them.
When she was old enough to ask, they replied, simply: “It never mattered to us how or why you came here. We are just so glad you did.”
This indicated, more clearly than anything, that her origin story needed to be kept a deep secret.