From the category archives:

childhood

Real Stuff

by anna on January 29, 2010

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Anna Edie Mini

Last Friday I wrote a guest post about being an alcoholic for Stefanie’s blog, and some of you guys went over and read it. One of you, in particular, who has been reading me for a long time, liked the post because you said it felt “real.” This made me think a little bit. Because I like to think that what I write here is always real, but sometimes I take a particular slant to things or emphasize one thing or the other, but it’s all genuine, so that’s real, or a version of reality, right? But then I was thinking, there’s definitely a difference between what I ordinarily write and a post like this one from BHJ View definition in a new window, which I could have written, maybe, if I were a little bit more gifted, and also a little less self-conscious about form. I don’t have a close friend who killed himself, but I did have Tanya, which is pretty much the same thing, she was cast in the same role, more or less, as Skip was for BHJ View definition in a new window. But instead of just writing about that, I have to change everything around into some different form, I’m going to “fictionalize” a part of my past, and put it in the second person, and that way you will all know that I’m writing about myself but I can still feel detached from it a little bit, just enough to write about it.

Surcey, your comment made me think about the topics I haven’t really talked about here, and why. Some of them are for practical reasons, but others are . . . I don’t know why. I guess sometimes I feel worried that I’ll sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself, or that I’ll hurt people’s feelings. But the thing is, who am I writing this for, anyway? Are these people I’m worried about actually reading this blog? And if I sound self-indulgent and like I’m feeling sorry for myself, well isn’t that what most bloggers do, anyway?

Just give me a couple ideas to riff on and I will go on and on about genre for like fifty years and bore you all to death.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately: I’ve been thinking about what I would have to do to Mini to make him into a kid like I was. I don’t want to make him into a kid like I was, mind you, I’m just wondering what it would take to do it. Because when you’re a parent, you start living your childhood over again a little bit through your kid. And the other day, Mini had just gotten this toy robot from a store, just a little black robot that kind of wiggles and walks, and he was so excited about it, and proud of it, the way two year olds can get about things that are new (which is pretty much everything, when you’re two). And one of his grandparents was there — I won’t tell you which one — and that grandparent looked at the robot and said, “I’m not impressed,” and then two things happened in quick succession: 1) I seriously considered the consequences of punching said grandparent in the face with a closed fist; and 2) I saw the air deflate from Mini’s chest — just a little bit, since it was someone he barely knows anyway — but still enough to almost bring me to tears.

A few years ago I ran into an acquaintance of my parents’ who had not seen me since I was in high school. I spoke to her for a few moments and thought nothing of it until I later heard that this woman had been shocked to see me so happy and functioning so well. She had said that, as I child, I had always struck her as “morose.” I cannot argue with that assessment, and certainly the addition of anti-depressants to my life has something to do with that change. But still, I go back to wondering what I would have to do to Mini to make him into a morose child. Is it some kind of switch that gets thrown at some point, and parenting has no real effect on it? Or is it even more banal than that — too much time left in a crib or a play pen, not enough Mommy and Me time, not enough declarations of love and value? I don’t know. I think about it, but not because I’m worried about it. I already know that Mini’s experience is totally different from mine, and I never worry about him the way that it pains me to think of myself as a child.

This morning I was getting Mini ready for school and, as has been the case of late, he was not pleased about it. So I told him, “Mini, you know that even when Mommy’s not there, she’s with you, in your heart. Just like I always carry you with me, in my heart,” and I pointed to my heart. I think he understood me. I never decided to become a good parent. It’s not like I set about studying how to do it, or what I should do when, or had a checklist of the stuff that I should do to make him happy. I just had a baby and that imperative was there, to protect him and hold him close to me, and over time that grew into something more like a special bond. I don’t think to myself, “I should go snuggle Mini,” or “Have I told Mini that I love him today?” or “Maybe I should tell Mini his new robot is cool.” I don’t think about any of that stuff with Mini. I just do it. I don’t really see why it’s so hard.

