Monday, August 26, 2013

Reunions and the Past Revisited - Last in the Series of Moments that Shape.

The timing of this post is kinda funny to me.  My high school reunion (I’m not mentioning how many years, just cause) was this past weekend.  I intended to go.  No sure why, but I thought it would be entertaining.  Then the time came up and I kept putting off RSVP’ing and paying.  Then the day was here and I hesitated and balked, and in the end didn’t go.  Today I went online and saw many photos of everyone that had attended and realized something, I could not figure out who ¾ of the people were.  They are not in my current circle.  They don’t talk to me.  They don’t support me or I them in anyway.  Why did I want to go and spend some of my coveted free moments with them?  The answer…apparently I didn’t. 

So onward with my life lessons and shaping moments, maybe you will understand why I am a bit ambivalent about the whole reunion thing.  Maybe you wont. 

When I was in the 6th grade, I was told we would be moving, yet again.  Where this time?  How far away?  In this case, FAR.  So I would have to say goodbye to my friends, the small amount that I had gathered, yet again.  I was ticked.  I don’t deny it.  I was that 12-year-old hell on wheels, when I was informed of this change.  I pouted.  I was mean.  I was quiet.  I made the lives of my parents hell, just because I didn’t like their choice.  I was a typical pre-teen. 

We moved to Sunbury, Ohio.  From inner-city to a po-dunk farm town, this was a culture shock for me.  I went from being first/second flute in the band, to not having first or second anything.  It was just a flute section.  I went from struggling to keep up in math to being so far ahead that I was bored.  I went from finally have a small group of friends, to having nothing, and no one but a sister who hated me, and a brother too young to understand.  It was not a great time in my life. I think my graduation class was under 100 kids.  Yes, that small.

Then you had the whole small town mentality.  First, if you didn’t eat, sleep, and breathe football, you were not in the accepted group.  I didn’t give a rats patootey about football.  I was a girl.  Second, if you weren’t conceived there in that little town, you would forever be known as the new girl.  I think when I graduated from that high school, they called out, The New Girl, Courtney Rene (just kidding, a little sarcasm there, but they may as well have).  So to say I didn’t fit in was the understatement of the century.  I tried.  Lord, did I try.  It just never really worked out.  It’s not that I didn’t have people who liked me.  It was that I didn’t have any real, close, friends.  I went several years like that. 

Of course since I was completely miserable there, we stayed.  My parents never moved again.  Talk about, it figures.  Finally when I wanted to move, we didn’t.  Then middle school and high school hit.  Let me paint a little picture for you.  At 18 I weighed in at 95 pounds soaking wet.  So, yeah, skinny.  Not thin, skinny.  I worked almost full time, went to school, and took part in the Flag Corp.  I was introverted like you wouldn’t believe.  My nickname from the girls in the flags was, Hermit.  I spent my time in class reading books under my desk.  If there happened to be a boy that I thought was cute, I made sure to never ever look at him for fear that he would talk to me.  EEEK!  I was teased within the halls, called stupid names, or groups would suddenly laugh hysterically when I walked by.  It was not the best time in my life.  I hated those years.  I hated most everyone there, whether in my grade or above or below.  Oh, I smiled when necessary and most everyone would be shocked at how very much I loathed them all.  They were mean, they were clicky, and they were horrid to me.  Yeah, I hated them.  My sister was the ringleader at some of these haunting moments of my life.  I could go on and on, but you get the picture. 

Then, at about 16, I stopped caring.  It was like I woke up one day and took a good look at me and realized, I was part of the problem.  The big part.  I am very good at internal research. I was honest with myself and realized it wasn’t my hair or my clothes or my house.  It was me, and the waves of hate and depression I emanated like perfume.  Once I stopped caring about what they thought or didn’t think of me, I was quite a bit happier with myself and my life.  Not overnight.  I don’t blame the kids I went to school with.  They were just kids, like me, trying to get through a rough section of time. 

How did this help me as a writer?  How did this shape me?  Those years were very good for me it turns out.  The darkness I was fighting within myself, manifested into great and dark stories.  One dark enough to garner the attention of my writing teacher and then a meeting with my parents.  Oopsy.  It’s funny now, but not so much, at the time.  Trying to explain to adults that my stories were FICTION didn’t go over all that well.  I even had to have a meeting with a pastor regarding my suicidal thoughts.  Ha!  Oh my. 

I learned something that day though.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I know it now as an adult and progressing writer.  If you are going to get to the reader; if they are going to feel what you are feeling; you have to put yourself into the event you are writing.  Really stick yourself into the feelings and emotions and write from that place.  That gets peoples attention.  That makes a good story.  Would I have learned that without the suffering of adolescence?  Doubtful. 

