Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ms. Creant


I have always been bad. It is not something I chose for myself, or can help, it is just the way things are. I am bad to the bone. When I was five, my mother brought home a white teddy bear from the A&P. “It’s a honey bear,” she chirped. I loathed it on sight. I liked brown teddy bears, so when Mary Shower, a sly shyster of a seven year old, offered to trade me her brown bear for it, I handed it over. She promised to go to her house and get the brown one, but she didn’t. When I reminded her, she pushed me down in the dirt and kicked me several times. Then she stuffed my honey bear under her arm and went to play with other children.

When I got home, my mother asked me where my new honey bear was. I told her that I had traded it to Mary Shower for her brown bear but that Mary didn’t give me her brown bear and my mother fell apart. “I got that honey bear for you,” she said, and two deep vertical lines appeared between her perfectly shaped brows. “I didn’t pay a whole dollar for that honey bear so you could give it away.” “But I didn’t give it away, I traded it,” I told her. It seemed important to set the record straight. After my father spanked me and my mother cried for awhile, I was sent to my room without any dinner. I felt like an arch criminal for a very long time.

That year, my friend Mary Ann and I changed our names to Dorothy and Patricia, such beautiful names, we assured each other, far more exotic and fancy than our own. She became Patricia and I told my mother that henceforth I would answer only to Dorothy. She discovered that I was quite serious when she called me home to dinner.

“Susan,” she yelled. “Su-san! Come in now.” Nothing happened. “S-U-S-A-N !!” she screamed. “It’s dinner time.” “I’m Dorothy,” I screamed back from the crotch of the sapling magnolia tree which could barely hold my weight. My mother was mortified because all the neighbors knew that her daughter was named Susan. Since she cared about things like that, she couldn’t very well call me Dorothy; they’d all think she’d gone wacko. She upped the decibel level. “SUSAN R------ C---!” she shouted in her overdrive voice. I stayed in my tree. This went on for weeks. I would like to say that I got to miss a lot of lousy dinners but my parents were really big on eating. Every night I was dragged inside and plunked down at table, unrepentant. Eventually I got tired of this and told them my name was Patricia.

My secret friend Gwendolyn walked partway to school with me every day. Incredibly, she said that she was 24 years old although she was shorter than I was at six. She had a large head with a long nose that nearly touched her pointed chin, and she looked elderly. The other kids called her "A Dwarf." “I love Frank Snotrag,” she confided, dancing clumsily on her short legs while she hugged herself. "You mean Sinatra," I offered. "That's what I said, Snotrag," she replied indignantly. I thought that somebody must be having fun at Gwendolyn’s expense but I never told anyone the things she said. It was obvious that she had more than enough trouble in her life already.

She boosted me up a maple tree to pick green pods that we split in half with our fingernails so they would stick to our noses. We called them “pollynoses.” My teacher ordered me to throw mine away immediately but Gwendolyn got to wear hers all day because she didn’t have to go to school. I would gladly have traded places with her. School was boring, and there was a whole world of adventure in the woods, and in books, which I longed to explore.

In school we were studying Genghis Khan and the Mongrel Hordes, thousands of mutt dogs racing through ancient cities with their tongues out, lifting their legs on everything. Contemplating the effects of this was truly astounding. I found a book called The Story of a Hundred Operas in our bookcase and read all of them. The most romantic was Aida, who loved her boyfriend so much that as he was sealed into his tomb alive, she jumped in to die with him. Years later, I got to relive this fantasy when I married my first husband. The marriage ended due to a lack of necrophilia on my part.

Most adult books seemed to feature heroines who fainted as soon as things got mudgy. Such frailty was presented as proof of how delicate they were, veritable flowers of femininity. This would not be easy. We didn't even have the right kind of furniture. I practiced fainting in my room, careful to fall on soft pillows I’d arranged on the floor. My dog watched with keen interest from the bed, awaiting her chance to jump me. She had no sense of how serious an endeavor this was. Or how much I had riding on it. Since I had never really fainted, I felt inadequate and unfeminine. I wondered what would become of me when I grew up and didn’t flower; not being feminine enough to faint was a source of private embarrassment for a very long time.

