violetcheetah: (chess)
Some children,
in the night,
call to their parents
to protect them from
the monster in the closet.

Some children,
in the night,
open the closet door
and hope the monster inside
will protect them.

violetcheetah: (Default)
[I wrote this in June. I meant to edit it to be more coherent before posting it, but that's not going to happen, so I'm posting it as-is.]

I was six, or maybe seven; it was after the library opened, but before I was reading chapter books. I'd checked out a book by Richard Scarry; he drew a world where the town was populated by animals doing people-things: perhaps the postman was a dog dressed in a postman's pants and shirt, the nurse was a cat with a smock and white cap. They had a playset at the library, all the characters and roads and buildings of the town, and I loved them with the greed and longing and desire of a six-year-old, almost as much as I loved books. And this book was enormous; not thick, but maybe 12 by 15 inches, and when you are six, bigger is better, bigger is grown-up.

I sat on my mother's lap while she read it to me. I was old enough to read, had been for years, but I wanted her voice behind my ear, her hand turning the pages; I wanted her there to see things I pointed out in the pictures that I hadn't noticed the first dozen times, so I could share that magic of discovery and feel it again. We sat on "her" side of the couch, under the lamp. My father, as always, sat on the other side of the couch. Often he watched TV as we read, and I was used to tuning out the noise and hearing only my mother. Tonight the TV was probably on, but I couldn't hear it, because my father was drunk, and he was yelling.

He was mainly yelling at my mother. He usually directed everything at her, because when he was drunk, I was invisible. He might threaten to burn down the house "with all of you in it," but he wasn't talking to me; I was just eavesdropping. The words weren't meant for me, because I wasn't there, and if I'd said something, or made a noise — even whimpering — I instinctively knew he would be surprised to see me there and also angry that I was listening in on something not intended for me. So I sat on my mother's lap, not moving, not being seen by him, while she read to me as if his screaming was the everynight drone of the TV. He did not know I was there. She did not know I was there, either; she read the book to my body, as if my mind inside were the same as every other night. She read as if I could hear her, as if I didn't hear my father, or smell his fermented breath, or comprehend his words. She read as she would have if I were looking at the pictures, discovering new things, pointing out those discoveries. The lack of my presence was not important. I knew this. The important thing — the only important thing — was that the stageplay go on, that my body stay in her lap until the back cover closed, without acknowledging the audience of one (my father), even as he climbed on stage and stood screaming at us. Because…

I was too young to know sci-fi, or fantasy, to know of parallel universes or overlapping worlds or ghosts that inhabit the same room as the living without ever being seen — and more importantly, without being able to touch the living. But he was a ghost screaming at my mother, apparently unheard. And I knew that was the magic spell. I was sure that, as long as he didn't think she heard him, he couldn't act. I don't think I knew for sure if she couldn't actually hear him or was just pretending, but I didn't think about it because it didn't matter; what matter was that he -thought- she didn't hear him. As long as he thought she didn't hear him, he couldn't act, couldn't do the things he was threatening. And I needed — from my own, third, universe that was not the same as either of theirs — to both not distract her from her not-awareness, and to not let him see -me- be aware of him. So I was still. My body didn't move, and my mind didn't move, not until the book was closed and my body could exit the stage. I don't remember that part, the closing of the book and my leaving. But I must have done it, and done it well, because he did not burn down the house that night or shoot us in our beds.
violetcheetah: (Default)
[The workshop prompt was to write about the worst insult from your childhood.]


"You're pretty," she said. I was stunned. I was 8, and I was not pretty. I knew I was not pretty, and no one ever pretended. People said, "You have such pretty long hair," or "You look just like your Aunt Jean," and she had pretty hair, and she was nice to me and didn't try to kiss me when she visited so I liked her and I was happy to look like her, but she was not pretty. But now, in between reading time and math time, Kim looked at me as if just noticing something and said, "You're pretty." And I knew, I knew there was a hook inside the worm, and it wasn't even that I wanted the worm, but I didn't know how to say no, I didn't have an answer that wasn't "...thank you..." because I was eight and I didn't yet understand how to declare someone full of shit, to just say, "Okay, what are you playing at?" or "Ha ha, what's the punchline?" So I froze in dread and said "Thanks," and she said, "Pretty ugly, pretty stupid, and pretty apt to stay that way."