So back to my reunion.  Did I not go because I still have ill will towards them?  Nope.  I wish every one of them happiness and prosperity in life.  I just didn’t care enough about any of them, to take time away from the ones I love most to see them.  The photos were fun.  Just silliness of strangers, but fun to see nonetheless.  They didn’t miss me.  They don’t know me, the same I didn’t miss them and don’t know them.  That’s what growing up is all about.  Finding out who you are, not what you think you are. 

What will I write about next week?  I don’t know.  This pretty much ends my section on events that shaped me into a writer.  I will have to think up another series though.  I had fun traveling down memory lane. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Books, McDonalds, and Self Seclusion - The past visited #4

Moving onward in my life to other events or moments that I think shaped me into the writer I am today. 

I don’t do well in person.  People tend to make me nervous.  On line or on the phone or even in a big group setting, I do all right.  But the one and one stuff, wow, could use a little work.  I spent a little time wondering about this and how I ended up so socially awkward.  Here are a few ideas on that front.

We moved a lot when I was a kid.  No, I mean A LOT.  From as early as I can remember we moved every single year.  One year, when I was in the second grade we moved twice.  It wasn’t always far and there was even a time or two that we stayed within the same school district.  We always moved though.  I stopped trying to make friends after the few times.  What was the point, we were just going to move in a few months anyway, why bother?  I grew quiet and introspective.  I spent more time with books.  I would spend lots of weekends with my grandpa instead of with friends.  He would make three stops each Friday after I was dropped off for the weekend. 

The first stop was to Children’s Palace.  This was THE toy store of the world.  It was in the shape of a castle and was HUGE.  I loved that place.  It is no longer in business, sadly.  Toys R Us killed it.  Each time we went to the Palace, I was allowed to pick out any one item.  Nothing too expensive and nothing to loud, but any one thing I could get.  I liked cap guns for a while and I remember getting packs and packs of the caps to pop with or without the guns.  A hammer worked really well for this.  Just sayin.

The next stop would be to the Half Priced Book Store.  Here I could get anything I wanted as long as it was a book. Oh the hours I could spend in that store.  I found V.C. Andrews within the stacks one summer.  Stephen King was soon there after.  Once I was through all his books I moved on to Dean Koonz an then Anne Rice.  No one said a word about my book choices.  Since I had reading issues for quite a while, they were happy to see me reading. 

The third stop was then to McDonalds.  Every Friday I would get a Chicken Nugget Happy Meal.  That was back when it was real’ish meat.  Not the pink slime they now use. 

So how did these three stops affect me?  One, I spent way too much time with my grandpa and not with my peers.  Oh I wouldn’t change it for the world as I have more good memories of that wonderful man than I do of any other one person throughout my childhood. 

I have also come to realize the trips to children’s palace were a way to make me feel better about being with my grandpa instead of home or with my sister at my father’s house.  It didn’t actually bother me though.  I was happy to be with Grandpa.  I don’t remember the why of it now.  My sister went for the weekend to my father’s and I went for the weekend with my grandpa.  I have a vague feeling of being unwanted, but nothing really concrete.  So we will just say that my father wasn’t all that keen on me when I was a kid and move on from there.  The toys were gifts of reparations.  I didn’t know it at the time, but as an adult and parent of my own children, I get it.  The McDonalds, that was just a perk and an easy way to feed a kid. 

All those things are great by themselves, except for one thing.  I was allowed to grow further within myself during that time.  My grandpa didn’t mind if I spent all weekend reading a book and only coming out when it was time to eat.  He would take me fishing and while fishing I would be reading about blood sucking vampires or incest and child abuse, or monsters and mayhem, for hours on end.  I completely escaped my world for days at a time.  Didn’t matter that I was under 10 when I started reading some of those books.  I was a good and easy kid while I was reading. 

I think this is one of the main reasons I am socially awkward today.  I would much rather be within the pages of a good story than doing anything else.  Whether I am reading it or writing it doesn’t matter.  I much prefer the story, over real life.    This is only one reason why.

Next week we move on to Sunbury, Ohio, which was the last move my family ever made.  It also brings us to the hell that was my junior high and high school years.  I have tried to block it out, but…at least it makes great fodder for my stories.  How many people have I killed of within the pages of my writing?  I’ll never tell.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Memories of an Imaginary Friend

Have you ever had an imaginary friend?  I had them often as a child.  One however sticks out more than any other.  Below is the reason why.  Maybe you can weigh in on the Charlie issue.  As a reminder, these are memories from the mind of a child, of a small age.  So some of them may have been altered by time, maturity, and maybe even the need to make sense of something that doesn’t.  So with that grain of salt reminder, off we go.

Charlie was my friend.  He stayed with me in the night when I was afraid.  He talked to me, when I was alone.  He was my companion when I didn’t really have anyone.  I didn’t know that no one else could see him, or if I did, I chalked it up to them just not really looking.  After all, I could see him, so that meant he was there. 