The First Other Anna

by anna on January 15, 2010

People, if when you finish this, you decide you haven’t had enough myopic navel-gazing for a Friday morning, please go check out my guest post today at Stefanie Wilder-Taylor’s blog, Baby On Bored. We’ll be talking about not drinking, so be sure to bring your dancing shoes.

The first time you met somebody who shared your same name, it was the summer following seventh grade, at soccer camp in Montecito. For the Jennifers and Heathers and Tiffanys of the world, this kind of thing happens early on, before anyone knows that it is strange. But as it was — though there had been plenty of Anns, Annes, and Annies in your past — there were few, if any, Annas wandering about your section of Southern California. To meet another one was eventful, if for no other reason than because it suggested that there might exist a place somewhere in which you would not always be just slightly different, always just a little bit off.

You were at soccer camp with Cindy Corsakov, the girl from Clearpoint who had befriended you on an AYSO soccer team the year before. You had never met somebody like Cindy Corsakov: effortlessly social, bubbly, and so generous with her compliments that you guessed she must be under the mistaken impression that they were something that grew freely on trees, rather than being a resource so rare and precious that they required a specially trained pig to sniff them out. Cindy’s world was intoxicating, if suspicious: everything was fun, everything was exciting, and each new person represented a new opportunity, instead of the need for devising a new defense mechanism.

And when she flattered you, there was such a mastery in her light hand that sometimes you caught yourself believing that the things she said about you were sincere. You began to think of her compliments not as flattery, but rather the natural response that came from dealing with someone so wonderful as you must clearly be. This was how she became one of your best friends, and it was how she remained one of your best friends for precisely two years. After that, there was to be a dramatic falling out, the specifics of which you would misplace among other lost artifacts of tweenage years, packed away where they could never again be found, along with your faith in the nice things she said, of which you would claim to have been suspicious all along.

You were at soccer camp with Cindy, but this was not the first time you had been there. This time was to be so different from the first year — last year — which was the year that you were told you would be rooming with Megan Fairfield, only to discover on arrival day that Megan had already made plans to room with Courtney Valentine, because they were best friends, after all. And really, you only knew Megan a little bit, it was your parents who were friends, and besides, everybody felt bad about the mixup, and that’s why one of the adults came up with the idea to bring in a third bed into that tiny room that housed just one pious seminary student during the academic year. They had all agreed that this would be the best plan — three girls in a dorm room — that it was the only way to be certain that nobody would be left out. The adults, of course, had been careful to wipe away from their language any indication of who might hypothetically do the leaving and who my hypothetically be left, and you went along with the plan, superficially, agreeing to it as if it were not the worst idea you had ever heard in your life. You allowed them the luxury of feeling better about things, holding out just long enough so that your parents could get back into their yellow Volvo sedan and drive away. And then you gathered your things from Courtney’s and Megan’s room and went next door, and silently went about unpacking your things and making up your bed, again, and the business of applying yourself to soccer: the love of it, and the getting-better-at-it of it.

But this year was different.

You were still only there for one week, but this was a different world. There were kids who became girlfriend and boyfriend for the week, making out in the tiny dorm rooms in between soccer practices and cafeteria lunches. As it happened, the room you shared with Cindy was uniquely situated so as to facilitate late night discussions out the window with the boys two floors below. This was how you first heard the eponymous Violent Femmes album, shocking as it was, and why when you went home you would go into Licorice Pizza and ask for the cassette version of it with a muted voice, requesting that the counter clerk give you the one with the picture of the little girl looking through a window on its cover. This year, instead of studiously ignoring the social element of soccer camp, you were in the center of it, and it was a relief, for once, to not have to worry about what people thought.

