Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Power of Speech

Looking back over the vast expanse of 62 years, I don't really remember when my brothers and sisters were learning to speak. I doubt I was struck by the magic of emerging language skills when I was a kid myself, but I do remember how excited I was when my own kids began to speak. Walking and talking are the biggies - life is not the same once babies master these skills.

My granddaughter, Adaline, started walking on September 1, 2013- now she thinks it's funny to crawl around like a baby. She likes to bounce up on her toes and she tries to jump, but she hasn't reached lift-off yet.



We're a family of talkers, so it's not surprising she's already talking a blue streak - my daughter was the same way, and my son talked pretty early, too. My daughter was the chatterbox but he held his own.

I've been looking forward to Adaline talking - I want to know what's going on in her head. Pretty early on she made it clear she wanted to know what everything was called. She'd go through books and point at things. Gradually, she started going through those books, pointing at the pictures and saying the names of each animal and/or object herself.

She loves exciting moments in books - THE NAPPING HOUSE is a favorite, and her favorite scene is the one where the bed breaks and the animals (especially the cat) fly through the air. She likes the scene in THE CAT WHO WANTED TO FLY when Maggie the witch tells Midnight the cat he is too little to go on her broomstick. "No, no, no," Adaline tells the kitty in a very firm voice. She loves the scene in ROOM ON THE BROOM where the fire-breathing dragon appears, chasing the witch. "Yikes!" she screams, and quickly turns the page where the dragon gets his come-uppance.

What is surprising to me is how quickly she's trying to say multi-syllable words. She carries around her much-loved wooden alligator pull-toy, hugging him and saying, "Ay-gator!" She leads me down the hall, saying, "Evator!" (elevator) and shrieks when she sees a "hechopter" (helicopter) go by.



She was slow to give us names but now I'm "Gama" and Marty is either "Bapa" or "Gampa" - he answers to both. She can say both "Mommy" and "Kim" and "Daddy" and "Jon", and she says "Jeca" and "Jeshie" for Auntie Jessica. Her dog, Winston, she calls by his full name: "Winston Chu-chill" and she loves to call the cats. The two at my house are "Cabber" (Casper) and "Char-char" (also Chow-wee) (Charlie) and at Jessica's house there's Mou-Mou (Mouse) and Jammie (Sammie).

Food is another interesting category of words. She likes "pizz-e-a" and "nacks" (snacks). Auntie Jessica has some chocolate kitty cats in her fridge that have been there since Christmas. Yesterday Adaline tugged on Jessica's finger and said, "C'mon, choc-lit!" and pulled her to the fridge.

She loves a particular episode of Curious George that features a skunk, so "Pee-uw!" is a favorite word. She was concerned about a sleepover episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood - she still likes the show, but she points to the TV and says, "Scary!" (pronounced "Sca-wee") when it comes on now. She has trouble saying Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa so she's learning to say their real names now. She can clearly say the name of her young aunt Cecilia, though!

The word we hear most is "Baaaaby!" - she does love her babies! I thought she was saying my name once, but she wasn't saying "Becke", she was saying "Bankie" (blankie). She's mastered - sort of - the names of many animals (birdie, ho-sie, cow, pony, huppo, turtle, guck, squi-yul and so on). I'm a little sad because she's learned to say "doggie" instead of "goggie", which is one reason I'm writing this. Before long she'll be speaking so clearly it will be easy to forget Adaline's first attempts at speech. She's growing up so quickly, one day she'll be asking what her first words were. I'm afraid I'll forget!

The words we were most excited about she said to her grandpa the other day. "Bye, gampa," she said, "Love you!" We're excited about "please" and "thank you," too, but "love you" is definitely the best!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Through the Eyes of a Child

My granddaughter, Adaline, is 20 months old - almost 21 months. In the past few weeks both empathy and imagination have kicked in, moving her irrecovably from the realm of baby to toddler. This picture was taken on Easter Sunday - her poor nose shows the signs of a tumble she took the other day.