I don’t know that I actually ever heard him talk, though I was able to understand him all the same.  Was it a telepathy type deal or just the fact that children are better at reading people than adults?  They don’t assume anything extra.  They don’t add feelings or jealousy to actions.  They simply accept the action for what it is.  No need to read between the lines. Yes, means yes.  No means no.  There is no “but” or “if” or “sorta”.  I talked to Charlie all the time.  ALL.  The.  Time.  

Charlie made me laugh.  That was why I kept him for so long I think.  I remember there was a time (a moment? A thought?) that I wanted to be a great artist of the world.  Maybe I saw it on Sesame Street.  Maybe I got the idea from a book.  Who knows?  Charlie and I decided to draw a great mural of my family.  I chose as my drawing area, my bedroom wall, the entire wall.  I got out my crayons and got right to work.  I added my mom, and dad, and my sister and me.  Then as an added bonus, I decided to put in Charlie.  I added colors and shapes, and personal traits to each person.  Then with great excitement I went out to my mom and dad and told them to come and see what I had done.  I was crushed when they were not only, not pleased, but mad as all hell at what I had done to the wall!  I was spanked (nothing new there) and I was told that I was going to have to go to bed early that night and the worst punishment of all, I was going to miss the Muppet Show because of it.  Then I was handed a bowl of soapy water and a scrubby sponge and told to get to work removing my masterpiece.  I remember crying for what felt like a full day but was probably more like an hour as I scrubbed and scrubbed that wall.  I remember Charlie sitting on the ground within the area of soap bubbles and water droplets.  I can see his hands twisting in his lap.  He was just as upset as I was.  Then he left.  He slammed the door on the way out.  Which got me in trouble again.  My mom stormed in and told me not slam the door just because I was mad.  I tried to tell her it wasn’t me, it was Charlie but she wouldn’t listen.  In fact she just got all the madder. 

That night after the sun had set and I was in bed crying over the loss of the Muppet Show, my mom came in and asked me why I had done it.  I couldn’t answer her.  I didn’t have any real answer other than I thought they would like it. I got a kiss on my forehead and a gentle wish good night. Before she left though, she stopped before the door and asked me why I had drawn so many people?  I’d drawn an extra one.  I knew even then that the extra person was my drawing of Charlie, but I also knew with my child mind, that my mom wasn’t in the mood to hear any more about him.  So with a shrug, I said or conveyed that I’d miscounted.  That I’d drawn an extra person, just because.  My sister made fun of me for a while about not being able to count right.  I didn’t bother to explain to her it was Charlie.  She’d just make fun of me about that as well. 

There were lots of moments with Charlie.  Too many to name, but the above is one of the clearer moments I have of him.  As you can guess, Charlie used to upset my mom.  She’d get so mad over him.  But then, he’d slam door and knock over plants.  He’d get silly and make the hanging plants spin on their ropes, which would really set her off if I am remembering correctly.  He was great fun to me though.  We moved from a little house, to an apartment.  I was afraid Charlie wouldn’t come with us.  He did though and my mom was upset about it.  We moved again and he came with us again.  Then we moved once again, and Charlie didn’t come.  I never heard or spoke to Charlie again.  I’d lost my best friend.  Somehow I always knew my mom was happy he was gone and that always made me mad at her.  

I was a lot older when I finally had the nerve to ask my mom about Charlie.  This is the answer I got:  We lived in a house that had belonged to my real father’s aunt’s son (did you follow that?).  We were able to stay in the little house because they had not been able to sell it or rent it, due to the fact that the son had hung himself in the garage.  His name…was Charlie.  When I first started talking about Charlie it was thought I had heard the name through family.  Then when I started using Charlie as an excuse for being bad, they thought I was just a bad kid.  Then we moved.  I don’t know why we moved the first time.  We moved the next two times to get away from Charlie.  My dad didn’t like the things he did or so I was told.  I don’t remember anything about my dad and Charlie.  He didn’t want to believe the plants were moving by themselves.  He didn’t want to believe the doors were closing or opening on their own.  It was the wind.  It was an earthquake.  It was the house on a tilt. 

I wonder if Charlie is still in the last place we lived that he was with us.  What house was that?  I don’t know, I was too small and my mom doesn’t want to say or remember.  Why did he stay there and not come with us, with me?  Who knows?  Maybe he liked the house.  Maybe he was tired of moving. 

I always wonder if I made up Charlie.  Did I hear the name and just let my imagination run wild?  Was he the ghost of a sad man that killed himself in the garage?  Why did he befriend me then?  I was small.  Two-ish when I first started talking about Charlie.  Five’ish when he left me.  Who or what was he really? 

The drawing never fully came off the wall, by the way.  My dad had to paint over it in the end.  I can still see the drawing in my mind if I close my eyes and try really hard.  It was awesome…in a little girl kind of way.  The one figure that I see most clearly is the one I did of Charlie.  There was one big circle for the head, a big circle for the chest, and stick arms and legs that resembled pitchforks.  He eyes were black and his mouth was a straight line.  No fake smiling face or blue eyes for Charlie. 

To be continued…one last time.