Tuesday, April 22, 2008
In the fifth grade, I had some pretty awesome friends. They were fun, helped me kill time, stimulated me mentally, and were all quite unique.
Stacy was someone to look up to - what with her incredibly giving attitude and funky wardrobe to boot. Mary-Ann was sweet, gentle, and an incredible listener. Kristi could be a little rough around the edges, but I could always count on her honesty. Dawn was fun, down-to-Earth, and usually did her best to keep me on target with my goals - plus it was nice that she was, like me (at the time), a vegetarian. And then there was Claudia; that exotic beauty. An extremely talented artist and constant dreamer...
OK. I confess. I was a little hooked on "The Babysitters Club" for quite some time.
I was hooked and I was embarrassed about it. I read the books in secret and often refused to own them. My mother would buy them for me at the wholesale clubs, five at a time and I would quickly pass them on to a younger family friend, pretending that I had long since outgrown them and had no use for them any longer. I often preferred for them to just be rented from the library.
As much as I loved to hate these books, however, they had such a definite impression on my 11 and 12 year-old self. I loved the descriptions that Ann M. Martin felt it necessary to include. No meeting of the Babysitter's Club could begin before Ms. Martin's complete and (very) detailed rundown on what the ever trendy Stacy and Claudia were wearing. Rest assured that whatever it was, it seemed always to involve over-sized sweaters or ballet slippers. Day-glo anything was frequently on the list along with dangled earrings shaped like every-day objects (think random office supplies and food type items).
I'd like to pretend that I was knee deep in classic literature when I was 12. I'd like to pretend - but I won't.
I'll spare you the sugary grit details of the series and leave it what I've already divulge. Suffice it to say that the books left a bit of an impression on me. They built a very strong image in my mind and while I mostly knew that it was a ridiculous image, it existed nonetheless.
Perhaps their ingenuity impressed me.
Perhaps I took delight in the fact that a grown woman (the author) was being downright indulgent with these books; her life career. For all intents and purposes, Ann M. Martin was but a 12 year-old girl herself, living out her childhood dreams through 138 some odd quick-read books.
Who could know, really?
Regardless, I do know that in comparison to their fairy-tale liberties and self-employed 12 year-old trendy selves, I felt a little (just a little) uncool.
My clothes were hand-me-downs. My haircut usually influenced by my mother. Make-up was not a reality in my life just yet and neither was music (which at least, even with the absence of a kickass wardrobe and a relevant haircut, could have made me volumes cooler).
This was not for lack me trying.
My efforts were somewhat wimpy.
I recall one time in particular - I was walking through a shopping mall with my mother. I remember that I was wearing a red Hanes sweatshirt - I most likely at some point considered this a very good wardrobe purchase; you know, versatile.
The pants I was wearing were hand-me-downs from someone in our church. They were too big for me and the waist was elastic. They were black with small white birds printed all over them - small enough that it just kind of looked like an organized white spatter across black fabric. I'm fairly certain I was wearing sneakers. I probably had a perm.
Walking through the mall, my brain was quite a distance away (I think it should be evident by now that I didn't take much of an interest in shopping) and eventually I found it appropriate to ask my mother exactly what was burning on my mind:
"Mom, do you think I look... exotic?"
She had become at least somewhat accustomed to absurd questions from me, her middle child, but even this threw her off kilter a bit.
She stopped, laughed, and with one look-over responded, "Right now you certainly don't".
Sometimes it takes the words of a mother to shake reality back into you.
I swiftly dropped my dirty reading habits and bought myself a pair of lace trimmed leggings. Eventually the perm grew out and it didn't take too long for me to outgrow the hand-me-downs. And clearly, I've not too quickly forgotten myself and my mother's words at what could have very well been the height of my absurdity...
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I dreamt last night that I found it at a yard sale.
It sat there, nearly alone on a partially draped brown folding table.
It had rained the day before and I noticed the feet of the table burrowing into the soft earth. I imagined for a moment, as I ran my index finger along the edge of the table, the dark grass that was being crushed under its weight. Dust collected in a miniature slope between my fingertip and the table before I stopped to thoughtlessly brush it over the edge and to the ground.
I knelt to eye it more closely - the object - and saw that part of it was cracked a little. It didn't matter. Battered and bruised were still fine in my book. Some of my best-loved collections included the most battered and bruised that the world has to offer. Torn pages, chipped edges, missing buttons or eyes or pieces.
Over time, I've grown to find beauty in the broken.
Picking up the object, I became aware of it's lightness and fragility. It looked heavier than it was.
Very suddenly, I'd become afraid that it would simply crumble in my hands under the mere weight of my scrutiny.
It wouldn't be the first time I'd destroyed something. It sadly wouldn't be the last either.
I stared until I caught my reflection in the mirror of its surface and then I let time stop for a moment.
I felt the sun penetrating the skin on my shoulders, making my arms tingle just a bit.
I heard my pulse beating in my ears, the occasional swallow cutting in to interrupt the rhythm.
I smelled the history I was holding in my hands, littered with layers of dust and decorated with the splendors of time, love, and emotion.
Just then, I could taste my desire to bring it home with me - to know that it was back in my care.
It was only a moment, but it kind of felt like a forever.
My moment was broken by someone else's memory.
"That was my first one, you know! I can't even remember who gave it to me!"
I jumped slightly at her interruption and smiled crookedly as she laughed to herself. She was older than my mother, but younger than my grandmother. She wore a white tank-top, her arms shamelessly bare and boasting surplus.
"Well?!" She shouted, a bit too loudly, "You wanna buy it?!"
I raised my eyebrows in silent response and looked down to dig a dollar out of my wallet.
A dollar here, a dollar there - I spend dollars too quickly.
Her hand was ready and waiting, outstretched, as I made my exchange.
She was already busy with another weekend warrior when I turned to leave, my treasure tucked away and safe from harm.
I dreamt last night that I found it.
I dreamt I bought it back.
(If I could find it, I'd buy it back - perhaps for more than a dollar).
(But then, if I continue to live my life in parenthetics),
My life would be worth... well, about a dollar.