The Other Anna was a year younger than you and she was from Encino. You were not totally sure where Encino was, but you did know that the wealthy girl in The Karate Kid had been from there. Based on this, you figured that Encino — wherever it was — must be a pretty exclusive place, if the object of Ralph Macchio’s affections had hailed from it, and so The Other Anna must be a child of privilege. Naturally, there had been other demarcations of class, though you would not have recognized them as such at the time: her hair was long but boasted perfectly feathered sides the likes of which you had never been able to accomplish with your own hair, and her clothing covered the requisite brand trifecta of tweens of the early-to-mid-eighties (Guess, JAG, Esprit). But most significantly of all, while the rest of the soccer campers used regular Chapstick during long days on the soccer field, the Other Anna had Bain de Soleil lip balm, which came in a delicate case with a longer, more elegant cap.

The Bain de Soleil lip balm was of particular note to you because it was the very brand you had begged your own mother to buy for you for soccer camp before leaving home. She had refused, and the decision had been logical: Bain de Soleil lip balm was twice as expensive as PreSun15, which clearly worked just as well. That your family could have afforded the Bain de Soleil lip balm was besides the point: it was a needless expenditure of extra money based on superficial preference for packaging. Had you been older, or better trained in pitching the intangible differences and market value of things like beauty in presentation and subtle social language expressed by commodity choices, perhaps you might have negotiated better for yourself. Perhaps then you might have been able to convince her of how essential it was to have the Bain de Soleil brand, but instead you were stuck with the PreSun. But to be fair, though there was no way that the fact the Other Anna had the Bain de Soleil lip balm could escape your notice, it only bothered you slightly. Because this year, you were with Cindy, and you were having a great time at soccer camp, and the subtleties of lip balm envy are nothing when you have already survived a week long camp with no roommate and come back for more.

It had been hot that week, and you had taken to putting the PreSun around your eyes to keep them from getting sunburned while you were on the soccer field. It was a stop gap solution to stopping the sunburn damage, and you had made it in the moment, and thought nothing of it, at least until the Other Anna came up to you and asked to see the lip balm that you had been putting around your eyes. You agreed, though you were unsure as to why she cared, and the Other Anna looked at the lip balm, examined its lackluster brown and orange packaging, and then looked at you with something like unkindness and disdain. She demanded to know why you had been putting it around your eyes and you explained that you had been sunburned, that you just wanted something there to protect that skin from the glare. The Other Anna continued to look at you with annoyance, until she ceremoniously dropped the tube PreSun into grass in front of you, like something not worthy of her time or touch, and walked away.

Surprised, you picked up the PreSun and put it back in the pocket of your soccer shorts. You did not know what to make of The Other Anna, much less of the subtleties of tweenage caste systems and the semiotics of lip balm in Southern California. And besides, before you could blink, the ball had been thrown in again, and . But before you could figure things out, the ball was thrown in again, and the Other Anna was off towards the other goal, and you headed back to defend yours, before the rest of the week blurred past you with the kind of speed that only the last breaths of childhood can carry.

Woman

by anna on October 9, 2009

Art by adventurevisual at deviantART

Art by adventurevisual at deviantART

You were 7 when you first discovered the Beatles. The discovery was by accident, and it happened through a strange series of events involving pay cable, excess time to kill during summer vacation, and Peter Frampton. One afternoon you caught the last half of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band, starring Peter Frampton, on ON TV, the pay cable service to which your parents had subscribed. You had always wondered why we couldn’t get HBO or even The Movie Channel, but on that day you were glad they hadn’t chose those other channels, because you were taken by something about that movie. You liked this music: it was something you had not heard before. It was the first time you heard music that could give you that misty feeling, that grabbed at something deep inside of you that you didn’t understand, and it drew you in. You reveled in the sweet melancholy of “She’s Leaving Home,” and how the lyrics had been transformed into plot for that movie. You liked seeing the parents crying, made distraught by their daughter’s sudden disappearance. It was sad. But it was also beautiful, bittersweet. You had no way of knowing it, but this would become your life’s great aesthetic love.