Meanwhile, there was often a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek going on outside, and everybody could play. We ran and hid as if our lives depended on it while the kid who was “it” yelled, “Allee allee infree!!” and searched us out amid squealing and pushing as we tried to get back to "Home free. Home free all!!" After several rounds, we couldn’t stand the tension anymore and we all collapsed on somebody’s lawn, drained and content.

It was summer.

42 comments:

thethinker said...

I loved that, going from one little story to another.

I probably wouldn't have let that Mary Shower girl take my teddy bear without a fight. I'm guessing you never got it back, right?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Thinker,

Right. She was two years older, a lot bigger, and a bully.

la cubana gringa said...

Necrophilia was SO four decades ago. It's all about pedophilia now. Demi Moore's even into it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

La Cubana,

She's into cigars, too.

I feel so foolish. I'm always 40 years behind the times.

Pedophilia. PEDophilia. I must remember that and get it right.

furiousBall said...

C--- is that of Dutch origin?

thailandchani said...

Hm.. that secret sisters thing again? My birthname also started with C---

:)


Peace,

~Chani

Christina_the_wench said...

Random thought - I want that couch in that photo.

~sighs~ I miss kid summers. $.10 grape Crush in a bottle and playing outside until you were too bit up by mosquitoes that you couldn't quit scratching. Kick the can rocked.

The Moon Topples said...

This is a wonderful, wonderful post. Think I may read it a few more times before I'm through.

QT said...

Loved this post and reminded me of great summers as a child. We, too, had the neighborhood hide & go seek going. And the "scary" house no one wanted to walk by.

Thanks for a great post.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I enjoyed this post very much. Everything you did as a child seems perfectly reasonable and rational to me.

meno said...

This will amuse you. When i was in first grade, i decided that i hated my name as it was (very) slightly unusual. I asked my mother to call me Susan.

thailandchani said...

Forgot to mention: I've also been through several incarnations with names. It seems only natural to me that we would have different names to fit different times in our lives.

Who came up with the idea that we are supposed to keep a name chosen by someone else all of our lives.

Right now I use Chani (Chanakarn) but if I decide it doesn't fit any longer at some point in the future, I'll change it again. :)


Peace,

~Chani

mist1 said...

I used to practice fainting all the time. I'm still pretty good at it. I can go down gracefully and I flutter my eyelids. In fact, I feel faint right now.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Furious,

No, not Dutch. Although I did have a pair of wooden shoes once.

Chani,

Interesting. How many such four-letter words could there be?

Shall we?

Christina,

Do you know how to faint?

I had forgotten about the mosquitoes which congregated wherever children played. We were their grape crush, and our blood was free.

Moon,

Oh, thank you, sir. It felt kind of thrown together to me, but a compliment from you is treasured.

Qt,

Yes! The scary Boo Radley house. That's another post of its own for sure.

Squirrel,

I've found that the logic of children is often more reliable than that of adults because it's more honest.

Meno,

It does amuse me. We should have traded.

Later I tried to adopt a Polynesian name, but my mother, who hated her own name, wouldn't hear of it.

I think she felt rejected that I didn't relate to the one she had chosen for me.

Chani,

The Cherokees use your system, which makes perfect sense to me. There is a baby name, a child name, an adult name and an elder name. The names are revealed to a medicine person, or sometimes to the recipient in a dream.

Mist,

You fill me with admiration.

I assume that you only go down when there's a good looking man to catch you before you hit your hair on the floor.

Em said...

What a delightful little trouble-maker you were, Susan. Or Patricia. Or Dorothy. Or whatever alias you are using today.

goodthomas said...

I am so in your place. How many times in my life have I given up something, thinking that I would get something in return? Only to find myself with empty hands, tear-filled eyes and lessons that I should have learned.

It is funny. I have this great image of you as a child in the tree, arms folded. I like her, that Dorothy.

In one's childhood, it is always summer isn't it? (Except for the big snowstorms, of course.)

The CEO said...

I could easily swear you had lived with us for my summers as a kid. BTW, I don't use my real name either.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Em,

Today I am Ariel. Or Elizabeth. Or Charmion. Or Mariel.

I, er WE seem to be having an identity crisis.

Thomas,

Yes, always summer except for the snowstorms, which also meant no school and hot chocolate with marshmallows in it.

CEO,

Mary? Did you steal my teddy bear?

