Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

opens today. I do hope to see It in the theater. It should be exciting, although I am a die-hard Tim Curry/Pennywise devotee. Still, with the release of the new It, I have been thinking about the long dance I have had with this book. 

I think of my childhood, the good and bad parts. I’m seeing it through new eyes as I’ve been discovering truths and alternate versions of history. It’s been changing so much for me. I don’t like it, truthfully, but it is also refreshing. I should embrace the lightness it can offer me.

1986 was a difficult year for me, an awkward teenager. I didn’t feel comfortable at my high school, didn’t feel that I fit in or was liked that much. Reading It when it came out in the fall of that year helped me understand that so many people feel that way. And when like finds like, you form a group of friends, even the Losers.

And the adults, in the book and in my life at that point, couldn’t see what was happening. They couldn’t see my pain, my sadness, my illness. As I’ve been thinking on that concept, I’ve started to ask myself what do I not see in my sons’ worlds? What am I turning a blind eye to? I’m attempting to open my eyes to their perspectives, the very real struggles and challenges and rewards and fun of being a teenager.

I’ve thought a lot about Stan and what happens to him. How childhood events haunted him so much even in adulthood that he just couldn’t bear it.

I think of the power of a promise when you are younger. 

I think of balloons, floating, and how I still think that’s a waste of a noble gas. My sons’ quote Pennywise all the time, about floating, yet they’re not allowed to have helium balloons. Now there’s a mean childhood memory they’ll have to deal with.

I think of simplicity, brothers, birds, spiders, and lost innocence. I think of lost opportunities. I work through regrets of my childhood. 

Some books stay with you for a lifetime. You dance with them, you create a new poem together each time you revisit each other. I haven’t read It for over a decade. I couldn’t, not once I was the mother of two sons. But they’re teenagers now. I think it’s time I revisit It. And let It see where I am today.

Read Full Post »

It breaks my heart sometimes that fairy tales aren’t taught as frequently in schools anymore. These amazing stories survived oral storytelling to eventually be culled and catalogued within so many countries, each putting their own spin on them. It seems though that here in America, we have no time for them unless they have been Disneyfied. There’s nothing overtly wrong with the Disney versions, but children, even adult children in college, don’t always realize that the stories are much older than the Ears would have you think. They didn’t make them up, and they usually change them to suit their needs, image, and marketing goals. What could be more American than that?

Without learning the old versions of the fairy tales, children miss out on learning about story telling, classic characters, and in some cases, a good fright. But I digress.

I did grow up reading fairy tales. I’ve read them to my sons, and not the watered down versions. I read the Zipes translations to my boys. I’ve taught the Zipes versions in one of the courses I taught for several years. I love fairy tales, particularly the Grimm versions. And as I have been trying to work through some pretty heavy shit in my life, I finally happened upon something that is helping me start to sort it all out. It is based in the archetypes and symbolism that run rampant in fairy tales, and while I’m no Bettelheim, it’s working for me.


Imagine if you will Hansel and Gretel. They are brought into the forest by their father and mother. They are poor, and the mother’s plan is to abandon the children in the forest. Not nice, I know. But we’re moving past that to another point in the story. The first try, the children outwit their mother and drop pebbles so they can find their way home in the moonlight. But the second time they drop breadcrumbs which get eaten by sweet woodland critters. No way to get home. Wander, wander, wander until a house made of candy, gingerbread, and delectable delights. The little old lady seems harmless enough. Plus, she wants to feed poor Hansel and Gretel and help them in their time of need.

Now imagine that H&G get trapped in the moment of being helped for years, decades. They know only the reality of what is told to them by the old lady, who is really a witch (and who some scholars theorize is also the mother). They completely buy into what she says because they know no “other”. It seems pretty cool, good food, light chores, she’s occasionally crabby, but still lots of sugar. They see snapshots of her in her true form, a witch, over the years, but they aren’t completely sure. They are also wrapped up in their own lives, as children tend to be. But she’s generally kind so they trust what she says to be truth.

Well, Hansel gets out. Not in the best way, but still he’s out. Over the years, he returns for a visit or two, but now the old lady/witch knows he knows “other” stuff, “other” truths. In her head, he can’t be trusted. He might tell Gretel that the old lady’s true plan is to eventually cook and eat Gretel. A plan that he escaped.

Now imagine decades later, Gretel escapes. She starts learning “other” stuff, “other” truths. Imagine the shock, imagine discovering that the old lady/witch was feeding her lies along with the candy for all those many years. Imagine her reconnecting with her brother, her family, and discovering the “other” life she could have had. How long would it take each of them to resolve all this new information? How long would it take to quell the “what if” questions and move forward from bitterness, anger, and regret for what could have been?

Hansel and Gretel would have two completely distinct realities that they had lived in. The one reality, the one of the old lady/witch, would be a false reality within the true reality. The strength of which was only ever as strong as the gingerbread house. Once they got out of there, the false reality starts to crumble, disintegrate. But so much damage was already done. Their sense of being and sense of value would be totally skewed. It would shape their perspectives for the rest of their lives. Each would have to work very hard to remember that not everyone is like the old lady. They can trust, they can love. They can celebrate their successes, learn from their mistakes, and lean on the rest of their family for support. Family who never gave up hope, always prayed to see them again, and always held love in their hearts for Hansel and Gretel.

