I’m fuzzy on the details but I know it happened while she was running. She is an endurance athlete, striving to complete her first 100-mile ultra-marathon. The farthest she’s accomplished is 72 miles on a run almost a year ago through central Washington in March – her body gave out due to hypothermia. Her feeling of failure was absolute, her shame considerable. Freddie’s made two attempts since then – both times disqualified at a checkpoint, moments too late. She’s determined, my sister, running thousands of miles a year and perhaps a hundred over a “normal” weekend – long back-to-back runs, often overnight, over the hilliest terrain metropolitan Portland has to offer. Ultra marathon runners don’t get medals – they get belt buckles. She is determined to get that belt buckle of accomplishment even though as girls in Montana we joked that large belt buckles are “tombstones for a dead dick.” It’s okay though. She’ll never wear the belt buckle and no one could confuse a woman with massive balls with someone who has a dick. Read the rest of this entry »
“Dad and I were talking about you taking classes at the university with me. There’s a program for kids like you.”
“Kids like me? What kind of kids?”
I must have looked bewildered. “What does precocious mean?” Read the rest of this entry »
When Dad passed away, his archives became available to us. Years of records, a file folder on every child, every property, every pet, every business. Most of my folders included drawings, birthday cards, the occasional award or picture but a fair chunk was dedicated to the history of my education, non-traditional that it was.
I was a parenting experiment. All children before me attended some form of traditional schooling, public or private, skipping a grade here or there. Raoul and Linda both started college at 16 but otherwise the older seven kids were within the range of common. My parents decided to buck the industrial schooling system entirely with me: Total home education. What this meant in the 1980s is that once a year I would go to the local elementary school for a few hours a day one week a year to participate in standardized tests. Providing I performed at or above grade level, the state would allow us to continue home education.
This once-a-year testing event was my only contact with children who didn’t share my genetic makeup. All those experiences you may not even register as experiences were new to me.
The first day of third grade assessment, my mother dropped me off at Mountain View with Miss Fredericks. Mother pressed some money into my hand. “You’ll need this for lunch. Just follow the other kids.” Read the rest of this entry »
But I want to collect, so badly. Disney pins, stamps, coins, letters, postcards, stickers, crushed flowers, spices, pictures, dolls, pieces of lint that look like presidents (that’s a joke…or is it?). The only thing that might make me happier than collecting is organizing the collection into some kind of obscure taxonomy that would make sense to only the most analytical. Collecting would give me control to create order. It would make me the Larry Page and Sergey Brin of my own little domain.
Speaking of organization, here’s a true story: In my teens, I used to make mix CDs and tapes for my friends. Nothing special there. Prehistoric cave man Grog probably did this for his long-haired Grettahilda using teeth rammed into a barrel and yak whiskers for percussion implements to make a music box filled with “Early Man’s Greatest Hits.” But for me, the art wasn’t just in the selection of songs but in their arrangement. Each song had to be connected to the next in some very precise way. Options included: Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks to Dad, I know when every centimeter of gum released its toothy bounty. I know the exact dates I was hospitalized, every music performance and who in the family attended, every road trip taken until I was 19. He logged his activities and those of whom he was around for every day of his life from January 3, 1974 until February 21, 2012. One page a day, one pad a month, every month. Filed away in chronological order, more than 450 notepads. The aggregation of an old man’s life and of those he touched. Read the rest of this entry »
In 1990, I was 12 years old. But forget that. It’s not really important. In 1990, Ghost was the big movie, the band Warrant released “Cherry Pie,” the chic wore massive hoop earrings and Converse all-stars, Cheers and The Golden Girls were popular, The Young and the Restless was the soap to watch, and slap bracelets were huge. Forget that, too. Not only is it not important but I had to look all that up. I don’t know it first-hand because I was a home-schooled kid who didn’t know anyone and had just relocated across the country with a mother and dad old enough to be my grandparents.
I don’t know how other kids feel about moving but I hated it. Then I loved it. Then I hated it again. Loved it. Hated it. Loved it. The cycles continued but eventually the periods of “loving it” lasted longer and the periods of “hating it” were relegated to days when the pollen count was high. Eventually what pushed me more into the “loving it” zone was the opportunity to pursue two interests: reading historical fiction and biographies side-by-side and hanging out in the jacuzzi at the new house, simultaneously. Read the rest of this entry »
In the HOA-controlled master-planned country club neighborhood where I grew up, the maximum allowed size for a shed was 4×4 and no higher than the 10-foot cinderblock wall. Ours was 10×14, composed of yellow corrugated aluminum siding and as tall as our house. Ramshackled, unstable, and a few decades old, it was salvaged from an old rental property. For the privilege of having that eyesore in our spacious backyard, my parents were fined $150 a quarter, fees they probably never paid. The shed’s contents were intriguingly and creepily relic, from the decrepit lawnmower to my brother’s abandoned Charlie McCarthy ventriloquism dummy. I was afraid to step foot inside. There were tales of black widow spider nests and the interior of the shed was lined with 5-gallon canisters of propane, kerosene, and gasoline, all kept as back-up supplies by Dad “just in case.” Just in case of what I’m unsure.
But, if one turned a blind eye to the risk of scary spiders and scent of flammables, and ignored the crunchy-hot quartzite pea gravel and occasional lizard, behind the shed was a great place to hide. Strange? Maybe. But without a treehouse (without trees!) or a quiet place in the house that wasn’t overrun by siblings, pets, or siblings’ children, I had few options. I didn’t know any better and it worked.
Around this time I made the huge leap from Dr. Seuss to ‘real books,’ prompted to do so when I noticed the smile of encouragement on the librarians’ faces turned to an eye-brow raise of skepticism every time I brought my summer reading log to their desk. It wasn’t so much that they doubted my truthfulness as they probably expected a child my age should have advanced beyond books with simple sentences. Hannah, the stereotypical old maid librarian at the local branch, took action and introduced me to the next age group in books. Read the rest of this entry »