Tag Archives: childhood

Totally Not The Season (i.e. “Christmas Monster”)

21 Sep

Today has been a day of adventure and art and literature and yearning ’round all three for me. I was in Santa Barabara, California as part of a spontaneous road trip with two of my best friends. It was incredibly sunny up in SB – so much so I was worried for a bit that I sunburned during our stop at a gloriously human-vacant beach – so it really didn’t even feel like fall, let alone fast-encroaching winter. But then my internet wanderings meandered me over to an illustration by the fantastic Eric Orchard that he called “Christmas Monster” (not currently featured here because of lack of explicit permission to do so). And the artwork – the storybook quality of the illustration, the whimsical subject matter, and the flat-out wintery snow – well, I ogled it all, and out popped a poem.

So, here you are. The totally unseasonal narrative, “The Christmas Monster.”

(Inspired by this illustration by Eric Orchard)

The Christmas Monster

There is a Christmas Monster in the sky
who once a year comes down the hill
and makes the fluffy white snow fly
and frost above the sill.

The Christmas Monster in the sky
bites his lip and sets to work
knowing soon the time is nigh
for the elven cirque.

The Christmas Monster ‘bove the hill,
if you ask a jolly ride
then in his sleigh he’ll with a thrill
tuck you by his side.

Then off the Christmas Monster flies,
sending all ‘round the snow
and a tinge of red on nose
and that glimmer, in the eyes.

Misogyny, Misandry, and Father’s Day

15 Jun

I hate Father’s Day. I by no means hate fathers. I don’t even really hate my father. I just hate the nationally celebrated day that will overstuff my Facebook and Twitter feeds and force me to think over and over again about the complicated relationship I’ve had since, well, ever with that terrible, wonderful, intimidating word. Father.

Honestly, I’m pretty confused about how I happened. Yes, yes, I do technically know how I happened. I have two heterosexual, reasonably fertile parents with differently sexed genitalia. I remember that talk my school gave us back in sixth grade. But as for the why of that how – I am confused, since I’m generally under the impression that my parents have been fighting since before I was even born. But apparently passion, like humans and their human relationships, is a complicated thing.

And so I was born, thanks to the complicatedness of existence. Naturally, that meant that my existence has been consequentially complicated too.

I know that there were good times with my father while I was growing up. Afternoons of hide and seek, nights of my father’s consenting to play barbies before bed. My dad is the reason I was thrown into the water and turned into such an aqueous creature so early on. There were giggles and smiles.

But there were tears, too. Oh so many, many tears. And I, built for better or for worse to register the negative over the positive, tend to remember those tears first and foremost. I was three or four the first time I encountered the word “divorce.” My parents were shouting it at each other downstairs in the kitchen. I heard them from my hiding place, crouched just around the corner at the top of the stairs, where they couldn’t see me. I heard my father shouting, his yells deep and growling. I heard my mother shriek back, her words shrill and defensive. Even at three, I knew that one of those timbres was the one with the threat, and one of them was not. My mother’s yelling carries hysteria. My father’s yelling carries violence. His is the anger that has always scared me more.

Now, at the age of 23, I understand that my father is human, a damaged individual with a backstory of dysfunction that explains so much of his threats and narcissism and alcoholism and distance. He is doing the best he can with what he himself was given to work with. But at the age of three, that higher reasoning hadn’t kicked in yet. All I knew was that my father, the man I was supposed to believe was there to protect me, was someone of whom I was deeply, deeply afraid. And while that is something I have come to understand, it is not something I can yet entirely forgive.

I grew up living in fear. The man who taught me that promises are important with the force behind the words he used to tell me that he would always keep them is also the man who taught me more with his actions just why that is when he broke oh so many of them. The man who said he would always be there for me, no matter what, is also the man I would come to think of as “the bachelor who happens to be married to my mother” because of how often he was away on business, golf trips, hunting vacations, or affairs.

