I couldn’t sleep last night – stuffy and sore – so I shuffled down my parents’ hallway, footsteps echoing loudly and making me strangely grateful for the lack of basement in my own home. My feet thud softly there – landing firmly, the sound absorbed. It’s louder here with the footsteps and squeaks and humming furnace.
After retrieving my laptop from the side table where it was charging, I headed back to my spot in the toy room. Unplugging the phone to attach the cord to my laptop, I waited for it to hiss and bloop as it found a connection to the outside world. After 26:04 minutes, I disconnected and headed back to bed. I tried for sleep – and eventually achieved it – but was full of thoughts in the meantime.
When reading Locks, I’m often hopeful that she’s a brilliant writer. One who can place the right words in the correct order without having actually lived through some of her post topics. Having had some experience with drunken people – ones who are often irrational and enraged – I identified with sections of her latest post. There are, for me, twin urges to flee and cling. To reason and comfort and try to avoid catastrophic ends. To face the absolute truth that someone you love can behave so profoundly badly so as to put himself as well as the public in danger. It’s infuriating and excruciating and absolutely awful.
I recall a Christmas Eve when I was young. We would go to Grandma’s house to have dinner – usually pizzas – and open presents. The four of us – Mom, Dad, Brother and I – were snuggled into the bed of Dad’s favorite truck. It’s older than I am and really quite pretty. Dad had been drinking at Grandma’s – as was his habit – and smelled of beer. Miller, though he didn’t favor it, but because that’s what Grandpa kept.
We had crossed the river and were waiting to turn onto the country road that leads to our house when someone in front of us stopped abruptly. Since oncoming traffic was nonexistent, Dad was upset that we were waiting to turn left when we should go immediately. He honked, the man in front of us made some rude gesture, and amidst Mom’s firm demands that he knock it off, Dad got out of the truck and went forward to confront the man.
I remember nothing else of that holiday. Not my age or what presents I received, what songs we sang. I vividly recall those feelings though. The terror and confusion. The worry that something bad would happen to my dad or that he’d hurt that man we didn’t know. It was Christmas. Bad things weren’t supposed to happen on Christmas. Not to me. Not because of Dad.
There were, at different points growing up, threats to move out, shouting matches, flashes of irrational rage, a plate broken when silverware was slammed into it, picking Brother up from a wedding reception when he was barely conscious, chasing him down an alley on a Sunday morning – thinking it was not unlike following a loose animal who was unable to reason or understand what was best – and experiencing those same emotions. Terrible fear and miserable shame.
My family stories are largely positive – I know that and am profoundly grateful for it. I love my parents very much and acknowledge that situations were likely far more complicated than I understood. Yet those memories are there, and that’s not OK. I wish I didn't have them. That I didn't nod in some sense of understanding when reading something so upsetting.
Always Listen to Your Pig-Puppet
I love reading Lucy, frankly. Rarely have I come across such a sweet, gentle presence. One who offers such genuine support and well wishes that I’ve never had cause to doubt her sincerity. Much like Locks, I read her with great affection and the fervent hope that the new post will indicate something positive happened. That life is going well for two women who have impressed me so much with their words.
I have a personal fascination with how people fit together. The intricacies between what makes us like others, yet so unique. How, when presented with the same circumstances, there are given trends that are reasonably reliable predictors of behavior. Yet there are more than enough surprises to keep things interesting. I’ve yet to arrive at a really good way to describe this fascination. But Lucy has one I adore.
The thought is that life is all about picking up pieces – finding friends who can understand you, your problems, your joys. Reading books that articulate feelings you can’t quite describe. Doing work that might mimic or slightly extend someone else’s. Writing papers so that others can reproduce or build upon what I’ve done. There’s this sense of participating in a collective. Being one of many, finding those like you, working toward some common good.
But then there’s being you – embracing and celebrating and frowning over qualities and quirks that make you different than all others. I think part of it is the pieces that draw you. The paragraphs of text that Lucy is compelled to save. The words that I chose when I speak or write. The frustration I feel over crappy reviews. The way I greet Chienne when I get home from work. It’s all important and perhaps there’s an element of incomprehensibility about it.
I think that’s what I love about blogs. The mixture of posts I understand completely with those that confuse me to no end.
The Ice Floe
Empathy is a strange topic for me recently. I’ve decided that applying my own personal standard is often too extreme. People tend not to react as strongly as I do to certain stimuli. In fact, I’m aware of some befuddlement over the severity of my own responses. I fell in love over the internet. I was devastated to find how very wrong I’d been. I understand – and felt ashamed – that the depth of my depression was so out of line with what I was expected to feel.
My resources were low – work, Winnie, being away from home and focused on something – one thing – that made me quite happy. I’d felt guilty about the way my last relationship ended. I was depressed to start with. Isolated and lonely. There were reasons, yes, but it comes down to the fact that it hit me unpredictably hard.
The first time I’ve felt truly OK about that – not at all ashamed or embarrassed – was in reading PPB's post. So though I very much like her writing in general, I thought that particular entry had meaning on a large scale for me.
Dora the Explorer
To end on a lighter note, I thought I’d share a conversation between myself (age 27), Mom (age 57) and Dad (age 58).
Mom: Remember that little boy Sister-in-Law used to babysit?
Me: Yes… What was his name?
Dad: George! (He calls everyone and everything George – I don’t know why. It used to be Ralph was his name of choice.)
Mom: No. Jake…Blake! Blake.
Mom: Blake liked Dora.
Me: Dora is an excellent show. A lot of stuff happens yet it’s easy to follow.
Dad: Dora’s my favorite.
Mom: Everybody made fun of Blake because he liked a little girl’s show. But it’s a good show!
Me: I agree – Dora is good TV. Poor little guy.
Mom: I’m glad there’s Diego now. So girls can like Diego and boys can like Dora if they want. There are more options.
Dad: I like Diego too. Little One likes Diego.
Me: He’s more focused on the animals. Dora just has adventures in general, but Diego is always focused on a particular animal.
Pause while we all think about Dora and Diego.
Me: You know what bugs me about Diego? Those long pauses so the kids have time to answer the questions? They’re placed in inopportune times! Like when the tree frogs were going over the waterfall? You don’t say, “Let’s count the tree frogs!” and wait for the viewers to think about how many tree frogs there are! You save the freaking tree frogs before the splatter on the rocks below the waterfall!
Dad: I don’t think kids notice that. They need the time to count.
Mom: Or! When the bear was chasing them through the blueberry patch?! They were running and running, then they stopped to ask if anyone could see a boat! It was obviously right there and the bear was getting close!
Me: I saw that one!
Dad: I don’t think kids notice that. They want to help Diego find the boat.
Mom: Then! When they got out to the lake, they stopped rowing! He said something about the water being too cold for the bear. But then the bear started swimming after them! So we had to help them row faster – row, row, row!
Me: When clearly if they’d just found the boat themselves and rowed the whole time, they would have been well ahead of the bear.
Dad: Perhaps you’re overthinking this whole episode.
The point overall? There is – in the midst of a surprisingly sad time in our section of blogland – some very good stuff to read lately. It just doesn’t happen to be here.