It started when she had a check-up and got three shots. I don't think the shots bothered her nearly as much as the bandaid covered gauze the doctor placed on her leg. When I went to change her diaper, she saw the gauze and freaked out. "Yucky, yucky," she screamed. Then, tugging at the bandaid, "Stuck, stuck!" My daughter handled the situation by quickly removing the bandaid (I'm using this term generically) and gauze. Adaline is very vocal about "bangaids" - she's not having them in any way, shape or form. We bought some with cute dolly-type pictures on them to see if we could change her mind. No way - she loves stickers, but now she's dubious about these "sticker" bangaids, too. She has become fascinated with an old Golden Book that embodies her worst fears - EVERYONE has owies and bandaids in DOCTOR DAN, THE BANDAGE MAN:



The trauma set in when Adaline noticed the arms had fallen off my nearly 60-year-old Ideal Saucy Walker doll, Melissa Kay. Melissa is made of plaster and her arms were connected by metal hooks and an industrial-strength rubber band. The rubber band broke some time ago, but I had managed to keep her arms attached with tight fitting doll clothes. Adaline has fallen in love with Melissa Kay, and the more love she gives the old doll, the more Melissa falls apart. Adaline was already concerned because Melissa's arms moved around inside the sleeves, but when I made the mistake of changing her clothes, Adaline saw the hole where the arm was supposed to go. "Broken, broken! Doctor, doctor," she hollered, and continued to holler it repeatedly all afternoon. Until I find a doll hospital, I'm trying to redirect Adaline's interest to other dolls. But the die was cast.

Two weeks ago, repairs started on a leak in the hallway of our 1920s building. It's outside our condo, just across from the elevator. Adaline wasn't too worried by the banging when the workmen cut a hole in the wall to fix the leak - the noise didn't bother her. When we walked to the elevator, though, it was a different story. She looked at the hole with an expression of sheer panic. "Uppy, uppy," she yelled, practically leaping into my arms. "Carry, carry!"

When the workmen came back, I took her into the hall so she could watch them work. She was very interested in their tools and sat on the floor, almost hypnotized, as they worked on the hole. I walked to the elevator with Adaline and her mommy and daddy later that day. She waved good-bye to me and then waved again. "Bye-bye, hole!"



When she arrived the next day, she was worried again. She greeted me with, "Broken, broken! Hole, hole!" Several times during the day, she took my hand and said, "C'mon! Hole!" We would troop into the hall (where the workman had left the pipes exposed, presumably so the hole could dry out) and Adaline would plonk down in front of it and just stare. Occasionally she'll say, "Pipe, pipe," and show us that the pipes aren't hot. Mostly, she looks worried.

Today, when she took my husband out to visit the hole, she picked up BEAR SNORES ON, a book she has enjoyed since she was little(r). She turned to a picture of the bear's dark cave and then pointed to the hole. I hope the publisher won't mind if I share this picture, so you can see for yourself:



This is Adaline and her friend, the hole in the wall:


video

One of these days, the hole will be fixed. I'm afraid the lack of a hole will be just as upsetting to her as the "broken" wall was when she first saw it. Will she worry that the snoring bear has been sealed up in the wall? Will she look at the smooth wall and think of "bangaids"? It's hard for an adult to master child-speak, in part because their reality does not always match ours. And as good as my imagination is, I must admit that it wouldn't have occurred to me to worry about the hole in the wall. 

Will she still say "Bye-bye, hole" when the wall is fixed? I hope she will!



Friday, October 25, 2013

What's In a Name? Pen Names, Stage Names and Alter Egos

Juliet:
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."


Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)




Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet centered around a Hatfield-and-McCoy type feud, that of the Montagues and the Capulets. What's in a name? Many actors, past and present, have reinvented themselves by changing their names. Pen names, stage names, noms de plumes - as you can see, pseudonyms abound!

