theicingonthecrazycake

When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

Moonrise Kingdom and writing clogs

I haven’t written all week: No blog, no fiction, not even a grocery list. It was not the best week, especially down in the trenches of the soon-to-be-unemployed. I had a couple of hand grenades launched my way, including a brief and polite rejection letter from Brown, where I had applied for a Marketing Manager position in their Continuing Education department. I networked my ass off for that job, and still, it got me nowhere.

This week, instead of full-steam-ahead productivity, I wallowed. I danced under the disco ball at my very own (and sparsely attended) pity party. I read. I slept. I didn’t clean my kitchen. The cat is peeved about the overall state of his litter box. I guess I got a little depressed. I did, on a good note, see my doctor (and find out my cholesterol numbers rival those of a Powerball jackpot, and thus, I will be visiting a nutritionist tomorrow). I did Pilates. I did Meals on Wheels, delivering 19 meals all by myself to a bunch of people who were happy to see me. So there was good among the bad, and I have to accept that this is LIFE. Up and down and all around. Keep plugging along.

But the writing still wouldn’t come. I couldn’t even lift my fingers to the keyboard, I couldn’t grasp a pen or even look at a blank piece of paper. Until Friday afternoon, when I played hooky and went to the movies.

Thank you Wes Anderson for pulling me out of my cloggy funk. Thank you for making Moonrise Kingdom. It is brilliant. It is funny. It is heartfelt, bittersweet, life-affirming. It reminds me of an innocent, simpler time and the endless world that seems to spread out ahead of us in our youth, where we can do anything, be anything, unencumbered by the nagging self-doubt, anxiety and baggage that plagues us in adulthood and tends to hold us back.

It also reminded me of a writing prompt from my fiction workshop: Start off with the words “I remember” and go from there. I’ve already done this prompt, but Moonrise Kingdom inspired me to do again, this time focusing on my childhood and adolescence. My reasons are selfish, I suppose. I want to find that innocence. I want to go back and remember the good and the bad. But most of all, I want to figure out when the break happened. When did I cross over the bridge, from guileless childhood to the sometimes cruel/sometimes beautiful reality of the adult world? Or did I ever have a naive, innocent time during my youth? I don’t know if there was ever a bridge to cross.

I Remember

I remember sledding down a hill in Durham, laughing so hard that my smile seemed to split open my face while my cheeks turned crimson in the cold. I remember the move from North Carolina to Florida; I rode with my dad in his beat-up neon-green VW Rabbit, while my mother and brother followed behind us in a rust-colored Monte Carlo. I remember my dad flicking cigarette after cigarette butt out of the window, chain-smoking his way through four states, from mountains to swamps, smoking to the soundtrack of the kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk of the tires hitting the highway seams. I remember the unrelenting damp heat of Florida, juxtaposed to the drier mountain-and-ocean-buffered Carolina heat, It hit me like an unexpected slap, leaving hand-prints on my soul and scrambling my brains like eggs on a searing sidewalk.

I remember my first friend. Her name was Jennifer and even though both of us were Catholic, we became fast friends at a Lutheran preschool of all places. I remember her hair and how I wanted it: Long and brown and beautiful. When she wore it in a ponytail, it would swing to and fro like a metronome, mesmerizing me. I remember her house: the entire living room had been converted into a playroom. (I remember my living room at home was filled with uncomfortable furniture and religious icons.) She had the entire Barbie Dreamhouse set-up, complete with the Barbie Corvette and Skipper and Barbie’s perfect boyfriend Ken. Jen’s mom found Ken in bed naked with Barbie, and Ken ended up in the trash. I remember we soon grew tired of the old and tired Barbie story lines, so we decided to give all the Barbies and Skippers mohawks, and once we tired of that, we tried to glue their hair back on. It did not go well.

I remember reading my mother’s diary when I was seven, accidentally stumbling upon it, nestled in a box of photographs. The very first page read: “Is it okay to not love your daughter? She is so dirty and messy and a tomboy and I can’t stand her.” I remember throwing the notebook down, unwilling to read more, tears stinging my eyes.

I remember getting my period at Jen’s slumber party when I was just 10. I left the party before the slumbering began, completely freaked out and embarrassed. I remember thinking: “Really, this is womanhood? If so, it sucks.” I remember my mother shoving a box of maxi pads at me and explaining little else. In fact, when it came to anything having to do with my boobs, vagina or body hair, she provided no information.

I remember my 11th birthday, when I got to pick out the puppy (I had begged and begged and begged for) from the breeder: Indiana Jones, the first boy I ever loved. It was, and still is, one of the happiest days of my life. The day he died was, and still is, one of the saddest days of my life. The first man I ever loved, besides my father, was my Grandpa Turkey. He was the funniest, gruffest, most loving man in the world. I remember that my parents gave me a plane ticket to go visit my grandparents (all by myself!) in upstate New York when I was 12. It was the last time I saw my Grandpa Turkey alive. He died suddenly three months later. I still miss him to this day.

I remember 1988 and all the popular guys who strutted through their mini-kingdom of high school, reeking of Drakkar Noir cologne and sporting Members Only jackets. I remember that none of these boys liked me, at least not in that way. They barely noticed me, unless I let them copy my English homework. I remember not really caring if they liked the pom-pom girls. Actually, and more truthfully, I remember not letting on that I did care.

I remember my health sciences class, where the teacher rolled a condom onto a banana. I remember boycotting bananas for a long time after that.

I remember Jason, my Honor Society tutoring project, my charity case. I remember, instead of studying algebra, we smoked a joint and made out while propped up against my mother’s wood-paneled station wagon in an abandoned parking lot. I remember laughing and laughing at the way the odd-shaped moon cast a hallucinogenic glow over the wagon and my mother’s “Abortion Stops and Beating Heart” bumper sticker. I also remember tearing my tights in a fit of teenage lust.

I remember playing the tearful part of the Ugly Duckling to Whitney’s Swan when she and Jason started dating two weeks later. She had everything I didn’t have: a quiet constellation of freckles across her perky nose, perfect ringlets of jet-black hair that defied gravity and frizz. I was a combat-boot-wearing Plain Jane, with a leopard’s pelt of freckles and a complete lack of knowledge about expensive hair products and high SPF.

I remember losing my virginity – it was awful – and going off to college far away. I remember the mental breakdown I had at my isolated yet prestigious Catholic university in the Midwest, where I was surrounded by the same jackass boys and pom-pom girls from high school. I remember leaving and never going back, instead graduating from a lesser state school. I don’t think my father has forgiven me for that, 18 years later. I still haven’t forgiven him for not letting me go to NYU. How different would my life be if he had let me be myself, instead of shoving me into the boxed world of his nun-populated alma mater?

I remember finally making peace with my unruly hair and proudly holding on to my combat boots and learning how to live life on my own terms, not those of my parents. I remember driving the opposite direction on 1-95 to a new life in New England; I was alone, no Monte Carlo was in my rear-view mirror. I remember making out in better places than up against the side of cars, and I remember crying over stupid boys and not-so-stupid ones. I remember Jason, the first dude to make me cry, but not the last. I remember the most recent one. I remember him leaving and never coming back. I remember now that I still love him, even through he was just another entry in my card catalog of relationships, where he is safely filed away now, never to hurt me again.

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