You counted it among the great disappointments of your short life that ON TV would not show the movie again, despite the letter that you sent to them, begging that they reconsider, hoping that they would agree to air it one last time so that you could watch it in its entirety. This was before home video, before the illusion of independence a bike ride down to the video store on Main Street could lend. Back then, once something was sent out over the air, you could see it just once and then it was gone: there was no way of capturing it and making it your own, except through remembering it, where it became greater each time you thought about it. You lamented the loss of Frampton’s Sgt. Pepper. It was tragic, and it gave you something to brood about, until one of them, either your Mom or your Dad, took you to task for grieving over this, told you that Peter Frampton was “light,” and that a full collection of Beatles music had been within your reach the whole time. It was shortly after that that you started weeding through your parents’ vinyl collection, among it the Beatles’ original Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, which sounded different from the music in the movie, even if it was the same. But over time you grew to enjoy this new, original version better, whether it was the implicit suggestion that to prefer the Peter Frampton to the Beatles was absurd, or if it was because the music was truly better, you were not sure. It was likely a little bit of each.

You began to ask questions about them, these Beatles. Why did they dress up like animals on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour? What was Lucy in the Sky? What is a meter maid? Why are some songs so different from others? Why was that early song, “Anna,” that you liked simply because it was about you, such a different sound than the later ones on Magical Mystery Tour, or Sgt. Pepper? Your father told you that some songs were written by different guys in the band, and they had different ideas, and that when they started the style was one way, but that over time it changed as the band members grew and changed. That Paul wrote the happy songs, and John wrote the nasty, mean, and introverted songs. When George wrote songs, they were weird. And Ringo . . . Ringo was just Ringo.

One day you asked if you could get a new Beatles album. And that was how you found out that there weren’t Beatles anymore, as such. That they had broken up, that they did not make music together anymore, and that this had happened a long time ago. You wondered why they would give you this thing, these Beatles, only to take them away. Why bother liking a band, if only to find out that they don’t make music anymore, you wondered. What was the point? Was life going to always be like this? Was life always going to be about watching a movie, only to find out you could never see it again, or learning to love a band that decided they would never make music again? They told you that you still had all the music that had come before, that there was music that you had not even heard, that they did not have in their collection, and that this music would live on forever, even if the band did not play it together anymore. They had a point, but your spirit was broken, because there was something pointless to it, something sad, and beautiful at the same time.

As it happened, John Lennon had put out an album recently, and when they played the single, “Woman,” on the radio, your parents would point it out to you, that this was a solo album from one of the Beatles. That they were still making music, just not together. You were skeptical, but John was your favorite Beatle, and though you weren’t sure what nasty, mean, and introverted meant, you found you liked this single quite a bit. It was already on medium rotation on the Mighty690, the radio station that you would call over and over again, trying to get through, to make requests. One afternoon you called and called, getting busy signal after busy signal, until finally your call went through, and someone asked you what you wanted to request, and you said, “Woman,” but then you weren’t sure if that had been the right title, and you apologized and hung up. After that, you felt stupid, and stopped calling, but “Woman” stayed on rotation for a while, and you enjoyed it each of those times you got to hear it, as it was broadcast from the small clock radio in your bedroom, that had been decorated with little yellow flowers, and overlooked the backyard.

That Christmas, they got you a copy of Double Fantasy on cassette so that you could listen to “Woman” whenever you wanted. But by then, John Lennon was dead, and he would never make music again, with the Beatles or anyone else. You knew this, but you could not understand it. You had started to think that the world must be made up of little starts and abrupt stops like these, love affairs that were made only to end, and opportunities that, once missed, would never be presented the same way again. You tried to get into Paul McCartney’s band, Wings, but it never took, and years later, when he sang the song with Michael Jackson, it just confused you. Time went by, and you grew and changed, and though the Beatles always held a special place in your heart and in your memory, you began to think of yourself as a Rolling Stones person, anyway, even if it was only because they were the ones to came along and patch back together the heart that had been broken so long before.