Jennifer Anastassakis > Jennifer Aniston
Frederick Austerlitz > Fred Astaire
Krishna Pandit Bhanji > Ben Kingsley
Nathan Birnbaum > George Burns
Eric Marlon Bishop > Jamie Foxx
Terry Gene Bollea > Hulk Hogan
Anna Mae Bullock > Tina Turner
Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone > Madonna
Issur Danielovitch Demsky > Kirk Douglas
Elizabeth Stamatina Fey > Tina Fey
Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg > Jane Seymour
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta > Lady Gaga
Demetria Gene Guynes > Demi Moore
Frances Ethel Gumm > Judy Garland
Paul David Hewson > Bono
Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra > Meg Ryan
Anna-Maria Louisa Italiano > Anne Bancroft
Caryn Elaine Johnson > Whoopi Goldberg
Esther "Eppie" Pauline Friedman Lederer > Ann Landers
Virginia Katherine McMath > Ginger Rogers
Maurice Joseph Micklewhite > Michael Caine
Alecia Beth Moore > Pink
Dana Elaine Owens > Queen Latifah
Tara Patrick > Carmen Electra
Betty Joan Perske > Lauren Bacall
Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips and Jeanne Phillips > Abigail Van Buren > Dear Abby
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso > Pablo Picasso
Jerome Silberman > Gene Wilder
Yvette Stevens > Chaka Khan
Mark Sinclair Vincent > Vin Diesel
Brian Warner > Marilyn Manson
Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko > Natalie Wood

It should come as no surprise that authors use pen names, too - and some even have pen names for their pen names. For instance, did you know J(oanne).K(athleen). Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, also wrote a mystery under the name Robert Galbraith?

Here are more authors who use a literary alias or write under more than one name:

Peter Abrahams, aka (also known as) Spencer Quinn
Jennifer Ashley, aka Allyson James, aka Ashley Gardner
Donna Ball, aka Rebecca Flanders, Leigh Bristol
A. M. Barnard, aka Louisa May Alcott
Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, aka Pablo Neruda
Jessica Bird, aka J.R. Ward
Eric Blair, aka George Orwell
Sandra Brown, aka Erin St. Clair, aka Rachel Ryan, aka Laura Jordan
Emily Bryan, aka Mia Marlowe
John Dickson Carr, aka Carter Dickson
Heron Carvic, aka Hamilton Crane
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain
Agatha Christie, aka Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, aka Mary Westmacott
Jeff Cohen, aka E.J. Copperman
Deborah Cooke, aka Claire Delacroix
David John Moore Cornwell > John Le Carre
Wendy Corsi Staub, aka Wendy Markham
John Creasey, aka J.J. Marric
Frederick Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, aka Ellery Queen
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll
Silence Dogood, aka Benjamin Franklin
George Savage Fitz-Boodle, aka William Makepeace Thackeray
L.L. Foster, aka Lori Foster
Paul French, aka Isaac Asimov
Erle Stanley Gardner, aka A.A. Fair
Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss
Colleen Gleason, aka Joss Ware
Kim Harrison, aka Dawn Cook
Jennifer Haymore, aka Dawn Halliday
Victoria Holt, aka Jean Plaidy, aka Eleanor Hibbert, aka Philippa Carr
Elizabeth Hoyt, aka Julia Harper
Beth Kery, aka Bethany Kane
Stephen King, aka Richard Bachman
Jayne Ann Krentz, aka Jayne Castle, aka Amanda Quick
Lexi Martin, aka Becke Davis
Elizabeth Linington, aka Dell Shannon
Cathie Linz, aka Cat Devon
Victoria Lucas, aka Sylvia Plath
Kathy Lyons, aka Jade Lee
Katie MacAlister, aka Katie Maxwell
Kinley MacGregor, aka Sherrilyn Kenyon
Elizabeth MacKintosh, aka Gordon Daviot, aka Josephine Tey
Evan Hunter, aka Ed McBain, aka Richard Marsten
Glenna McReynolds, aka Tara Janzen
Barbara Mertz, aka Barbara Michaels, aka Elizabeth Peters
Howard Allen Frances O'Brien, aka Anne Rice
Edith Pargeter, aka Ellis Peters
William Sydney Porter, aka O. Henry
Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, aka Mary Stewart
Ruth Rendell, aka Barbara Vine
Lani Diane Rich, aka Lucy March
Nora Roberts, aka J.D. Robb
Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum, aka Ayn Rand
Donald E. Westlake, aka Richard Stark
Madeline Wickham, aka Sophie Kinsella

I'm a little brain dead right now - post the ones I've missed in the comments!