Read Full Post »

Sadness, heartache, grief, worry, concern, some more sadness, frustration, anger, are all emotions and feelings I have had as a parent.  I worry about my sons everyday and everyday they find new ways to give me attitude.They are experts at that now and deliver it with such finesse they should offer training workshops on it for other kids.  They always seem to know just how to dig in and make my heart weep just a little bit.  The angry “I know, Mom” response is probably my favorite because it’s rife with the conflict they are feeling.  They do know I am right, and they hate it.  They do know that they know better, and they hate that probably more than they hate me being right.  They get so frustrated that they forgot to make the better choice again.

So I pray every morning on the way to work that they will have good experiences at school each day.  They will make the better choice when facing tricky situations.  They will remember that they are 11 and 9 and should be having fun in their childhoods and not take it too seriously.

They don’t call me anymore after school.  They are too big for that.  Which means when I get home around 6:15 we get to have the conflict about homework, again.  I wish I could make them have the realization that they could have their homework done by 4:30 if they choose to, but I can’t.  So that means resistance when I get home since I want it completed and they want to keep riding their razor ripstiks.  Only one of us can win this battle, and it usually is me, and this is a battle to win.  Smaller ones I let go because the adage is true, you have to choose your battles.

Because at the end of the day, when they are asleep in their beds, and you can still see the baby inside the boy, parenting sucks a little more love into your heart, and it sucks a little more breath away as you listen to them breathe.  Parenting sucks a little bit of cynicism out of your system every day as you listen to their conversations, without them knowing because jeez, Mom, you wouldn’t understand, and you hear the optimism coming from their minds and souls.  It sucks a little bit of your learned prejudices and behaviors out of your system as you remember that these are learned aspects of life.  It sucks a little bit of the tiredness you feel after working all week and infuses you with energy to see their smiles when they wake up in the morning, thinking of the important things in life: playing with Legos, riding a skateboard, staring at the clouds, making your cat dance, picking a flavor of ice cream at White Dotte, arguing who is better, Iron Man or Spiderman, and creating magical treasures using only glue, yarn, and popsicle sticks.  These are some of the secrets they don’t tell you about parenting.

That and the amazingly high number of times you will hear the word “poop” in a day.

Read Full Post »

One of my favorite parts of the full body of work by Uncle Stevie is his ability to intertwine his stories together.  If you read Apt Pupil, the Nazi’s accountant is a fancy banker named Andy Dufrense before he ended up in Shawshank.  There are the many stories that take place in Castle Rock.   A fictional town that has had its share of bad luck.  To me it’s fun because I’m in on the joke, so to speak.  I get the cross-references and it usually makes me recall another character, event, or emotional response to his writing from the past that makes me smile, or grimace as the case may be.  And as I’ve written before (I think), Uncle Stevie’s books help me to sleep.  I feel comforted knowing my lot in life is not as bad as the characters.  It soothes me.  Gives me perspective.

I got 11/22/63 for Christmas.  Big bulking book from dear Stephen King.  I opted not to put this one into the reserves.  My reserves are select titles by Uncle Stevie that are unread for the day when the man finally does stop putting pen to paper.  I want to still have a “new” King book to read.  But for whatever reason 11/22/63 made it into the reading pile.  It’s not a very deep pile as I am realistic about how much time I have for reading.

The past few Sundays I have taken the book with me and read while the boys were having their swim lessons.  I’ll be honest-it took a few tries to get hooked.  What I wonder at this exact moment is did I take a while to get hooked because I was keeping an eye on my sons in the pool or because I felt the fear the book would create?

For me, there was something uneasy about the book from the get-go.  Obviously from the cover it involved changing the events of that historic day in Dallas.  I don’t know how that turns out by the way.  Because tonight I got to page 129 and was stopped dead in my tracks.  Or was it eyeballs?  Stopped dead in my eyeballs?  Even now as I checked the book to see the page number I touched it as if I would be burned.

Uncle Stevie wrote about Georgie Denbrough on page 129.  He wrote about Pennywise.  I have a picture of Tim Curry as Pennywise on my desk that one of my students gave me.  It’s of Pennywise  photoshopped into the movie for Bring It On.  You see the humor, I’m sure.  Made me laugh my ass off when I first saw it.  I enjoyed the movie version of It.  Not stellar but it doesn’t hurt to watch on a Saturday afternoon.  I love the cast, but the problem with trying to put It on film is the terror is too deep (in my humble opinion) to capture.  So while I like the movie, the book is what scared the crap out of me and continues to in so many ways.

