Childhood

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The dollhouse

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

When I was 5 years old, my grandpa built me a dollhouse. Even as a little girl, I remember being amazed at the intricate bricks that formed the two-story-high walls and the individual shingles that topped the roof. The front side had a tiny front door which, if you pulled on the tiny handle, opened on tiny hinges. A staircase with a delicate railing connected the two floors, and each of the 5 rooms was painted a different color. I arranged the house with little furniture handmade by my grandpa, and filled it with anthropomorphic animal figurines called Sylvanian Families.

It’s impossible to count how many hours I spent playing with this dollhouse. It’s one of the main icons of my childhood.

But as the years went on, I became less and less interested in make believe. As is the case with many little girls, my focus turned first to horses, and then to boys – and before I knew it, I was off to college. I always hoped that one day, I would give the dollhouse to my own kids – but until then it sat untouched, usually under a sheet in one basement or another.

In the 13 years since I graduated high school, I’ve moved 18 times. This Saturday, I will move a 19th – this time to a place with very limited storage. This has made me reevaluate just about everything I own, and it’s led to the realization that it doesn’t make sense for me to hold onto the dollhouse. I can’t keep moving it from place to place and finding a spot to keep it, only to let it gather dust – so tonight, I decided to give it to some dear friends who have daughters.

Despite my hope to give it to children of my own one day, it was time to let it go – because it’s okay if there’s a gap between the life you thought you’d be living and the life that you actually have.

And when you find the courage to release your grip on the thing you thought was so important, you might just find that the bitter is overpowered by the sweet.

How to cut up a pineapple

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

I’ve known Roommate Hannah since childhood. In fact, here’s a picture of her and me from the days of yore.

That’s us at ages 10 and 15. This was around the time that Hannah thought that “Les Miserables” was, in fact, “Lame is Rob” – which is basically the best thing I have ever heard.

Anyway, Hannah is good at all sorts of things that I’m not good at – like sports and computers and wearing Nike shoes. She also knows how to cut up a pineapple – and yesterday, I made her teach me how.

Step 1: Cut off the top. Those leaves are spiky. Don’t bleed all over the fruit.

Step 2: Cut off the bottom. Now it should be shaped like a barrel. If it’s not shaped like a barrel, then you didn’t cut off the top and the bottom correctly and you probably don’t deserve to hold a knife.

Step 3: Cut the barrel in half, length-wise. Top to bottom. Longitudely, not latitudely.

Step 4: Cut the two halves in half again. Count up all of your halves – you should have four. Yes, four halves make a whole and never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Step 5: It’s time to cut off the core. The only reason you would want to save the core is if you wanted to make a smoothie or if you are a giraffe. Otherwise, you are not allowed to keep it.

Step 6: Cut the four halves in half again. Now you will have eight, and fine, I’ll stop calling them “halves.”

I will call them “boats” instead.

Step 7: Take each boat and slice the flesh (HELLO, CLARICE) into… you know, slices. But don’t cut all the way through the rind, because look at Step 8.

Step 8: Cut off the rind.

Voila – now you have perfect little pineapple pieces – and, in my case, 15 years on the Annie that was pictured earlier in this post.  How has half a lifetime gone so quickly?

Maybe the better question is, how have almost 30 years passed without me ever having to cut up a pineapple?

Too good to keep to myself

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I bring you this special weekend blog scrap just to announce that my brother used to think the phrase was “throw kosh into the wind.”

Tremendous!

Trying for triceps

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I have negative triceps. There’s, like, nothing there. If my arms were outerspace, there would be a black hole where my triceps are supposed to be.

Haha, PHYSICS JOKE!!! Science is sooooo funny.

I am 3 1/2 years older than my sister Becca, so when I was 15 and basically the same size I am now (massive), she was 11 and scrawny. She is still incredibly skinny – she turns sideways and disappears, just like Olive Oyl – and can wear clothes that the cool kids wear (skinny jeans, tiny dresses with leggings underneath, various Forever 21 garb), while I and my thighs are banished to more frumpy sensible attire.

I am not bitter. Then again, here is a picture of me as a child:

ap2

I have always had those thighs and a scowl.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that when I was a full-grown 15-year old and Becca was her scraggly 11-year old self, she could beat me in arm wresting.

I have never had any upper-body strength. But I want that to change, because what if one day, I find myself dangling off a canyon edge? A single pull-up could save my life. And if that’s the case, it’s time to take action.