Sources: 
http://voices.yahoo.com/the-real-names-movie-stars-487433.html
http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2093588_2093587_2093580,00.html
http://www.businessinsider.com/here-are-the-real-names-of-tk-actors--celebrities-2012-7
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pen_name
http://www.amazon.com/Favourite-Authors-Writing-Under-Revealed/lm/R1Z22N0YV6JGGP
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/249324-authors-with-numerous-pen-names
http://www.businessinsider.com/famous-authors-who-wrote-under-pen-names-2013-7#
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/the-strange-stories-behind-famous-writers-pen-names/255619/
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/the-strange-stories-behind-famous-writers-pen-names/255619/#slide4
http://www.11points.com/Books/11_Author_Pen_Names_That_We_Thought_Were_Their_Real_Names

Sunday, July 21, 2013

You Know What I Did This Summer? (It's like last year, only more.)


You're probably thinking I got the title wrong, since there was a famous movie called I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. It was based on the book by Lois Duncan, who I've known since I was about 12 years old. Lois has always been a big influence on me, so I want to give her a shout-out. She's still writing books and movie screenplays, and she's won more awards than I can mention. Check out her website for details.

But I digress. What I did LAST summer was renovate, clear out, pack and move from the house we lived in for almost 20 years in Cincinnati. Marty and I moved to Chicago last fall, where we are enjoying our compact condo overlooking Lake Michigan. The biggest change wasn't our downsizing, though, it was the arrival of our first grandbaby last August. I started babysitting for her when her mom went back to work last October. I can hardly believe she'll celebrate her first birthday in a few weeks!



Traditionally, summer is a time for basking in the sun and relaxing. As I kid, I would plop down in the grass with a book and not come up for air until I'd read the last page. Last summer was anything BUT relaxing. This summer is even crazier. A year ago, if anyone told me all I'd be doing this summer, I would have said they were nuts. It's not really what "I" am doing this time - it's what my kids are doing.

On a Top Ten list of Most Stressful Life Events, moving house is ranked number three. Exams are ranked number five and planning a wedding number six. My son is doing all three of those things this summer. Their condo is a little cramped right now, with two adults, a baby, two teenage boys and a dog all sharing a one bedroom with sitting room. The new place, just a few blocks away, is much bigger. While going through the stress of buying a new place, my soon-to-be daughter-in-law just started a new job and my son just finished exams - he's working toward his Ph.D. On top of that, they're planning their wedding, which will take place in a few short weeks, clear across the country. No stress! 

My daughter is also moving. After almost nine years in Orlando, Florida, she's moving to Chicago to be closer to her gazillion relatives, primarily her almost one-year-old niece. She's moving with three cats, just to make things more interesting. She's moving into my son's current condo, so the timing is going to be tricky. She and the cats will stay at our place until her furniture arrives - hopefully my cranky, elderly cat will coexist with them peacefully for a few days. My daughter is cleaning and clearing out her place, saying good-bye to friends and a job she still likes and worrying about how her cats will adapt to the move. She's also applying for jobs online - since her brother is her new landlord, she wants to find work quickly. No stress there!

Sammy and Mouse, in their younger days

Charlie, chillin'
I'm going down to Orlando to help my daughter pack. The movers are taking care of most of it, but we're packing her books, her clothes and her shoes, purses and collector's dolls. I arrive Thursday afternoon. The movers are coming at 8 a.m. Friday morning. We have to get the packing done before they arrive. No stress!

Oddly enough, I've moved so many times I'm really NOT that stressed about the moves, just the timing. Marty and I have moved more times than I can count, including twice across the ocean (once each direction for me, twice from England to America for him). We've moved from Chicago to New Jersey and back, and from Chicago to Cincinnati and back. 

Living in Cincinnati almost 20 years didn't mean we were exempt from moving during those years. During that time, our daughter moved in and out of three dorms in Athens, Ohio before moving to Orlando. My son moved to one dorm and several apartments (I remember three, but there might have been more) in Chicago while he was an undergrad. 

Looking back, it seems like we've done nothing but pack and unpack for most of our lives. We've been lucky - these moves were by choice. Even the places we weren't crazy about weren't truly awful. 

