April 19, 2013
"Well," I begin, "some people think that dinosaurs were killed off by an asteroid."
"What's an asteroid?"
"It's like a giant rock from outer space."
She accepts the explanation, but I wonder if I've scared her. "Don't worry," I say, "that happened a long, long time ago. We are safe."
"It won't happen again?"
I hate not being honest, but I tell her that I'm absolutely positive it won't happen again.
She nods okay.
As adults it's our job to protect children and to preserve their innocence. Sometimes that includes lying.
We lie about the fun things: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and The Tooth Fairy.
We lie about reality: I'm not crying. I just got something in my eye.
We lie about our uncertainty: There are no more asteroids. They died off with the dinosaurs.
We lie about life: If you stay in school and work hard you will be able to do anything you want
We lie about death: Goldie went to live with other dogs on a farm. He is very happy there.
I'm starting to notice these things because she asks me the other day while I'm taking her to the potty if I will always tell her the truth? She's bright for her age and has figured out that adults are sometimes trying to pull the wool over her eyes, even if their intentions are good.
I swallow, wondering how to answer. I could be really truthful and say 'yes, unless lying is for your protection or to keep your parents from getting upset.' Instead I respond simply, "yes, I will always tell you the truth."
She uses her new found power right away. "What's in the boy's bathroom and why can't girls go in there?"
"Um, potties are in the boy's bathroom and girls can't go in there because there's a 'no girls allowed' rule."
"I know," she says impatiently. "But why?"
She looks at me as if she's put me in check. I hedge. "What do you think?"
"Well," she rolls her eyes to the side, "my friend says she knows."
"Yes, she says its because the boy's bathroom is haunted and girls are more afraid of ghosts. Is that true?"
As a step-mother my role is nebulous; I'm some kind of strange hybrid between parent and friend. I think about my options: It's not my place to tell her about the differences between boys and girls. It's also not my place to agree that the bathroom could be haunted.
I kneel down beside her. "That's an interesting idea your friend has. What do you believe?"
She puts a finger to her chin, considering. "Well, I want to believe the bathroom is haunted. That's just more fun."
"It does sound more fun."
"Then let's do it. Let's believe that together." She takes my hand and leads me back to her daddy who is waiting for us in our booth.
"What did you ladies talk about?" my husband asks. My step-daughter and I share a secret smile.
"Just girl talk," I say.
"Yeah, girl talk," she echoes back.
My step-daughter pulls out her dolls. The small doll begins asking the big doll questions: Why are some people mean? Are monsters real? Where does the tooth fairy live?
The big doll replies, "what do you think?"
And the small doll answers back, a long happy stream of consciousness. The small doll has lots of ideas about the world and the big doll listens.
Someday, I may have to keep my promise to always tell the truth, but for now I think I'm safe. For now, I'll just be the one who has her examine the world. Through that, the truth will come.
April 15, 2013
I returned home one night to find my husband sitting in the living room, leaned in close to the TV. As I walked inside my husband quickly tapped a button on the remote and handed me the controller.
"What are you doing?" I asked, suspicious.
"Just turning it to one of the shows I know you like," he said, kissing me on the forehead before heading downstairs to his man cave.
Before he could make it down the staircase I hit the LAST button on our remote. Just minutes before he had been viewing a show called The Wild Wives of Africa.
"You perv!" I said, following him.
"What? How am I a perv?"
"The second I leave the house you're scanning the TV looking for something pervy to watch. I know you didn't watch The Wild Wives of Africa by mistake."
"I'm not a perv and I didn't watch it."
"No. It was horrible. Not nearly as good as the title. It's about cheetahs who protect their young. And it was on the Animal Planet network." He shuddered. "Not a wild woman in sight."
I sighed and stomped upstairs.
This wasn't the first time I had come home to find 'questionable' programming on our TV. Once I returned to see that he had been watching a movie called Passion in the Desert, a movie advertised as as a 'gripping and erotic tale of forbidden love'. I watched the movie for several minutes, confused because there were no women in the movie. Finally, I discovered the object of the protagonist's affection: a large, female lion.
"Really?" I demanded. "You're watching movies about men who fall in love with lions?"
"Is that what that was about? I got bored after thirty minutes of watching the guy run around the desert looking for water." I continued to stare at him, dumbfounded. "What can I say?" he added. "The title had promise." He then went on to inform me that Wild Things was a 'cinematic masterpiece' and Bodacious Babes Behind Bars a 'gripping documentary', and, as luck would have it, both were on tonight.
"Perhaps I'm being too hard on him," I thought, after several hours of not speaking to him. I mean, it could be worse. I was reminded of a friend whose computer was so infected with viruses after her husband's 'internet activities' that they had to throw the whole computer away and buy a new one. The worst I had ever seen on my own husband's monitor was a bikini clad picture of Pheobe Cates taken in the 1980's. Maybe things weren't so bad.