I am so much of who I am because of having preferred the counter examples to him. I am trusting because my father is manipulative. I am a giver because my father is a salesman. I am a pacifist because my father is a predator. I am widely accepting because my father can only believe that what he wants is right. I will ask for help because my father will keep on blundering ahead. I am supportive because my father is so critical. I lack so much self-confidence because my father is so self-assured.

I am perhaps equal parts broken and strong because of how I have reacted to my father’s lessons, direct or otherwise. I have spent a lifetime trying to defend who I am as a woman because of the man who acted as if women are nothing more than pretty tools for his disposal. I grew up expecting to be assaulted, in one way or another.

And yet, his misogyny has not instilled in me an equal misandry. Yes, for much of my life, I was flat-out afraid of males. My all-girls school education and sheltered childhood spared me having to interact with guys on any sort of regular basis. But the occasional visit from male neighbors, or uncles, or cousins, or, you know, going to a restaurant and having to talk to a male server – I was routinely petrified.

A slow introduction to the male half of the human race and a college education at a male-heavy college where I was the only girl in the room often enough that I eventually stopped noticing has helped a bit, but there is still some amount of inherent distrust in me. I was taught, by action rather than doctrine, that males are a people who could very, very easily hurt me. Physically or otherwise.

And yet, I have also grown up craving male attention. Approval. Affection. The things that I did not at all register sufficiently getting from my father. It was somewhere around middle school when I first realized just how desperately I was searching for a surrogate father. I had a male music teacher, and after I’d used an untraditional medium for a project in his music appreciation class, I asked him over and over again, for something like a week, whether or not that had been okay. The answer was obviously yes, every time. I stopped asking after I realized, in a moment of horror, that I was continuing to ask the same question of this music teacher not because I was still unsure of whether or not how I’d done the project had actually been okay, but because I knew that it was, and I wanted to hear the music teacher say that. I wanted to hear him tell me that yes, it had been a good idea. Yes, it had been okay. Yes, I was okay. Yes, he approved of me.

Hello, daddy issues.

I have since worked very, very hard to pull back those daddy-seeking tendrils. There’s been a lot of therapy.

And yet, somehow, I continue to become close to males who treat me in some way or other like my father did. I actively try not to, try to make friends and lovers of the guys who display qualities that I value, rather than qualities I grew up fearing. Still, I too often wind up with quick-tempered, stormy friends. Guys who will say things with their words and never follow through with their actions. Recently, I realized that I was staying with a guy who completely ignored me because I feared my emotional turmoil of a life would be harder without the paltry reassurance I got from that flimsy titular relationship than it was with it.

In other words, I was staying with him for the exact same reason my mother has stayed with my father. Down to the very words she’d used to explain it to me.

We broke up shortly thereafter.

So. Father’s Day. Such a complicated day for me. “Father” is the word for the man who gave me my first real taste of misogyny. “Father” is the word for the man who made me seek so desperately a desire to find his counterexample, rather than falling into easy misandry. “Father” is the word for the man who was causative for so many of the bricks that build me, and for the cracks in them as well. “Father” is the word for the thing I view with equal parts despisement and yearning.

“Father” is a word that has only ever been associated with the word “happy” in a negative sense. So how can I not hate the phrase “Happy Father’s Day?” There is so much unfulfilled wishing in that phrase for me. So much history, so many complications and contradictions.

I find it difficult to wish people an oxymoron.

Evening Storytime

2 Mar

Well, lovely readers, I think it’s time for an evening story. I sure could use one. A simple story. You know, the kind that you tell little kids. The kind that don’t sound scary, the kind that’ll make ’em laugh, but also the kind that when they remember that bedtime story again when they’re older, will give them a few moments pause. Will make them sit down and think. About whether there was maybe more to that story than they had caught onto at first.

That whatever they decide, at least it will have made them wonder.

So, a story for you this evening, lovely readers. A story called “Ice Cream Cone.”

ice cream cone

Ice Cream Cone

“Sue! Sue, hurry up!”