Where did you grow up? I'm from Long Island, originally.

jali said...

I'm still waiting for these guys to bring back the radio I let them "hold" when I was about 13. I lied to my dad for weeks - I finally confessed and was on punishment for what seemed like forever.

My daughters changed their names to "Ella-ti-ti-ella-mariluli" and "Ella-ti-ti-ella-mary". Then they were "Nicky" and "Vicky".

urban-urchin said...

Where to begin. First Miss Creant is the name of the teacher in the Captain Underpants books. Very very funny (I am five in truth)

I too changed my name. I told my parents I would only answer to Stephanie, I too got spanked. Stephanie was so much more waspy and american and NORMAL than my name and you could find it on those little license plates at Six Flags.

Your mom sounds like her grasp on reality was tenuous. I'm sorry for that. I think you're fierce independant nature saved you from your childhood.

We used to make ourselves faint- once I hit my head going down and I heard what sounded like someone opening a bottle of soda. I didn't do it again after that. You have to hyperventilate and then hold your breath and you'll go down in about 5 seconds.

And that Mary Shower girl? Bad egg. We had theiving little neighbors when I was tiny- the oldest stole my favorite bolt (I know that's really weird- I was unnaturally attached to a bolt that I had found),gave me the finder's keepers bullshit, and ran me over with his huffy. I still wonder if that little shit is in jail somewhere.

Ian Lidster said...

My dearest 'Heart' I think I must say that what I just read was, for me, the most entertaining, funny, fascinating and beautifully expressed blog it has every been my pleasure to come across. Bad to the bone you may be, my friend, but please don't ever change. Your work is priceless, and I mean that in the true sense of the word.
Thank you (Dorothy?)
Ian

My Reflecting Pool said...

what great memories you brought back. The spanking memory I can do without though. Ah, but all day outside and drinks from the hose just because you couldn't be bothered to go inside.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jali,

Oh, bummer. Mary got your radio, too, along with my teddy bear. I'll bet she has a whole warehouse somewhere of stolen loot from smaller children.

Why do parents always have to make it about THEM?

Your daughters were far more imaginative than I. I tried to change my name to Maeva Flohr in 5th grade, which was the name of a Tahitian girl photographed in National Geographic. I wanted to BE her.

Urchin,

I sincerely hope the little shit is in jail along with Mary Shower.

Do you mean bolt as in fabric? Or hardware? Surely not lightning bolt.

I have never known a Stephanie I liked. Your real name is much prettier.

I didn't know about the Capt. Underpants books. I have grown children, and no grandchildren to read to. I actually kind of stole the title from my youngest, who in 3rd grade was assigned the project of creating a magazine. She called hers "Young Miscreant." I was impressed and delighted, although her teacher was not.

My mother was a Pollyanna. The poor woman had no earthly clue how to deal with me.

Ian,

Thank you SO much for your most kind words. I don't think that any of us changes much as we get older. We just become more ourselves.

I suspect that I chose Dorothy because even then, I had some notion that the world was a magical place, a wonderland of possibilities.

Reflective,

The terrible/wonderful taste of brackish hose water. And running under the sprinkler because we had no pool and the beach was too far away to get to ourselves. Picking off knee and elbow scabs-(some kids ate them; I didn't) And catching fireflies in a mayonnaise jar with holes in the top. Reading in bed with a flashlight. Chasing down the Good Humor man and trying to eat a popsicle before it melted down your arm. And most of all, believing that summer, and childhood, would last forever.

Jocelyn said...

Oh, you snagged me on about five fronts with this one.

But the line about your first marriage being like Aida--bwahhhhhhhhaahahahahahahaha! I'm howling.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jocelyn,

He walked and talked, but oh, his soul was dead.

And still is, by all accounts.

Sad.

MsLittlePea said...

I tried to change my name to Stephanie...didn't work. I never traded a bear but I did steal one from my neighbor. This was before 'time outs' became popular.

flutter said...

Kicked you?! The hell you say!

Michael C said...

Great post...you rebel!
;-)

Open Grove Claudia said...

hmmmm.... I hate to go all therapist on you but how codependent can your mother possibly be?? You're supposed to love something simply because she randomly decided to spend a dollar on it? Alanon would do her wonders.

Molly said...

