Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Tagged, tags, & other weirdnesses

All right, here’s my confession of weirdnesses, since I have been ‘tagged’ by the interestingly weird Ms. Jarvenpa of outside the windows. I’m going to focus on childhood oddities. These strike me as fairly weird, and yet many people have told me that I’m an astonishingly “normal” writer. And I delight in my very normal-though-double life as mother of three and writer. These days, who doesn’t live a double life?

1--For much of my childhood, I ate only or mostly raw (and preferably green) food—green beans, potatoes, black eye peas, lady peas, crowders, okra, bell peppers, celery,cabbage, turnips, squash, cucumbers, kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, peaches, plums, etc. In fact, I ate so many carrots that my skin had a beautiful persimmony flush to it from carotene. You may suspect that I was a gassy little brat, but in truth children have iron bellies and can pass even pennies, olive pits, toy tags, and other unattractive and inedible items with only infrequent ill effects.

2--I was one of the Princess and the Pea sort. I couldn’t bear tags in clothing, and I still cut them entirely off or else round off the edges and stitching with scissors. I didn’t even like seams.

3--But when I was little, somebody else had to trim the tags. Because I had a scissors phobia! More weirdness. Nobody would cut my hair because they were afraid of finding my blue and later green (all those veggies!) eyes impaled on their scissor-points. So my hair eventually tickled the backs of my knees. At last the enemies of hair finally chopped off my long, ripply tresses and gave me a permament, and I looked the perfect idiot in those squirmy curls and my little blue cat-eye glasses.

4--I used to hear voices murmuring when I was waking up. Well, still do sometimes, although now I erupt out of bed and rush off to wake children—no time to listen. I suppose that's related to my childhood's infrequent hypnogogic/hypnopompic dreams. Spooky ones, sometimes.

5--I spoke in complete sentences and small paragraphs before the age of one, yet I did not take my first step until seventeen months old. That means that I rode about quite happily and volubly, calling for my desires to come to me instead of stumbling about trying to reach them on my own. It was, I imagine, rather hard on my mother by the seventeenth month.

Perhaps the real oddity of my childhood was excessive, passionate reading. That's the route I took toward a more intense life. Maybe it also helped me come to grips with this beautiful, terrible world where some are called to fall from burning buildings and others to rise toward them in sacrifice, where some are taken by waves or cracks in the earth, and where nobody gets to walk free and naked in the garden forever...

That’s enough zaniness, isn’t it? I don’t have to admit the ecstatic weirdness of my inner adult life… I’m a perfectly normal sample of the adult writer and mother. So there.

Credit:
royalty free photograph,
"horn of plenty,"
taken at the Floralies in Ghent by livinus,
www.sxc.hu/

The Palace Pot Boy & General Factotum: You didn't say you always break chain letters, did you? That's weird. Who you gonna wanna tag? What 5?

The Beggar Queen: So who promoted you to General Factotum? I'm a chain breaker--fine. Scram! Maybe I'll tag Phil at Turtle Creek, anyway...

13 comments:

  1. When I was a kid, I mostly sat still for long periods of time and thought about things. I could be quiet for a very long time. I liked to walk to the woods and climb a tree and just listen to the wind.

    I think I cried too easily for a boy. I fell in love with classical music when I was 9. I was always awkward and slow, but I loved to laugh. I read anything I could find, but I especially loved Boy's Life.

    My favorite food was peanut butter and still is.

    I felt safe but a little frightened in church and wanted to go there when the church was empty and it was very quiet.

    I loved mornings when the sky was so blue I thought it would rub off on my hands if I reached up. My brother and father were brilliant and I felt that next to them I didn't amount to much. I was proud of them.

    I got angry at things that didn't work but almost never got angry at people, at least not to their faces.

    I loved Roy Rogers, and Fury, and I wanted to go to a military school so I could wear a uniform.

    I never, ever, felt unloved.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  3. How good of you, Marly, to tag Phil so that some of us (like me) could read his gentle musings. I also loved Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (and I wanted to be a nun or a ballet dancer or a cowgirl--all because of the costumes). I have been thinking what a very healthy little girl you must have been, with all those vegie vitamins in your system!

