I have just written an absurdly long post philosophizing about working moms, economic conditions, and mystery theater. And I had all of that tumbling around in my head all day, so I had to get it on paper to see what you’d say. But in leaning toward the philosophical, I feel like I left out some of what I wanted this blog to be: the visceral. So here’s my secondary post, addressed straight to you, included my visceral reactions to the other stories you mentioned in your initial post:
1. I do not remember the Tina Turner poster, but I’m glad that you do, because I definitely remember that woman. She had a bowl haircut. She was very tall. She terrified me. And I’m also pretty sure she was the most masculine teacher I ever had. In fact, I initially scolded myself because I remember REALLY not liking her, and I started to wonder if that was because she was big and agressive and I responded negatively to those qualities in a woman as a child. But your mom is also assertive and smart and opinionated, and I always loved her. So I’m pretty sure the reason I did NOT get along with NOT-Tina-Turner was because of the way I held my pencil. We had handwriting practice everyday, and she would send me home with notes about how I held my pencil ridiculously and I would never learn to write until I could hold it better. My mom found this patently ridiculous and instructed me to keep holding my pencil however I wanted. I’m pretty sure this contributes some to the personality I have today. Also, didn’t she teach us swimming? Maybe that’s the other reason I didn’t like her. I hated swimming. (I’m pretty good now. Surprise, no? I even dive. It only took til college.)
2. I’m pretty sure the treehouses were built by one of the first grade teacher’s husbands, because we had one in my grad 1 classroom that was built by my teacher’s husband. His name was Kirk, and this reminded me of Captain Kirk from my dad’s favorite TV show. In a bizarre act of childish displacement, I imagined that he looked like Spock.
3. I am not surprised that the other teachers did not like Tina Turner.
4. Who else was in our class? I literally only remember you and me for sure. That’s weird. I mean, I remember who else went to our school in general, cause it was the same people for AGES. But I can’t place who was in that specific class, with the exception of Ross, because he held his pencil even worse than I did, loved hot pink, and was left-handed.
5. I am floored that you remember the red jewel. Awesome.
6. When you talked about forming a collection of your past selves, I felt like I could relate in a big way. Part of the significance of this project for me is that, after leaving grad school and teaching and Los Angeles, I felt more than a little like I’d lost myself somewhere. In the past couple of years, I’ve been coming into my own again and recognizing that, even when I feel completely adrift and confused, there are aspects of myself that have been exactly the same for AGES. And somehow that makes me feel more like a complete person (mirror stage, anyone?). I especially reacted to your reaction to my crying during Labyrinth. The person I was to you then – this representation of distilled emotion – is the person I’ve been to a lot of people during my life, and I’m only just now coming to realize that I’ve ALWAYS been that way. Apparently I just never learned how to temper ANYTHING, but especially not my emotions. I was a full-fledged adult in my twenties before I understood that other people notice this, and that it affects them. I also react at inappropriate times and to inappropriate things, never to the actual event that triggers the emotion. So my emotions are powerful, but they cause waves even more because they’re usually displaced. (When I was in grad school I took a writing class from a professor who taught something called “creative critical theory” – basically creative writing for theorists. He pointed out that whenever I wrote anything about myself, I tended to break off in the middle of a story and start writing poetry. Then, once I made whatever emotional revelation I needed to, I would return to prose and finish the story. I now believe this has a lot to do with those displaced emotions, always there, but always directed at some abstract thing in a book or a movie – something outside myself.)
7. I think it says something that you still adore Bill and Ted, and I still watch Labyrinth periodically.
8. When the person you are now looks back on those Bible verse drills, does it disturb you? Or do you see it as just another form of education and memorization? Because I can’t ever decide. Sometimes I feel like reciting force-memorized chunks of text out of context was scary and cruel. But other times I’m glad for the skill of language memory that I think I derived from it. I can recite lines from almost any text I’ve ever read the way I recited those Bible verses in childhood, and I carry those lines around with me (some of them are still from the Bible, but not all) like little talismans of protection that I recite to myself when I’m upset or anxious. Or even when I’m happy and can’t find a way to express it. I made a cocoon of words for myself over time, and those verses helped jump-start that. I’m hoping we eventually delve way more into the religious aspect of our upbringings, especially because that’s one place where our backgrounds were very different – and so I imagine our experiences were too, even if we were going through the same basic things.
9. An addendum to that thought: one thing that I do remember as a scary aspect of the verse memorization was the time (in 4th grade, I think) when we were allowed to choose our own verses to memorize. I’m sure we were supposed to choose things about love and kindness, but a very close friend of ours (who shall remain nameless since I don’t know if she’d want to be named) chose a verse out of Revelations describing, very artistically, the gates of Heaven. The teacher told her she couldn’t pick that one. I have no idea which one I picked. But I do know that the one I remember best is the very last verse of the book of Matthew, when Jesus says “And I shall be with you always, until the very end of the age.”