“I’m coming! I’m coming!” Sue’s voice ricocheted down the stairs at out the front door to the porch. I shuffled my feet on the wood planks, swung the creaky porch door back and forth. Swung it back and forth again. Still bored.

Grown-ups always take so long to go anywhere.

“Suuue!” I called up the stairs again.

“Hold your livestock, I’m coming!” Sue shouted down the stairs, clanging down each step in her steel-toed boots.

I held the door open for her as she bustled out. “Livestock?” I asked, curious. “Why livestock?”

“Oh, you think I should have said horses?” Sue locked the door after us. She looked down at me with her big, brassy face of loudness. “What if people don’t have horses? Don’t you think that’s a mite insensitive?”

I bit my lip and tried not to laugh. Sue was making her funny face again, the one where her eyebrows went all wiggly and her eyes got big and her voice got all squeaky and indignant. “But Aunt Sue,” I skipped so that I would be fast enough to keep up with her. Mama says that I have long legs for being only eight, but Sue’s legs have always been longest, ever since I can remember. Sue told me it’s her job to keep astride of everyone, she has to, so that’s why her steps are so big.

“But Aunt Sue, what about people who don’t have any animals? What if they don’t have cattle or sheep either?”

“Eh, little miss,” Sue stopped and bent down so that her heels propped up and her knees jutted out and her face was on the same level as mine. She reached out one of her hands, all rough from life’s work, she says, and brushed a stray piece of hair back from my face. She cupped both her hands around my face, the way she does when she’s trying to tell me something real important. “What about the people who don’t have any animals? That’s a good question, innit, little miss?”

I nodded. I didn’t know what Aunt Sue wanted me to say, I don’t a lot of times, so I just nodded and tried to look real serious, like I always do when I don’t know what Aunt Sue wants me to say, and she nodded back like always, ‘cause me nodding is good enough for her. She tells me to think about it. I don’t know why. Maybe one day she’ll ask me again, and then I’ll have an answer for her. Maybe. Mama usually just gets real quiet when I ask her if I should, and she just says I should try.

Aunt Sue was big-striding again. I skipped faster to catch up. Aunt Sue looked down at me, now she’s the one who’s all curious. “Little miss,” Aunt Sue always calls me little miss, not my name like Mama and Pa do, but I don’t mind because it’s special, “how come, little miss, you got so much energy like that? All the time?”

“Um,” I looked down at my feet, “Mama says it’s because I eat so much ice cream. But I like ice cream, so I don’t mind.”

“Well, I sure could use some energy.”

I looked up at Aunt Sue and made a face. Sometimes she didn’t seem to realize the obvious things. “Well,” I said, trying to sound like Aunt Sue did, “then you should eat an ice cream cone, of course.”

Aunt Sue stopped. She looked down at me and smiled, then opened her mouth and threw back her head and made a big belting laugh, like Papa sometimes does.

Me, I don’t know what was so funny.

The Kindle Addiction

2 Feb

books in kindle

Lovely readers, I know that it is absurdly late for a typical day to be so desperately under-caffeinated as I am, but hey, it’s Sunday, and Sunday isn’t a real day, so you’ll just have to forgive me. Well, you don’t have to. But you get what I mean.

As I sit here on this Sunday morning I MEAN IT’S TOTALLY AFTERNOON AND I DEFINITELY DIDN’T JUST GET UP, sipping my way into my first cup of emotional and ever more physical addiction that is properly composed French-press coffee, I discover another addictive activity that the corporate behemoth that is Amazon has slowly dripped into my life.

Kindle shopping.

Now, I am not a shopper by nature. That genetic (or perhaps epigenetic) quality went to my sister. Growing up, my birthday money was more likely to go into the oddly unbreachable bounds of a plastic piggy bank than into yet another new handbag. Even when it came to “fake” money in the form of gift cards, I more often had to throw them away because they’d expired than because I’d used them all up. (Note: this has since changed in the case of book store and coffee shop gift cards. Bring ’em on.) Shopping? Especially clothes shopping? Terrifying activity. Oh god, the decisions, and the arbitrary evaluations… it’s quite honestly panic attack-inducing. Major ethical decisions? No problem. New wardrobe to replace the one I’d grown out of or worn to bits? Fuck no. Send me and my sister into the same store, and I’ll come out of the dressing room looking like a passably style-informed person. My sister? She’ll come out of the dressing room looking like a fucking super model.