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  4. Phil is overdue for the Nicest Novelist Award. He got the Shaara Award for his last novel... I've never met him in person, but I find that hard to remember.

    Yes, it probably saved me from the canned monstrosities of that era! Although my mother has always been a big gardener. Our garden in Louisiana was magical, or is in my memory. And perhaps I should return to the All Raw Diet, as I've been laid low by a kidbug.

    ***

    I have a boat-spam, but since it's North Carolina spam and boat-spam, I suppose that I'll be sentimental and leave it. Habitat for Humanity is coming to pick up my father's boat this week, on top of a mountain in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

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  5. I'm glad you left the boat spam, I'd like to go fishing next time I'm in NC.

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  6. I have absolutely no weird things to report. Well, maybe that I loved animals so much I cried when my pet toad died. When I was a teenager and first looked at Playboy magazine I was sure that the models were just boys made up as girls because I didn't believe any young woman would be so immodest as to be photographed nude. And sometimes I would wake up early and if the world was silent enough I would believe that everyone had died and I was the last person on Earth. This made me very happy (I still fantasize about this). I loved getting lost in blizzards and walking through fields that were completely whited out. I would make a hollow in a snow bank and take a nap snug as a kitten then come back home a few hours later. And I still love the wind and get sad when the weather is too calm.

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  7. Please report back on the NC fishing...

    Too bad you weren't here for a wild, windy day. The snow is blowing sideways past the lamppost.

    Lemme see. Anonymous describes self as utterly without weird things to confess. Proceeds to confess belief in cross-chesting models in Playboy, fantasies that the rest of us are dead, a penchant for rambling about in blizzards and for taking snow naps. Yes, very ordinary, Anonymous! Drop in for a visit anytime; we need more healthy minds around the Palace.

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  8. With regard to monochrome food, I have a niece who for a few years seldom ate anything that wasn't yellow, thus subsisting largely on custard, bananas, corn, cheese, & the like.

    As for me, I'm told that the first word I ever spoke was 'bus'. I was writing poems when I was five or six years old, & at the age of about eight filled an exercise book with the illustrated 'Adventures of Oswald the Orange.'

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  9. Ah, a soul mate on the vegetable rainbow! I wonder if there's a mainly red-eater out there somewhere. Or purple.

    And now I long to see Oswald the Orange in his pebbled orange glory on the Giornale Nuovo.

    ***

    That's at the wondrous address of http://spamula.net/blog/, all you who have strayed here...

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  10. I must disappoint you—Oswald’s adventures have not survived… He, and his gang of fruity friends (who, although I don’t specifically remember them, very likely all had similarly-alliterative names) had a new adventure serialised in the exercise-book every week, with a crayon illustration on the facing page. One detail has stuck in my head, about a certain adventure where Oswald & Co were driving across the dessert (being the equivalent of a desert in a world populated by talking fruit & the like…) whereupon Mrs. Roberts, my teacher, mistook my wordplay for a spelling mistake, and crossed out one of the esses in red ink…

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  11. Yes, one does record those failures of a teacher in indelible tomato red (my most dramatic such failure being time spent with my first Yankee teacher, who was quite convinced from my slow, drawling way of speech that I must be mentally retarded. I cried with happiness when I learned that we were moving to North Carolina.)

    I'm very sorry to lose the chance at Oswald and his ilk (Andrew the Apricot? Cuthbert the Cantelope? one could go on and on pleasantly), though I think that lost manuscripts achieve the interest of a certain iconic status, comic or tragic. I've regretted throwing away all my poems from college--now and then I come across a scrap of one, and it seems so wonderfully youthful...

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  12. There is nothing wrong or weird about excessive reading, for it is a perfectly wonderful thing. There are so many things to learn from books and reading! Read on, all.

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  13. Well, that's a relief! I drove my mother batty in a good cause, then, and have no regret for the copy of Huck Finn that plunged into the tub long ago.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.