I'd know it was coming, not exactly what but that some insult was coming, and she was my friend, at least sometimes, and I knew, I knew she wasn't being mean, she didn't mean the insult any more than she meant the compliment, I knew, and I couldn't stop the burning heat in my eyes from bringing tears any more than I could have if I'd been slapped. I just stood still frozen, looking over her shoulder and not directly at her, and I willed my stupid eyes to listen to reason, and I couldn't even look away so she wouldn't see the tears fall. Frozen, slow: stupid. I don't remember thinking about the ugly part, that didn't matter, but I was an idiot, a baby, not in control of my own body, the water leaking from my eyes no different than wetting my pants.

Even looking past her shoulder, I could see the expression on her face when she realized what she'd done, that mix of shame and physical pain you feel when you hurt someone you didn't want to hurt, and I wanted to say I was sorry for not taking the joke, for making her feel like crap, it wasn't her fault I was a big baby. She said, "Hey, I didn't mean it." And I shrugged as if I wasn't crying and said, "Yeah, I know," and went to the book corner to read until math.

violetcheetah: (iris)
When I was six, I was playing near our neighbor's horse pasture when I saw the most beautiful flower I'd ever seen just on the other side of the fence.  It seemed huge, and to me incredibly exotic.  We didn't have flowers in the yard, so my experience was mainly with dandelions, daisies, black-eyes susans, and the occasional rose.  It smelled heavenly: light and sunny, not overpowering like a rose.  I ran to tell my mother; when I said it was purple, she first thought I meant a thistle and told me not to prick myself.  But I dragged her away from making dinner to see it, and she said, "Oh yeah, those were growing by the house when we moved in."  Apparently my father didn't want to mow around them or something, so he dug them up and tossed them into the field, out of his way.  There they had taken root again, probably multiplied until they were too crowded to bloom for the most part, and finally that year created one bloom, like an SOS, which I received.

My brother, a wise 13, was old enough to know what they were called and to have some idea how divide the rhizomes, so he spaced them out along the fence row, every five feet or so.  Over the years, they thrived so much they were re-divided many times, finally planted every couple of feet along the entire fence row along one side of an acre, however long that is.  I went back during college, sometime in the mid-90s, and dug up a bunch to pack in my suitcase and plant up here in Massachusetts.  Some might be outside my old apartment in Brighton; others are presumably still growing in the yard at the duplex I lived in in Quincy.  They multiply so quickly there was no reason to dig up each and every one when I moved.

Over the years, I've acquired other varieties: some I've bought, some I've dug up from a friend's house.  They are all bigger and showier, in fancier colors.  Some have such large flowers that they have to be staked or they fall over under their own weight.  Not these.  The pale petals flop like bunny ears, making me think of lace handkerchiefs, quaint and delicate.  They bloom earlier than the others, and they have more scent, though not enough to be cloying; you have to bend close to smell it.

Walking home last week, I noticed that the same type of iris is growing outside my condo building, which was built about the same time as the house I grew up in in the late '40s.  I wonder how many World War II vets and their wives moved into new homes, with help from the first GI Bill, and planted the same irises, and whether they were imagining them still blooming some 65 years later.

My Rapture

May. 20th, 2011 10:14 pm
violetcheetah: (Default)
I apparently planned to write this on March 9 — or at least that's when I named and saved the blank Word file — which is before I heard about Harold Camping, so the timing is entirely coincidental.

Read more... )


violetcheetah: (Default)
Violet Wilson

October 2016



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