As crazy as this summer is - and we've only just dipped our toes into Crazy Lake at this point - these are positive moves, positive changes. By, say, mid-October, we'll be settling into our new routine. I hope.



We'll look back on this summer and only remember the highlights - the wedding, the baby's first birthday, the excitement of Auntie Jessica moving into our building. I'm not a fan of winter, but Christmas will be fun this year, with both of my kids living in the same state for the first time in nearly a decade. 

My writing is taking a back seat right now, but I'm not entirely neglecting it. I'm working with a lovely author friend, who is helping me improve one story, and I've hired a freelance editor to help me salvage a story that's been roundly rejected in its present state. I'm excited to be writing again, but I don't regret the time spent with my grandbaby. She won't be little for long, and I don't want to miss a minute!



This post is like my life right now - kind of rambling and all over the place. I can't believe I haven't posted since April. Don't be too surprised if the leaves are falling when my next post appears. I strive to keep up with my blogs, but sometimes life happens. I'm trying to make this my motto - wish me luck!




Monday, April 8, 2013

Annette: "Now it's time to say goodbye..."

Annette Funicello was America's Hayley Mills - the movie star everybody loved. I have vague memories of watching Mickey Mouse Club when I was a kid. I mainly remember Jimmie (the grown-up), Annette and Cubby. I remember Cubby because my parents thought my brother looked a bit like him, and "Cubby" became his nickname.

I remember Annette more for her Disney movies, like Babes in Toyland, and for her guest star roles on The Wonderful World of Disney than for Mickey Mouse Club. I'm sure I watched the beach movies with Annette, Paul Anka and all, but I wasn't a huge fan.

I became a fan of Annette by a fluke - her album, "Annette: The Story of My Teens and the Sixteen Songs That Tell It" was delivered to our house either by mistake or as a promotion for a record club. I'm absolutely sure my parents didn't order it, but one way or another it became my very first album. It came out in 1962, when I was 10 years old. I played that album until it wore out or broke - I still have the very battered album cover, but the album itself is long gone.



I can remember most of the songs on the album and even after all these years, I still remember the words to a lot of them. "Tall Paul," "Pineapple Princess" and other questionable classics. They might not rank with the Beatles, but these songs still bring back happy memories. All of the songs in the YouTube links below were on that album.

R.I.P. Annette. I remember these words from the closing of the Mickey Mouse Club episodes: "Now it's time to say good-bye..." You'll be missed.



















Saturday, March 30, 2013

Remembering My Grandparents' House

Eight months ago, give or take a few days, I became a grandmother. I babysit for that little sweetheart every weekday, and I LOVE the way she smiles when she comes through the door. I don't know if it will always be this way, but right now Grandma and Grandpa's house means FUN!

Adaline meets Grandpa
Adaline has a routine with her grandpa (who is one of her favorite people in the whole world) where he takes her around the living room. She greets the gnomes on top of the bookcase, squeals at the picture of her daddy's cousins and points out "Mama, Dadadadadaaaa" and herself and Uncle Nick in another picture. She also loves a very old picture of "Becky and Tommy" although I'm certain she has no idea that little girl in the picture is her grandma!

A different picture of Tommy (now Thom) and Becky (now Becke) 


The other day we drove through Evanston, and I had trouble remembering the cross streets that led to my grandparents' house. They lived on Lawndale Avenue for about 40 years, and I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid. I have some very random memories of that house.

The house was a bungalow, with concrete steps up to the front door. The first level of steps (four, as I recall) were easy to jump from - no challenge to me or my younger brothers and sisters. Up by the front door, though, there was a concrete "shelf" considerably higher up. Jumping off of THAT to the sidewalk below definitely earned points with the siblings. I don't like heights, but I jumped from that "shelf" more times than I can count.



My grandmother came from New England, and she had definite ideas about how kids should behave. She had an attic packed to the rafters with all kinds of cool things, and yet she wouldn't let us play up there. The basement was allowed, but to my mind, it wasn't nearly as exciting. Looking back, though, I remember a few things about the basement that intrigued me:

*My grandfather had a couple ping-pong tables situated under Gro-lights, where he grew begonia cuttings in vermiculite.