Take action to get action. That’s always been my motto.

Several times each week, I see the King of the Weight Room at the gym. You know exactly who I’m talking about: Stallone in “Cliffhanger.” The man who is bursting out of his muscle shirt. The guy whose neck is just a direct path from his ear to his collarbone.

This man is to triceps as Hunter Lane is to quads.

In other words, I have found my new trainer.

He just doesn’t know it.

YET.

Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Remember that time in 4th grade when my class had a contest to see who could best sing Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”?

I suppose I haven’t mentioned it yet.

Any willing participant had a chance to stand in front of the class with the Walkman headphones on and sing along with Bryan, to the cheers or jeers of her peers.

This was obviously very awkward.  First of all, whoever was singing was the only one who could hear the track; to the 30 other people in the room, all they were hearing was an unaccompanied, nervous, pre-adolescent warble.  Secondly, we were 10-years old.  The most passionate thing I could think of was footsy.  However, as I remember vividly, this didn’t stop one girl from closing her eyes and feigning Whitney Houston.

Yeaaaah, I’d fight for you… [fist pump]

To me, Bryan Adams remained frozen in memory, frozen in time, in that Pomona Elementary classroom – that is, until last year when my friend Duane reintroduced me.

Oh, friends.  What I had been MISSING OUT ON all those years.

Duane knows me well enough to know that he would need to be sneaky, so he started by sending me a few songs that our guy Bry had written with Gretchen Peters – one of my favorite writers in the history of the universe (remember, I wrote about her here).  From the first tentative listen to those tracks, all doubt was blown away:

Bryan Adams is where it’s at.  His songs are fantastic.

I have a short list of people that I have to see in concert someday – and in addition to Patty Griffin (which will FINALLY happen at the end of this month), Shania Twain, and Phil Collins, Bryan Adams has earned his place.

And I just felt like declaring it to the world.

Indicative of things to come

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

One time, when I was 5, we lived next door to a girl my age.  Her grandparents gave her a Popple.  I wanted it so badly that I asserted my Alpha Girl status, and she gave it to me.

A few days later when her grandparents found out she gave it away, they sent her to our house to reclaim it.  As she was carrying it home, I ran down the hallway and, with a flying leap, tackled her to the ground.

My family brings up this story frequently.

Steered in a positive direction

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

For as much as I love cheese – which, trust me, my devotion is infinite and everlasting – I rarely eat grilled cheese.  Chalk it up to just another childhood overdose – I never eat peanut butter & jelly, either.  Grilled cheese lost its appeal before Clinton took office.

Which is why it was shocking that yesterday, I had the chance to eat a grilled cheese for lunch – and I jumped at it.  Like, I literally sprung out of my chair and made a beeline for the kitchen.  See, my co-worker Delaney is a dazzling maker-of-all-foods, and she brought a griddle!  To work!  To make grilled cheeses!  And if this woman makes something, it is a guaran-freaking-tee that I will love it.

I’m serious.  Remember how Ritz Cracker Cheese Sandwiches are my secret shame?  Delaney has actually taken these bite-sized wonders and made them into a gourmet snack.  She shakes some sort of herby goodness all over them, and I swear, they could be served to the Queen of England.

After experiencing this woman’s brilliance yesterday, I can positively say that I am back in the saddle when it comes to grilled cheese.  She has renewed my hope, my faith, my confidence in the sandwich.  Thank you, Delaney, for pointing me toward the truth.

Now, to make my own.  I’m looking for grilled cheese tips, if anyone has any…

Halcyon gone wrong

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

You know how sometimes, a long-forgotten memory will make its way to the surface for no apparent reason?  All of a sudden, the scene is playing in your mind – like a film projector on an old bed sheet, nostalgic home video remembrances of life before you knew the things you know now.

The other day, that was happening for me.  I was seeing our Dalmatian, Princess, and games on what must have been the original Apple computer, and Otter Pops from the freezer in the garage, and the orange tree in our old backyard, and trips to the Dairy Queen on our bikes, and summer nights in the backyard, and getting beaten up by the deaf girl in 1st grade…

WAIT A SECOND.

It totally threw a wrench in my gears, a hitch in my giddy-up.  I was beaten up?  In 1st grade?  By the deaf girl?

(Let it be known that these days, I would absolutely, 100% use the term “hearing impaired.”  But remember, I am being transported back to 1989, when I didn’t know anything about being politically correct.  I also didn’t know that you shouldn’t swallow toothpaste – but I digress.)