Besides," he informed me one evening as we were flipping through channels, "sexy TV can be good for both people in the marriage." He found a channel airing the male gymnasts of the Summer Olympics because he knew I thought they were cute. He then dimmed the lights, lit some candles, and poured me a glass of wine. I almost laughed at the absurdity of what he thought I found sexy, but I shrugged, swilled down the wine, and thought 'what the hell?'
Maybe I will never understand his desire to watch Wives in Thigh Highs, but I guess I don't need to. It's harmless, and fairly (fairly) innocent. Though I don't mind an occasional Channing Tatum flick, I don't schedule my life around them. I guess men are just more visual.
Who am I to criticize anyway? I have my own version of 'sexy time,' it just happens to be found in the lines of a really good book.
"What's that?" my husband asks, pointing to my copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover.
"Oh, just a book about the class struggles in England shortly after the first World War."
"Uh-huh. Whose a perv now?" He pours me wine.
"It's not perverted if it's a classic," I retort, taking the glass.
"Exactly!" he replies, joining me on the couch and flipping on the TV. "And good timing on your epiphany. One of greatest classics of all time is about to start: Wild Things Two. We can watch it together and then you can read to me from your book."
And we did; and a new tradition has been born.
April 8, 2013
It was a scary feeling typing out the final words: The End (for the second time) and my fingers hovered above the keys for a minute or two, not quite pushing the buttons. On my first draft those two words are freeing but on my second draft, they are downright frightening. The story line is really finished. Sure I can polish it up, but I will forever after be a visitor to this fictional world, no longer it’s god.
After writing The End (for the second time) I put my laptop away and vowed not to write anything novel related for an entire week, a mental health holiday so to speak. I got as far as unplugging it before I panicked. An entire week? What was I going to do?
The cool part of me that used to come out in my pre-novel writing days stepped forward, handing me a whole list of things to occupy my time: TV, video games, shopping, yoga class, or possibly even *gulp* read someone else’s novel. There were other things to do besides writing books, and I actually had the time to do them.
But deep inside I was terrified. There was a lot of empty space between now and next Monday. The world had moved on while I was writing my book. I wasn’t sure I could catch up.
I looked out the window. The sun was shining. It was spring. When did that happen?
I could do this, I thought. There is a world out there and I can live in it again. And when I return I will clean up my prose, send the manuscript to my editor and figure what to do with my life next.
I’m guessing it will involve writing the first draft of another novel. And then the second.
(by April Aasheim...originally published at TIE http://networkedblogs.com/JYK0b)
April 1, 2013
(Note: This piece differs in content and tone from most of the other things I write in this blog. I wrote this five years ago but never published it due to the sensitive nature of the subject. It is not written as a dig at my mother but rather a snapshot of what I was going through during the year that followed my father's death).
"Remember this?" Her eyes mist over as she holds up a picture of a French village, ripped from an old calendar. The picture once had a frame and hung on her wall. It was ugly then and uglier now, crinkled and torn at the edges, but I’m a dutiful daughter. I smile and nod.
"What do you mean, what will I do with this stuff? Keep it!" She clutches an old Tupperware bowl she has just unearthed to her chest. "I'm too old to start over now."
My heart softens. This is her life. All that she owns. Every ounce of self-worth she still possesses is neatly bundled up in boxes I helped her gather from behind Safeway. It's junk. All of it. But it's her junk.
"My therapist will be happy," she continues. "Going to storage and getting all this stuff back is a big step in my grief recovery."
My toddler niece, born the day of my father's funeral, enters the room and removes a photo from a carton. "Look!" mom says, a smile spreading across her face. "She found a picture of your dad. She knows her grandpa." She has always been convinced that my niece is the reincarnation of my dead father. This cements her theory. She pulls my niece onto her lap and strokes her hair.
I smile and nod.
"I never knew being a pack rat was a sign of mental illness," my mother sighs. This was a new confession coming from her lips.
She laughs. "Maybe both!" She is giddy. She used to deny she had a problem but lately she has begun to relish her craziness, to luxuriate in it like one would a hot bath. It defines her. It gives her purpose. But she will only accept it in the context of my father's death. He caused it. Before that, she insists, she was perfectly normal.
"My psychiatrist told me there aren’t enough years left in my life to cure me." She grins like she has just won a game. "So he loads me up on pills now. I can't believe your father's death would do that to me."
I smile and nod.
"But I think my psychiatrist is just going through a mid-life crisis and hates all women," mother continues. "He's probably about forty-five. You know how men are when they get that age? Crazy, all of them.”
‘Yes, mother,’ I want to say. ‘All your problems are related to my father's death and by men suffering mid-life problems. Your sanity, or lack thereof, rests completely with the men around you who have oppressed you in one form or another. Either by dying and leaving you behind, by running off with your mother's best friend in your formative years, or by labeling you a nut so far gone there isn’t enough time left on this earth to cure you."
But I don't.
I just smile and nod.