My parents exercised NO imagination or creativity when they named me. Creativity was frowned on in the naming of babies. Look at the calendar. When was the baby born? What saint's day is nearest to that date? Bingo! You have a name for the baby. How I longed to be a Fionnula, or a Nicolette or even an Avril, but no. I had a stick-in-the-mud name. A name so common that when the teacher did roll call, she couldn't just say my first name and sound friendly. She had to say my first name and my surname, which sounded unfriendly. The better to distinguish all of us who had that name from each other. Bummer.
This post was such fun to read!
When I came to Ghengis Khan and the mongrel hordes I howled....

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sweet Pea,

I have never known a Stephanie whom I liked. (Unless one of you pen-name bloggers is really a Stephanie.)

So YOU stole my bear, Mary. It's okay, I hated it anyway.

Flutter,

Mary was not a very nice child. I bet she was in prison before she was eight. And is still there because they threw away the key.:)

Michael,

Thank you, sir. Watch Lucy's and Ethel's backs. There's sharks in those childhood waters.

Claudia,

My mother is long dead, but your take on this is quite fascinating.

Here is a little story about her:

She once made something for dinner and I said that I wasn't hungry.

She replied,"I thought you liked this."

I said, "I do. I just don't want it Right NOW."

She couldn't grasp the logic in that, and preferred to be insulted.

Bless her heart.

Molly,

Oh poor Molly. (I like your name, actually, if that is your real name.)

I also love Fionnula, Siobhan, Caitlin, and Nuala, all beautiful Irish names.

You could always change it.

I have to confess that I made up the part about the Mongrel Hordes. The rest of it is true, really.

Josie said...

What a delightful post. I changed my name when I was seven as well. I was going to be Rebecca from now on, Becky for short. It didn't stick, sadly.

I remember the summer evening games. What lovely innocence, hey?

Cheers,
Josie

Judith said...

Mary shower - the name just screams big freckled bully. We should do a blog campaign of free the honey shower bear!

BTW I wanted to be called Jennifer - which I felt at the time was a pretty girls name as I didnt feel very pretty (awwh) but now I love my name hence no nom de plumes

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Josie,

Isn't there an old song about Josephine in a flying machine?

Our childhood was a free-form arrangement compared to the extreme regimentation of today's children. And the world was generally safe enough that our parents didn't know or care where we were.

Judith,

Mary was a big girl, and I was a wee one. She had a brother named Ned, and their parents were also Ned and Mary.

Maybe she was angry that she didn't get her own name, and took other kids' toys to make up for it.

I like your name, too. "Jennifer" became epidemic.

alphawoman said...

This was great.I loved it! I especially loved the spanked by Dad part....ah, the good old days, waiting in your room for Dad to come home and beat you. lol....I have a good story about one of my ex-boyfriends who was one of seven kids. Sometimes several of them would be waiting for Dad to come home and "beat" them. Dad would take them into the loo and snap the belt and each kid would butifuy cry and gasp and sniffle...Dad was tired from a long day at work. It was their secret. I should do an entry about those good old days.

alphawoman said...

You know I meant dutifully....lol

The Law Fairy said...

The marriage ended due to a lack of necrophilia on my part.

AHAHAHA. I love this sentence.

When we were much younger, my brother once drew a picture of my sister and next to it, his rendering of Ghengis Khan. He then listed beside each of them a few random statistics, which conveniently matched up. On the top he wrote "Noelle or Ghengis Khan: You Decide"

To this day, we still call my sister "Ghengis Khan" every now and then.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Alpha,

Maybe if I'd had six siblings, I would have gotten off easier.

Not surprisingly, I do not believe in spanking children.

Law Fairy,

Did Noelle have great packs of pissing mutts, too?

CS said...

I always hate to hear about a parent hitting a child for - well, anything but especially for something that is entirely reasonable.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Cs,

I never hit mine, and they all turned out wonderfully well.

My heart runneth over... said...

Well I imagine if there was a real Anne of Green Gables... *(my absolute fav.)* It deffinately could be you sans the red hair ofcourse.. Unless you do have red hair but I don't think you do! lol Because than you really would be Anne come to life!

M

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Maria,

I do not have red hair.

There are a couple of old photos of me on my other blog. I look older now, but my hair is still brown.