I may have delegated all of my dress and shoe shopping to my sister for a few years back in high school…

But anyhoo. The Kindle. So, I do not like shopping. But I love books. Holding a new book in my hand and opening it up to a virgin page, the words of which I’ve never read before – might as well be shooting up heroine. Hand me a book to have, and you’ll induce some mega-oxytocin-bonding in my view of you for a while. And let’s be clear: I do prefer physical books. The shape, the size, the feel of the cover under your fingertips as you hold it on your lap or against your chest – it’s what makes a book an individual, an entity unto itself. There are memories that get enfolded between the pages, sensations locked into the very book itself. Time and again, I have clutched a book that’s been with me since childhood to my chest and cried while holding it, the same way you clutch onto a friend in a time of needing comfort. And the times that I’ve come across old bindings of books, first print run versions or tombs that have stood on shelves for decades – ooh, there is a magic to the crackle of opening that cover and gazing through the cloud of dust released into the air to the life of old ink within.

So. If you hold out your hands and offer me a physical book and a USB with its .mobi file on it, I’ll choose the physical book, every time.

Buuuuut sometimes I’m not offered that physical book. Sometimes, authors only release certain writing in Kindle form. And sometimes, Amazon’s lovely daily email to me that might as well be titled “oh, you just bought a book from us, so here are five hundred more we know you’ll enjoy funneling all your money to us for” doesn’t feature physical books – it’s about some releases for Kindle.

And those releases for Kindle… there is a seductive gleam to them. As I said, I am not a shopper. I flip out over spending money. But ah, therein lies the magic of Kindle advertisement. Amazon may send me an email about a book that I’d have quite the inner debate over when it would come to buying the physical version of the book – $15? Is this book really worth that? I could spend $15 on another book that I know I’ve been wanting to read. $15 doesn’t seem like a justifiable amount on a book impulse purchase… I should really just save this $15 anyway…

And tack on shipping costs? And the delay while I wait for the book to get here? $15 for a physical book that I don’t know much about becomes an inhibitory high cost to purchase. No new book for Miceala.

Enter Kindle.

What’s that? This book that I’m not so sure about has a Kindle edition? And I could have that book right now? (*cue dilated pupils and heavy breathing of a tempted book-lover*) And the Kindle version is only $5?

kindle buy

Done and done.

Behemoth Amazon really took a step back and figured out what they were doing when it came to creating Kindle. Instant gratification of owning a new book? Check. Reduce price to eliminate deliberation over justification of cost value? Check. Suggest five hundred billion other books you could have right now for less than the normal price of their hardcopy and not require you to re-enter your credit card information and so allow you the time to think about this purchase but rather let you hand us that money with one click and move on to the next morsel of literary goodness? Check, check, and check.

The space efficiency of Kindle is pretty damn attractive, too. I would have loved to have had a Kindle as a kid. I’ve always read pretty damn fast, so one measly book wasn’t going to cut it for a family trip somewhere. No, I needed at least two. Probably three. And then what if I changed my mind and decided I actually wanted to read one of these other two books? Better bring them too. And of course I have to add in this entire shelf, considering it’s my favorite series and is going to give me just as much comfort as bringing along a stuffed animal would have for another child.

And just like that, I’ve filled my two-foot-by-one-foot kiddo roller suitcase with fifty books and two items of clothing. Make that one item of clothing – couldn’t believe I’d forgotten I’d need that space to bring a notebook and pen!

Yeah, this kind of travel packing did not fly with my parents.

The first few times, I managed to get away with it. My parents would make some joke about “what are you bringing, bricks?” as they hauled my suitcase into the trunk of the car, and I’d just nervously mumble some non-words and hope my awkward laugh slid by.

