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Tag Archives: literature

Let’s Try It

When Dad passed away, his archives became available to us. Years of records, a file folder on every child, every property, every pet, every business. Most of my folders included drawings, birthday cards, the occasional award or picture but a fair chunk was dedicated to the history of my education, non-traditional that it was.

I was a parenting experiment. All children before me attended some form of traditional schooling, public or private, skipping a grade here or there. Raoul and Linda both started college at 16 but otherwise the older seven kids were within the range of common. My parents decided to buck the industrial schooling system entirely with me: Total home education. What this meant in the 1980s is that once a year I would go to the local elementary school for a few hours a day one week a year to participate in standardized tests. Providing I performed at or above grade level, the state would allow us to continue home education.

This once-a-year testing event was my only contact with children who didn’t share my genetic makeup. All those experiences you may not even register as experiences were new to me.

The first day of third grade assessment, my mother dropped me off at Mountain View with Miss Fredericks. Mother pressed some money into my hand. “You’ll need this for lunch. Just follow the other kids.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in auto-biographical

 

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A Swiftly Tilting Backyard Shed

In the HOA-controlled master-planned country club neighborhood where I grew up, the maximum allowed size for a shed was 4×4 and no higher than the 10-foot cinderblock wall. Ours was 10×14, composed of yellow corrugated aluminum siding and as tall as our house. Ramshackled, unstable, and a few decades old, it was salvaged from an old rental property. For the privilege of having that eyesore in our spacious backyard, my parents were fined $150 a quarter, fees they probably never paid. The shed’s contents were intriguingly and creepily relic, from the decrepit lawnmower to my brother’s abandoned Charlie McCarthy ventriloquism dummy. I was afraid to step foot inside. There were tales of black widow spider nests and the interior of the shed was lined with 5-gallon canisters of propane, kerosene, and gasoline, all kept as back-up supplies by Dad “just in case.” Just in case of what I’m unsure.

But, if one turned a blind eye to the risk of scary spiders and scent of flammables, and ignored the crunchy-hot quartzite pea gravel and occasional lizard, behind the shed was a great place to hide. Strange? Maybe. But without a treehouse (without trees!) or a quiet place in the house that wasn’t overrun by siblings, pets, or siblings’ children, I had few options. I didn’t know any better and it worked.

Around this time I made the huge leap from Dr. Seuss to ‘real books,’ prompted to do so when I noticed the smile of encouragement on the librarians’ faces turned to an eye-brow raise of skepticism every time I brought my summer reading log to their desk. It wasn’t so much that they doubted my truthfulness as they probably expected a child my age should have advanced beyond books with simple sentences.  Hannah, the stereotypical old maid librarian at the local branch, took action and introduced me to the next age group in books. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in auto-biographical

 

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Not Quite a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a young prince, Timotheus, who married a young princess. Like many young men, he wasn’t entirely sure she was the right princess.  He didn’t know about the many possible tests he could’ve given her to know for sure.  Consequently, he never checked to ensure she could thread straw into gold or whether a pea underneath a dozen mattresses would chafe her milky-white skin.  He did know that her ankles and wrists were a little large and they were connected to knobby digits which he didn’t like but accepted.  Our young prince also knew that the princess also had a kind but meek father and an evil mother.  These should have deterred him since no proper princess has knobby hands and feet and no fairy tale ends happily with an evil mother-in-law. 

But Timotheus persisted so they married, hoping to live happily ever after.  Eventually, the good fairies gave them children — three of them, like little wishes.  Two baby princesses, the first cast in her mother’s image, the second in her father’s.  The third little wish was a baby prince, who looked a little unlike anyone, leading the young prince to suspect the baby prince was a changeling.  The young princess may have claimed to have been visited by a shower of light from the heavens or by a handsome swan when the baby prince was conceived — we’re unsure whether she said that or whether it happened because sometimes there are details missing from the fairy tale and questions are best left unanswered. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Writing Exercise

 

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Intermission

In my first post, I spoke to the intent of this blog which is to give me an outlet to express without getting bogged down with quality or structure, in the hopes that sharing would help manage my anxiety.  Granted, I’ve only given this blog a few weeks and I’ve produced more for this one in that span of time than I have for my others in months — this is progress, facilitated by virtual anonymity — but I’m anxious that I’ll hit a brick wall soon and be silent again.

A friend operates a blog (probably with similar intentions although he’s more trusting with sharing than I) who is working on chronicling his life using music for context.  His point is (paraphrased), “If someone looked at my iPod and wanted to know why I have this great diversity of music there, what would I tell them? What explains why I like X but also Y as well as Z?  Each one has a story.”

It’s a good schtick and it serves him well. He’s able to use his theme not only to tie together the threads of his life and memories but also speak to the timeless relevance of music — all this while making a couple well-placed digs at the commercial music establishment while he’s at it. That’s a lot of birds downed by a single stone. But I don’t recall having the same degree of attachment to music as my friend nor the under-current of righteous indignation at the increasing homogenization of music.  For me, music is an interest, not a passion and I’m not trying to articulate a commitment to a way of life.  Music is not the path that will help me understand me.  But books might. 