*He had a bomb shelter-slash-pantry in the basement, filled with old canned goods and drying bulbs that he forced every spring, mainly narcissus and hyacinths.

*There weren't many toys around the house, but there WERE some Big Little Books that belonged to my uncle Jim, who was only ten years older than me. My grandmother suspected they were valuable, though, and didn't like us to play with them. (Which made those books all the more attractive to us!)

*I don't remember my grandfather ever building anything, but there was a workshop in the back of the basement with a work table and some interesting tools. I was fascinated with the heavy metal vice - I'm amazed I never used it as a thumb screw on my siblings!



*My uncle Jim had a bedroom sectioned off near the work table. My favorite thing about the room was a painting hanging over the bed of a big old train. The train's headlights were trained on the door, and every time I walked into the room I shivered, feeling like the train was going to jump off the wall and run me down.

*I remember my grandparent's bedroom best the way it was when I was a little kid. The curtains were patterned with big cabbage roses, a pattern I've always loved. My grandfather would pull a book down from his closet shelf and show me his silver certificate dollar bills. It seemed like hidden treasure to me! On hot summer mornings he would make us each a bowl of blueberries with milk and sugar, a treat that stills makes me think of childhood summers.



*My grandmother collected china and her table was always beautifully set. When she made pancakes, the syrup was never poured from a bottle - it was warmed up and served in a moose-shaped creamer. To me the moose = syrup, but for some reason my grandmother put vinegar in it once. I poured it on my pancakes and, embarrassed to criticize her cooking, choked them down until someone else complained. I can still remember the taste of vinegar-soaked pancakes, which is probably why I rarely eat pancakes these days.



*My uncle Dave was in the Navy when I was young, but Jim was a teenager, and he was often stuck babysitting for me. I was thrilled to be taken along on his dates, and if he was upset at being saddled with me, he didn't show it. Jim's bedrooms changed as I grew up - for awhile the middle bedroom was his, then the room on the back porch, and then the basement.

The middle bedroom held the secrets. The wallpaper was patterned like wagon wheels, and when I was supposed to be taking a nap one day I noticed Jim had written letters between the spokes of several wheels. I loved mysteries, and I assumed the letters were a secret code. They were, in a way. He'd written the names of all his girlfriends between the wheel spokes. I seem to recall earning money by hinting about the secrets of the wallpaper whenever he brought a girl to the house.

*In the living room was a grand piano my grandmother played regularly. She and my grandfather, who was a notable tenor, sang duets. They had a Lerner & Lowe songbook I memorized back in the day, although my piano playing skills never went much beyond "Heart and Soul." There was also a big white fireplace with bookcases on either side. Before I could read, I'd look for the red book with the gold crescent moon on the side, and pull it out so my grandfather could read Br'er Rabbit to me.

*My grandfather liked to have a fire going even in spring, and after my grandmother's big meals he would flop down on the carpet in front of the fire and take a nap. The first time I brought Marty - my future husband - to the house, I neglected to tell him about my grandfather's naptime habit. He was appalled when we all moved into the living room after dinner. My grandfather was sprawled on the floor and everyone just kept talking and stepping around him.

Marty gasped and caught my arm, gesturing to the floor. "Your grandfather..." he choked. "He's..." "Sleeping," I said. And then felt my face turn bright red when I realized what he'd thought. Oh well, we are a strange family. It's probably a good thing he learned that early on.

My grandfather in a hat my parents brought back from China


*I still remember the neighbors - Dr. Hedge, who had a beautiful Annabelle hydrangea at the corner of his house, the Rockefellows a few houses down, my friends Linda Smith and Jeannie Hamer.

We never did find Lawndale Avenue when we were driving around. Maybe it's for the best. It's always weird to go by the houses from our youth and see someone else living there.

Monday, March 18, 2013

This WAS Me - a Long, Long Time Ago



Sometime in my youth I was given a book called THIS IS ME, copyright 1956 by Polly Webster. While searching for some tax papers I needed the other day, I came across this book. (Normally my papers are organized, but our move last year changed all that.) I wrote in this book, according to my pencil notations, when I was 8, 10, 11 1/2, 12, 13 1/2, 14, 17, 20 and 43 years old. It's intended as a sort of diary, but I'm not surprised to see additional notations by my little sister Laura and Kerry, who was my best friend back in the day. (We're still friends now but we don't see each other very often.) 