I connected to this book instantly.  I could have joined the Losers club easily.  Probably could have been a charter member.  I held onto my faith in the belief system of childhood for a very long time.  Truth be told, I still have more of a childlike belief system than an adult one.  I love this book and hate this book.  The magic of childhood and the horror of childhood vividly live in the characters with such ease.  I see myself reflected in each of the characters.  I see myself reflected in the words typed on the many, many pages.  I have read this book several times but the most recent time I read it happened over a decade ago.  I don’t know when I will reread it.  I know I will, but I don’t know when.  Once I gave birth to my second son I knew it would be quite a long time till I could read It again.  When their childhoods are over and safely tucked away in baby books and scrapbooks, I’ll be able to read It again.  That was the plan.  I wouldn’t have to interact too closely with the horrors of It for another decade.

Then Uncle Stevie wrote about Georgie in 11/22/63.  I couldn’t even finish the sentence I was reading.  The story of It came flooding back into my mind, heart, and soul so quickly, it was, if you’ll pardon the expression, a watershed moment.  I started shaking as all the events in that book flooded my mind at one time.  I saw it coming with the first mention of the town of Derry, but thought there’s no way he could really intertwine it with any detail.  I tried to recall details, like names or places, but all I could picture were the Barrens and the standpipe.  I thought no biggie, a few passing mentions of Derry.   But I was wrong.  I couldn’t even finish the sentence.

I was sitting there on my couch, shaking, crying, trying to catch my breath because Uncle Stevie knocked the wind out of me.  After a few minutes, I walked down the hall, turned on the light with the pretty frosted glass dome, and with a sense of fear and doom went in to check on my sons.  Both sleeping soundly in the shark bedroom, both audibly breathing that deep and constant breathing of a sleep not filled with worry or fear.  I still put my hand on each boy’s chest to feel the steady rise and fall of his lungs filling with and emptying of air.

How does this man do it?  How does he summon up fear so readily in so many people?  I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight.  I’m not being facetious.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to fall asleep.  Each time I close my eyes, I see It.  In all of its forms.  I see Georgie, Bill, and Bev.  The pharmacist-ooh, maybe that’s why I don’t care for pharmacists. Oh, gentle reader, if I could convey how frightened this man made me this evening I too would make my living putting pen to paper.

I want to know how the book ends-please don’t be an ass and write it in a comment.  I will finish 11/22/63.  But it will have to wait until it’s not dark.  And when I can hear my boys playing the whole time.  I don’t even want to touch the book to put it back in the Stephen King bookshelves.  Yes, he has his own private bookshelves in my house.

Georgie and his paper boat.  The rain.  The sewer.  We all float down here.  I didn’t know until this evening how deeply It had worked it’s way into my being.  I love that about books, a story’s ability to infiltrate your memory and linger with you the rest of your life.  The stories pop up into your daily existence usually when you least expect it, as those types of things are wont to do.  As I probably wrote before, to paraphrase Uncle Stevie from an old interview (or foreword or afterword), everyone has a filter in their brain that sorts through each day’s events.  Certain things fall through and others are too big to fit through the holes of the sieve.  The scary stuff stays in his brain so that’s what he writes about in his stories.  And I love to read the scary stuff so it’s been a long relationship for the two of us.  I just couldn’t have guessed how large It was to allow it to linger so closely to my retrievable memory.  To be able to be pulled forth in a violent manner after reading only a few sentences describing some key events in the history of Derry.

I need to know what happens next.  But during the day.  With the sun shining.  Happily I have some vacation time this week into next.  Maybe one of the days will be sunny.  I can hole up in my room, with the covers wrapped around me, and read where the storyteller wants to take me.

Read Full Post »

Harrison was sick today with the world’s mildest stomach bug.  We kept him home from school and I went to work a bit late so I could cuddle with him.  Thursdays are one of my late days and  he would be asleep by the time I got home, so I called in to let my boss know I was going to tend to my sick little guy.  Then we cuddled on the couch and I rubbed his back.  The time flew far too quickly and I had to leave.  As we were saying goodbye, my little guy demonstrated how much he has grown up since I started this job.

Do you know the book The Kissing Hand?  Harrison and I have our own version of The Kissing Hand.  We kiss two fingers and link them.  He saw this is what Scott and I do, so Harrison adopted it as our kissing hand.  Hamilton and I do the classic Kissing Hand, but Harrison individualizes himself from his big bro.  Today he initiated it.  First time.  Brought tears to my overly sentimental eyes.

Then Harrison brought me to a full sob.  He said, “Mom, I’ll wave to you from the window.  Like I did when I was three, remember?”  Oh, yes I do remember.  He waved from the living room window to me in the car every morning after I started working outside of the house full-time.  I don’t know who needed that ritual more-probably me.  Another difference today-Harrison didn’t need the step stool to see out the window.

I love that he remembers.  It’s a unique memory for him, separate from his brother’s memories.  We try to give each of our sons unique experiences peppered into their shared childhood together.  They are best friends, greatest enemies, and thick as thieves.  Their loyalty to each other is vast and deep.  I am so thankful to watch their childhood-to step outside on occasion and look inside to see what is important to them, the worlds they’ve created, and the ways they show each other their love.

Read Full Post »