I’ve toyed with the idea of using books as a means of tying this blog together but have resisted for two reasons: (1) It felt derivative of my friend’s idea. (2) Not all my books are high-falutin’ works of lit.  In my sordid past, there are volumes of pre-teen serials, a brief dabbling in Westerns, a few zombie and vampire stories, and more than a smattering of smut.  These are books that are not part of my permanent library, to be sure.  They’re the written equivalent of Ke$ha.  Whatever would you think of me if you knew?

But as I feel myself come closer to the brick wall, I remember that this blog is an exercise to help me come to terms with me, not for my anonymous readers (few, if any, though they are).  I think that allows me a few concessions.

So books it is and we’ll go with that plan until it’s no longer the plan.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2011 in Thoughts

 

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I’m Whoever You Want Me to Be

As a home-schooled child, let’s just say I didn’t get out often.  That is to say, I got out all the time – generally in the backseat of my parents’ Lincoln Continental town car while they traveled over the sun-scorched roads of the southwest.  But, in terms of doing kid-appropriate things with kid-appropriate people, not so much.

Around eight or so, my notoriously over-protective parents made two very uncharacteristic decisions: (1) they gave me unfettered use of a library card and (2) signed me up to be a volunteer at the local library branch where I would be left without parental supervision for hours a day.

Perhaps its a testament to how much they trusted me to behave well, or perhaps they were at a loss as to what to do with their bespectacled bookworm of a daughter who curled in a ball on the blue shag carpeted floor of their 1977 Lincoln to stay away from the sun pouring in from the windows.  Maybe they wanted free childcare, or perhaps they thought it was a learning opportunity.  Regardless, there I was dropped off several times a week for many hours at a time.  Plop.  “We’ll come back in a few hours, honey.”  Buh-bye.

The library was wonderful, if small.  I was a superlative book-mender, although a lazy shelver.  It was far more interesting to flip through the pages of the books on my cart and terribly difficult to put them away.  Prior to this point in my life, I was a dedicated fan of the good doctor, Theodore Geisel, under all of his pseudonyms.  (Talk about being a late bloomer.)  Now, thanks to the shelving cart, my horizons were broadened.  Histories and pseudo-histories of Anne Boleyn, Gone with the Wind, heroines created by the great Russian authors, with a healthy infusion of Harlequin and young adult period romances featuring virginal damsels awaiting salvation at the hands of a dark and dashing man.  It’s clear that not all of my reading was of the highest order but it was diverse.

I immersed myself in books, checking out the library card limit of 20 books at a time and returning them within a week or so for a fresh batch.  I read in bed, at meals, in the car, lying on my back in the swimming pool, in the shower, and possibly with a fox and a non-human named Sam I Am.  As an 8-year-old seeking input on what life is like as a young woman, how to be beautiful, popular, desirable to be around, these books were powerful stuff.

But they also left me confused.  Clearly I should defiantly shrug my shoulder with a spirited fiddle-dee-dee when faced with challenges a la Scarlett O’Hara.  On the other hand, if I acted petulantly like Mary Lennox perhaps a Yorkshire farm lad would see through my sallow exterior and woo me to warmth by nurturing a garden. I could be bold like Elizabeth Wydeville or Anne Boleyn and earn passion and power by ruthlessly seizing what I want or I could act like any number of paperback romance heroines (all with full bosoms, wasp-like waists, and blushing modesty) and elicit the ardor of a vaguely dangerous man who falls under the spell of my charms.  Is it better to behave like a sweet, optimistic innocent like Anne Frank or a mysterious, caustic truth-teller like Cassandra?

I suppose my experience wasn’t that different from most girls except the message they receive may be more consistent: look like Tiffany, act like Debbie Gibson (or whoever today’s starlets are).  And, because everyone else is doing the same thing, it all works out and you fit in.

Unfortunately for me, imitating Annie Oakley was too much and I was no closer to fitting in wearing the Laura Ingalls Wilder-style pinafore dresses I had asked my mother to stitch for me.  When I tried to act knowledgable about adult matters, it was good only for awkward silences (rather than the admiration hoped for) and when I acted demure, I was outshone by more vivacious personalities.

The end result was a sub-conscious commitment to adaptability.  Since I couldn’t figure out which personality best fit me and my environs, I drew upon all of the women on paper to borrow just enough to fit in where needed.  Are you shy? Let me try on “Jane Eyre.” Do you want a party girl? Let me dazzle you like Verdi’s Violetta.  Would you rather a bookworm to study with over coffee?  No problem – I can be Jo or Beth March. I don’t need to pick a single heroine to imitate – instead, I can borrow bits and pieces of each as the situation demands.  Just call me a chameleon because I can be whoever you want me to be.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in auto-biographical

 

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