Me at about age 8 - sadly lacking a tiara


I was interested to see the books I liked back then. (Most of these I remember, but I was surprised to see a list of classics posted in 1969, when I was 17. I have to laugh when I read the headings: "Books I read because I had to" and "But these books I read because I wanted to read them." Under that list, my comments included Mystery Books and Good Books and (my daughter will snicker) the misspelled "Island of the Blue Dolfins."

This one is funny and kind of sad. The heading of the page is "If I had a thousand dollars I would..." (Well, there are no ellipses, but - damn it - there should be!) In my innocence at age 10, I wrote: "If I had a thousand dollars I would send 1 hundred dollars of it to CARE, 1 hundred the slums in Chicago and with the rest (!!!) I would buy myself a house, new clothes, some kittens, furniture food and (gotta love it) a tiara. I would (editor needed here to insert "spend") the rest for mostly bills." The REST???

As a teenager, when I should have been more worldly-wise in economics, I still expected that a thousand dollars would pay for a year of college (clearly, my son did NOT get his math smarts from me!). In the midst of my charitable inclinations, I also included a haircut and makeup for myself, as well as CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS.


On the "When I Grow Up" page, I'm shocked to see "hair stylist" at the top of the "Things I Want to Be" (along with writer, wife, mother, social worker, saleslady, newspaper reporter, etc.). I think that was wishful thinking, because I've always found the talent for hair styling elusive. Judging by the sample of my artistic talents on the right, it's clear to see why I never became an artist. I'm surprised to see that on the list. (I'm also mystified by chef, nurse, dressmaker and architect - those must have made the list because I'd recently read books that featured heroines with those careers.)


Easy to see where my priorities were! Notice house and baby came before college and car. I was mad about the Beatles, but did eventually marry an Englishman and got my wish to go to England. (Who knew I'd eventually live there, too?) Nowadays I can afford to treat myself to dried apricots and chocolate eclairs - rare treats growing up in a family of seven - although it's a tragedy neither are quite as appealing as they were back then.


On other pages I listed things I worried about:

"If I'm really all that much taller than everyone else" (I was 5'7" in middle school, eventually reaching 5'8")
"If my dress is up in back"
"If I'm a pest"
"If I'm monopolizing the conversation" (odds are, yes!)
"If I'm going to pass math"
"If I'm going to be late to school"
"If I have food on my face"
"If my hair's messed up" (I'm going to guess "yes" on this one, too!)

My favorite things to do? According to this book:

Read
Goof off (sub-heading: Goof off with BOYS) *snicker*
Watch TV
Listen to radio (that would have been my primary source of Beatle music)
Joke
Work
Ice Skate
Swim
Eat
Sleep
Talk

My favorite colors were, surprisingly, white and pink. Favorite magazine was Ingenue, favorite books - same as now, too many to list. Favorite food: pizza. (What? Not chocolate eclairs??) Favorite place - now this is a mystery: Indiana! Favorite pastime: Reading. Then, apparently when I was trying to be cool as a teenager, "Gin & Tonic" was added to the list of favorites.

I went back and commented on my earlier comments when I was older. There is a chart to show responsibilites and I put an X under "Neat." Later I went back and wrote "You're kidding!" next to that one. Next to "I am bossy" I wrote "I DON'T KNOW" in big red letters. (It was a constant oldest-sister concern.)

Under physical talents I put Xs next to I Can Turn Somersaults, I Can Do Cartwheels and I Can Stand On My Head" but next to I Can Do Clog Dancing I wrote in all caps "WHAT IS IT???"

So that was my trip down memory lane. My son glanced through this book today and was interested that many of my early career choices came close to the mark. This phrase keeps coming up in my life lately:
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Loosely translated, it means "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

A scary thought just struck me - this book is more than fifty years old. It's an antique! Or is an antique over 100 years old? Whew - I've got a few decades before the book and I are antiquarian, in that case. Maybe I'll update it again in another 20 years or so!