Sunday, March 16, 2008

What do you mean, she's never read Jane Austen?

Thanks again to weekend wordsmith

"She's never read any Jane Austen?"

"NONE! Not Pride and Prejudice even"

"But she's such a pseudo-romantic~well, she loves those sleazy romance novels, you know the ones with hot men and heaving bosoms on the covers. Aren't they sort of a lower class Jane Austen?"

"Yeah and all those rolling Irish/English countryside novels...the really thick ones with lots of characters and at least one rich-grumpy yet loving dowager matriarch."

"And her movies... You've got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle and Two Weeks Notice and Notting Hill. "I'm also just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her." Gross."

"BUT she's a middle aged, going gray, round, eye-glass wearing, still single librarian for God's sake! Don't they have to read Jane Austen to be allowed to check out books?"

"I know, but I'm telling you~she's never read Jane Austen!"

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sticks and Stones, B**ch!

**Thanks to Weekend Wordsmith
"Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" How many times had she heard Mama remind her of that little bit of playground wisdom? How many times had she spoken or thought those words? Plenty! Growing up poor, smart, wearing glasses ...she had been called lots of things. But she never let them bother her. She had lots of self esteem and knew exactly who she was and where she was going. Until the day when she was 11 and the slimy dad next door noticed she had boobs. Then the world turned upside down and nothing was the same. She was still confident on the outside, still smart, but she began to doubt herself just a little bit. Withdrew just a little bit. Stop trying so hard just a little bit. Not so much as anyone would notice~but she knew. When she hit her teens, she began to notice that the kinds of boys who were drawn to her were the "dangerous" ones. She really deep down preferred the neat, tidy chess club~math club~debate team boys but the only ones who bothered were the "stoners". So to satisfy that little missing piece she now had, she glommed onto every tattooed, wanna-be biker within a stone's throw of the place and put up with the shit. The digs, the slurs. "Damn your hair is nappy-you sure you ain't part black?" from the skinhead. "You cain't tell me you forgot cigarettes again, you stupid bitch." from the carny guy who ran the merry-go-round at the park. This pattern continued through college, where frat boys were her self destructive weapon of choice. When one of them would start a drunken tirade, she would just think, "Sticks and Stones, Sticks and Stones" just like Mama taught her.

When she married, she thought she had found the mythological "Mr. Right". He was the "math geek" of her dreams. He was not hunky, but he was brilliant! He had invented some piece of medical equipment and it gave him the money to follow his passions. He gave her a great life. They had rich friends, a nice home, fun vacations. They talked about the past and how her own deficiencies had caused her to choose poorly and wasn't it great he had found her to pull her up and set her right. So he was a little uptight-after all the chaos of her younger life, the control he possessed was like being rescued from the Titanic. And for a while it was good. He designed computer games, then taught High School Math. After each experience, he would say "That's not really me. I need to do something else. I need to find "the THING". She completely understood~he was her "thing" and she had searched for him just as diligently as he searched for his passion. So she stroked and petted and let him moan and complain because she understood. Then one day he threw the vase because she had let the flowers wilt in it. A few weeks later, he kicked the cat when it got in his way. Followed days later by the punch to the wall that just missed her head. She tried to help, but he just called her "Bitch" or "Dumb ass" and she chanted "sticks and stones sticks and stones" in her head like a mantra.

Then the day came. She knew it was coming, but she couldn't get out of her own way. She just braced for it. He had left yet another job that "made him fell dead inside". She had figured out that yelling and throwing and name calling made him feel alive~stirred his juices~made him feel passion. So she let him and then cried as she cleaned his messes and tried to forget the mean things he said. But this day...he hit her. It was the first time, but she didn't feel as shocked as she should have. He needed a release and the usual stuff wasn't working. She stood there thinking, "Well, at least I saw it coming." Then he did it. The one thing she had always said she would never put up with~the line she would not allow to be crossed~the one word she could not chant out of her head. He screamed "CUNT" in her face as he drew back to hit her one more time.