The last time I checked, I do not have multiple personalities… yet… and so I’m not quite sure how this memory got repressed for all these years only to surface two decades later.  But just like that, in the middle of my work-day, I was transported back to recess in 1st grade, on the playground at Oster Elementary, scared every single day that the deaf girl from 2nd grade was going to beat me up again.

She had pigtails.  She had hearing aids.  And she had it out for me.

I never got up the nerve to tell anyone.  I just went on being afraid every day.  And I don’t know that I’ve ever been so relieved as the day when a playground aid caught the little shrew in the act, and made sure she never touched me again.

Hey, if I was forced to re-live this story, then you can be sure that I would subject you to it, too.  What else is a blog audience for?

And two more nubbins:
–    I fly to Seattle tonight.
–    My East Nasty of the Week column will be resurrected next week.

Reasons “Pinocchio” is the worst movie ever

Friday, March 6th, 2009

–    “When You Wish Upon a Star”
–    Geppetto’s wish that a puppet would become a real boy.  What?
–    Creepy Blue Fairy
–    Cricket as conscience
–    “Give a Little Whistle”
–    Honest John (wicked fox).  MISLEADING.
–    Figaro (pet cat, unclothed, walks on all-4’s), and Gideon (mute cat, clothed, walks like a human).  INCONSISTENCY.
–    Cleo (flirtatious goldfish with long eyelashes).  AWKWARD.
–    “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee”
–    Pavarotti… I mean, Stromboli
–    “I’ve Got No Strings”
–    Puppet locked in a bird cage
–    A nose that grows with every lie.  A NOSE THAT GROWS WITH EVERY LIE.
–    Pleasure Island
–    Boys turned into donkeys for “behaving like jackasses”
–    Subsequent braying
–    Puppet swallowed by gigantic whale
–    Puppet sneezed out by gigantic whale
–    Puppet dies
–    Puppet brought back to life by the Blue Fairy as a reward for bravery
–    “When You Wish Upon a Star” reprise… because we didn’t get enough the first time around.

Natty Gann again

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

When I was a little girl, there were a couple of movies that I watched over and over again. All of them were taped straight off TV – back when Sunday nights meant family movies on ABC, back when VCR’s had the pop-up compartment for the videotape, back when we lived in San Jose, CA.

I knew – and still know – every word (dialogue and lyric), every dance, and every nuance to “The Sound of Music.” I watched some portion of it every single day from age 4-6. I also obsessed over “Annie”; how could I not? I thought the idea of being an orphan was romantic (sorry, Mom and Dad), and the opening song, “Maybe,” remains one of my favorite melodies to this day.

And then there was a 1985 Disney film called “The Journey of Natty Gann.” I have not watched it since probably 1989, and had totally forgotten about it until about a month ago. As soon as I thought of it, I added it to my Netflix queue, and finally re-watched it last night.

I never realized how formative this movie was for me.

nattygann

Here’s the plot summary, taken from IMDB:

Natty Gann is a twelve-year old Depression era girl whose single-parent father leaves her behind in Chicago while he goes to Washington State to look for work in the timber industry. Natty runs away from the guardian she was left with to follow Dad. She befriends and is befriended by a wolf that has been abused in dog fights, hops a freight train west, and is presumed dead when her wallet is found after the train crashes. Dad gets bitter and endangers himself in his new job. Meanwhile Natty has a series of adventures and mis-adventures in various farmhouses, police stations, hobo camps, reform schools, and boxcars.

Natty Gann’s sense of adventure, fear, courage, longing for home, and love for dogs convinces me that I absorbed so much from this movie. I only wish that John Cusack had been my first kiss.

A couple of things that struck me, this time around:

  1. In 1985, a “PG” rating allowed the words “damn” and “shit.”
  2. In 1985, a “PG” rating allowed kids being hit in the face.
  3. In 1985, a “PG” rating allowed dog fights and blood.
  4. In 1985, a “PG” rating allowed sexual predators and dangerous men.

See – now you HAVE to watch it. It’s so exciting!

Go back and watch a movie that you haven’t seen since early childhood. I’m convinced that you’ll be struck with something – something deep inside of you, something formative, something that you never realized had a source.

I mean, honestly. Why else would I have a secret-yet-unsquelchable desire to name my firstborn “Fievel”?