one of my favorite books was the fledgling, by jane langton. oh my god, i loved this book. oh my god. i’m posting about it because it was set on walden pond and talked about thoreau. who we’re reading bits of in emily dickinson. the main character’s father had students over on sunny days, who would gather on the lawn and talk about thoreau, and there was a thoreau bust in the house that watched her at night when she secretly glided down her stairs. she watched the students from the outside and wondered what they were discussing, wondered about her father’s mysterious remarks on thoreau. to this day i approach thoreau as if through a gauze, as if he is somehow far away, as if his words are transparent. mystified thus at an early age. there were images, details in this book that have stayed with me: she pulled out plastic flowers and imagined the angry face of the neighbor at the window, screaming NO. a regular bouncy ball. she was pale and thin, other more typical praised girls were fat and red and encased in ruffles and shallow. she looked up to the sky and said to herself “swans!” even though she knew they were canadian geese. her older sister tried to teach her to make icing roses for a cake, and as she squeezed out her petals they formed lopsided clumsy lumps next to her sister’s perfect flowers. and of course, the devastating ending. i think that was the first book that truly really devestated me. i spelled devastate differently in the last two sentences.
i never thought of it as “fantasy” or as “science fiction” because there are no fairies, unicorns, wizards, time travels, so it’s weird to see it described as such. actually the hateful next door neighbor talked about fairies, but you knew that she spouted nonsense.
what else devastated me back then? the fledgling–snake bite, tree stump, jumping ever-higher fences, crazy old doctor, pinwheels. the pinwheels devastated me. i appreciated the author so much for them. uncontrollable joy that had to be shot. yeah, coming-of-age stories are heartbreaking. and there was that one about the red pony, that was in the same book as the one about the pearl (later i found out that the author of those stories was really famous. ahahaha amazon.com reviewers are funny “I think that the story was not bad, but the sentence strucure was similar to that of an eight grader. Examples:run-on sentences, missing commas, misplaced commas, & sometimes he said something but did not talk about it (the breakfast of cookies which nearly killed him.)” ahahaaha). and in the gigantic lit books, there was “the button” and “the necklace” and the one about the household robots that kept talking and serving up pieces of toast after the humans were incinerated by an implicit bomb (something about shadows of ash against the side of the house, a boy’s sillhouette mid-jump and a shadow of a basketball nearby, it was chilling!), and the one about the kid playing hide-and-seek and being forgotten about, and the one about the vermillion bird and the disabled brother and blood. etc. i was a voracious reader. and i’ve always loved short fiction.
let me tell you about myself as a child. how little i’ve changed.
–i was avoidant and horrifically afraid of reproach. in first grade, i didn’t finish coloring in a monster when everybody else did, and then later i couldn’t find the same shade of purple (i clearly remember this), so i just didn’t finish it. my teacher asked me where it was; i remained silent; she gave me a new ditto because she thought i’d lost it accidentally. in second grade, i didn’t turn in a worksheet because i didn’t finish it to perfection in time and hoped that my teacher wouldn’t notice. a week later, i forgot something at school and my mom took me back to retrieve it, and i attempted to hide the worksheet even though both of them had clearly seen it.
–i lived for attention and praise, but i didn’t adhere to standards because i hated competing. in first grade, i didn’t get gold stars as other people raked them in. in second grade, i was in the lowest math class because i never bothered to learn multiplication tables and was a consistent worst performer in the daily tortuous time tests. in third grade, my teacher had an optional program where he wrote our names on ice cream cones (made of construction paper, of course) and stapled each one to the wall in a neat row in the back of the classroom. every time we finished a book, we were to write the name of the book, the author, and a short summary on a little construction paper ice cream scoop and he’d staple it up on our ice cream cone. it got to the point where this one girl’s column went two-thirds the way across the ceiling. i was the only one in the class who had none. none. the entire year. i would stare at the four worthless letters of my name and the strand of worthless grey fabric wall above it ensconsed in furrows of colorful paper during class. my parents saw my emptiness and were worried, and i clearly remember my teacher shrugging and telling them: i know she reads a lot. and i did. god, was i just lazy? i felt contempt for other peoples’ summaries, especially of that girl who went across the ceiling. one-sentence descriptions copied straight from the back of the book. what disgusting cheaters. i felt that i was better than her, and smarter than her, that i could write better descriptions and care more about the books that i read, but… still i didn’t write any scoops. at the same time i felt like my summaries wouldn’t be perfect, so i just… didn’t do them. even then i thought that not knowing for sure that i was better than everyone else was better than knowing for sure that i was worse.
thinking about these things affects me so much. i feel trapped in myself. but then i think of self-help books: saying “oh, that’s just the way i am” or “oh, i can’t change my personality” is the easy way out. it’s the lazy way out. it’s the way out of engaging challenges, of interacting with the world, of bettering yourself, of caring about anything. it’s the lowest road you can take. effortless failure too empty to feel even remorse.
there are things about me that i have come to recognize as choices, not traits. that i consistently choose the suboptimal route is not evidence that i must and shall always be like this and is all the more reason to change, now.
i saw krista today. i miss those girls.
sproul had good energy. unfortunately rehearsal did not.
i wish i wasn’t so transparent.
“don’t sell yourself short.” why do i insist on self-deprecation? do i think i’m cute or something? i know i can do d and e just fine if i let myself be loud enough. it’s like i’m afraid of my own voice. i want vocal coaching desperately. i want my confidence back.