It was automatic. She dropped into the kick boxing stance her personal trainer had taught her and let it fly. She took every bad decision, every nasty name, every degrading feeling and that hit that hurt more than her face and put it into a kick to the groin, followed by a punch to the nose. As he crumpled to the ground, he was not stunned by the physical assault. What made him lay still and pray it was over was the look on her face as she leaned close and whispered,
"Sticks and stones, bitch, sticks and stones."

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Go. Explore. Tell me all about it.

** with help from weekend wordsmith
or as long as she could remember, she wanted to leave. Just go. Wander the world, see the sights. Climb mountains, traverse rivers, frolic with sun kissed brown skinned boys on beaches in the moonlight, see as much as she could as far away from home as she could get... But getting pregnant at 19 meant the world took on a different meaning. Instead of vast deserts and endless prairies, she got vast piles of diapers and endless nights with a crying baby. But she loved that baby so! It was worth giving up her dreams. As her daughter grew, she decided that if she couldn't see the world, her baby girl would. They spent hours with books from the library, long before Baby Girl could even read, looking at pictures. She would read the passages, tell her all about places like the Australian Outback, the Himalayan Mountains, the endless blue depths of the Pacific Ocean. Baby Girl absorbed every word as they lay in bed together at night. She was the only kid in the Kindergarten class that knew that Hawaii's Mount Waialeale is the wettest place in the world or Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world's highest waterfall. She and her mother plotted and planned and saved for the day she could go and explore the world for them both. When ever she asked why, her mother always just said: ASK NOT WHAT YOUR MOTHER CAN DO FOR YOU. ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR MOTHER and what you can do for me is go and see it all and then tell me about it.
So when the day came, Baby Girl did just that. And it was so much more than what she expected! When letters and snapshots sent to her mother could no longer convey what she saw and felt, she began to write books and take the most amazing photos. When publishers and magazines began to showcase her work, no one was prouder than her mother. Anytime a reporter asked why she did what she did, she replied, "So my Mom can see the world." As her fame expanded, it was harder and harder to get back to her mom. When Baby Girl called and expressed her regret at not coming home, she only ever said, "You are doing just what I asked. Go. Explore and tell me all about it.".
Baby Girl was in the middle of an ocean, shooting the most staggering beautiful school of fish when the message reached her. "Come Home" was all it said. Her mother had never asked her to come home before. All she ever said was "Go. Explore. Tell me all about it." Baby Girl went.
Her mom was in the one place she never expected to see her~the hospital. Apparently she had been sick for months, but had never let on. The guilt was overwhelming, but when she stepped in the room, her mother's eyes opened and she said, "Tell me about where you were". So Baby Girl crawled in bed with her mother like she had done a million times growing up but this time she was the storyteller. She began to describe the blue of the sky, the depth of the water, the brilliance of the fish. Her mother closed her eyes and just when Baby Girl thought she was asleep, she whispered, "You know, I was always there with you. I could taste the salt of the water, or the rush of wind on a mountain, or the heat from the desert, I was always there. You always did just what I asked. You took me with you. I need you to do what I ask one more time." She then began to tell her own story, of the cancer that had spread and could no longer be contained and would take her life shortly. As she began to lay out her plan to end the pain, Baby Girl shook her head in disbelief.
"Mom, No!".
"Yes.", her mother insisted. "Remember, ASK NOT WHAT YOUR MOTHER CAN DO FOR YOU. ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR MOTHER. You have always done exactly what I asked. You have been my greatest gift and the best traveling companion that a woman could ever have. Please help me take this final trip."
After all the crying, begging and discussion would not sway her mother's quiet determination that this was what she wanted, Baby Girl took the horde of pain pills from her mother's hiding place and poured a glass of water. She crawled back in bed and fed them to her, one at a time. As the pain began to subside and peace came into the room, Baby Girl held her mother and whispered, "Go. Explore, Tell me all about it."