But then, oh dear god, then, my mother decided to open my suitcase.

“WHY THE HELL ARE YOU BRINGING FIFTEEN BOOKS?! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! YOU CAN’T DO THIS! GO PUT THESE BACK!”

But Mom! I NEED them!

Yeah, that didn’t work either.

So, I’d have to mope back to my room, tear out a piece of my soul as I was forced to designate two thirds of my beloved books as not worthy enough to come along with me, and return to my parents with a much, much lighter suitcase.

Ah, but then I grew older, garnered a larger suitcase, and decided to try my hand at being devious.

Well, devious enough for a ten-year-old.

I’d learned that leaving my books in plain sight clearly wasn’t going to work. So I’d just have to hide them.

I learned to tuck my books into the various compartments of the suitcase, even behind the weird cloth strappy swath thing attached to the back of the suitcase that I think is supposed to go in front of your clothing to help stuff it in but I’m not really sure. I’d wrap my books inside shirts. Stuff them up pant legs. Stick them between layers of clothing. Then I’d put a decoy book or two on top of it all, to make it seem like I was still just leaving all the books I planned to pack out in the open. Of course, I never meant to read those books at all. I had ten others stashed away. Those decoy books were entirely expendable.

“Miceala, why is your suitcase so heavy? You’re not bringing lots of books again, are you?”

“NO!” *frowny huffy face meant to make me look clearly offended* “I’m only bringing two!”

*Parents open suitcase. Only see two books on top of clothes.* “Oh, well, okay then…”

Ahahahaha! I am a villainous mastermind!

A couple trips later, my parents learned to start looking *behind* all the clothes, and the gig was up. Damn them.

But my point here, other than to tell you all a very long story about one of the many things that made me a ridiculous child, is to point out that if I’d had a Kindle, this whole parent-child literary warfare could have been spared! I actually could have taken along entire shelves’ worth of books, all in one lightweight little technological gift from the gods. Had Kindle been invented when I was young and hungry for words and without more hours of homework than there are hours in the day to do it, I would have been unstoppable.

Or, you know, really pleased. Something like that.

And so here I am, I twenty-two-year-old writer with her own bank account and a Kindle she got some time around sophomore year of college. I’m really rather surprised I still *have* a bank account. You know, one where the digits that show up on my monthly statements aren’t in red because I dug myself into a literature-haze-fueled hole of debt from all the Kindle books I’ve bought.
The un-shopper in me may still have some hold on my inhibitions.
But anyhoo. Thus goes the story of my Kindle addiction. Click! Book. Click! Another book.
And oh! Have I mentioned the fantasies I’ve been having about Amazon’s latest e-reader release, the Kindle Paperwhite? “What’s that? You prefer that your ebook experience feel more like reading an actual book page than a laptop screen? Oh, okay! Well, here ya go then…”
Next thing, Amazon’s just gonna set up a system where we hook up an IV directly from our bank account to their Kindle headquarters. Seriously.
But oh, it would be worth it… 😉

Some Childhood for Your Monday

4 Nov

I’m unusually happy for a Monday morning, lovely readers. Especially a cool Monday morning still cloaked in the grey air and grey sky of a recent rain and oncoming fall. Maybe it’s because of the way my boyfriend snuggled me on my way out of bed. Maybe it’s because I had an especially good (read: caffeinated) cup of coffee before starting my morning by talking about books with my thesis advisor. Or maybe it’s because I finally had time to slow down and make a cup of black current tea and write for a bit, instead of hastily microwaving a second round of instant coffee before rushing off to oh-no-I’m-going-to-be-late-for-class. Or maybe it’s just because instead of stapling a boring plain piece of paper to the back of my midterm (we had to provide a second “cover” sheet to keep our answers all cozy or something), I printed out my favorite Shel Silverstein poem and attached that instead. Because who doesn’t need a bit of the contented kind of childhood to more happily start off their Monday?

Thought you all might appreciate some of that too. 🙂

Where the Sidewalk Ends gif