Lit Fest 2015 – Exercise 4

I arrived for my first riding lesson wearing brand new beige jodhpurs, just like the ones Caro, the slender, older blond with the popular boyfriend and the prize-winning palomino Arabian, wore in Horse Crazy: Horseback Summer. Emily was the heroine of the book, the freckled redhead whose recent ascension into puberty and, by extension, womanly hips, left her with only ratty jeans to ride in but whose wisdom enabled her to see through Caro’s phony attempts at friendship meant only indebt Emily to her in a big way. But I wasn’t going to be Emily. In an effort to leave the young girls of 1980s America with a moral lesson worthy of the Girl Scout and the 4H clubs I had dropped out of after just one meeting each, Virginia Vail, I was certain, had painted a very slanted picture of Caro. I knew that being Caro was better than being Emily. There were no Arabians at the barn I went to and I was a brunette, but at eight years old, I had read between the lines of enough books written by Vail and her peers to understand the rules for getting to the top of the tween pecking order. Those jodhpurs, ordered from a real tack catalog, were a good start.

They couldn’t, however, compensate for the ridiculous vision of my 50 pound, four foot self atop a thoroughbred that stood over 16 hands tall. My legs, splayed into full cowboy posture by the horse’s girth, didn’t even extend halfway down his belly and my fingers could barely wrap around the reins. I was an ant atop an elephant. Wearing an emerald green hockey helmet. My parents had been willing to pay for the jodhpurs, but they were not going to pay for a proper riding helmet until they were certain I was going to stick with horseback riding for the long term. I had a habit of quitting. Quitting art contests, quitting the flute, quitting my interest in having a little sister. If my imitation of Caro had been unrealistic before, it was downright farcical with the green hockey helmet. Caro, of course, had a velvety black show helmet with a red satin interior and a leather chin strap that smelled every bit as delicious as her Arabian’s saddle. Continue reading →

But Sometimes I Was Right

It’s over! To close out the A-Z blog challenge, I’d like to offer 26 things that I’ve been right about for a very, very long time.

American cars. I don’t give two hoots about your generic Mercedes or Lexus or BMW. Give me an American muscle car any day of the week. They are way sexier.

Board games. Scrabble, Monopoly, Life, Parcheesi, Mousetrap, Scattergories, Risk, Clue, Mastermind, Taboo, Uno (yes, I know it’s a card game), Othello, Chinese Checkers, Simon, Operation, Yahtzee (yes, I know it’s a dice game), Trouble, Candyland. And don’t forget Hi-Ho Cherry-O!

Carol Channing as the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland. 1985. Look it up. She’s amazing. Continue reading →

Underwear

If you’ve been following me, you know I’ve written a few rather disgusting posts for the A to Z blog challenge. You might be afraid this one is too, given the title, but I assure you it’s not.

Because there were five, sometimes six, and sometimes even seven children in my household, my parents were more than happy to send us on a rotating schedule a mile down the street to sleepover at our maternal grandparents’ house. And we were more than happy to take our turns and get away from the herd for a while.

One summer evening, when I was probably 6 or 7 years old, it was my turn to vacate, so I packed up my Lisa Frank backpack with all my favorite woobies and my light cotton summer pajamas with the pastel yellow pants I loved so much and made the long trek over in our Chevy Malibu. I spent a quiet afternoon playing with the same Mr. Potato Head and Pick Up Sticks and ViewMaster that my mother had as a child. Then I had a nice dinner at 4:30 and went to take my bath before the late night TV shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy came on. Continue reading →

Religion

I was very involved with the Christian church when I was a kid. Part of the reason was that I really liked it. Sunday school and other Bible lessons were kind of like regular school in that we were memorizing information and doing activities and having contests about what we knew, and since I liked regular school, it’s logical that I enjoyed Sunday school too. The church I went to also had a lot of fun events geared toward kids – Vacation Bible School, snow camp, and a youth group that met regularly at a private rec center where there was mini golf, rolling skating, a gymnasium, and a pool. There was a no shortage of entertainment, and I had some good friends in the church. But another part of the reason I was so involved is that it was an unwavering part of my microculture. My parents went Sunday morning, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings, so did I too. That’s just how my world was. My parents are firm believers and so much like when they told me the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny were real, when they told me all the information in the Bible was true, I took their word as, well, the gospel truth. It just took me a lot longer to stop believing in Jesus Christ the Savior than in the rest of the mythical creatures. Continue reading →

Quoi?

Near the end of sixth grade, the school herded everyone in that grade into the auditorium. Someone explained to us that next year we would start learning a foreign language. Yes, that is a pathetically late time to start, but that decision was out of my control. We were given two choices – Spanish or French. We already knew these were going to be the options. Chinese was not in vogue in Western New York in 1991 and my school was not large enough to also offer German or Latin, as many of the surrounding schools did. We also already knew that the French teacher was a b***h and we were all scared of her, though I can’t recall a single event or detail that led to this perception. So the choice of Spanish or French wasn’t really a choice. Everyone wanted to be in tiny, perky, friendly Ms. Periera’s class.

If the administrators thought we were going to evenly divide ourselves, they were in for a big surprise when about 130 people moved to the right of the auditorium and 14 moved to the left. Obviously that wasn’t going to work and some poor souls were unpleasantly surprised to see French on their schedules when they showed up to school the following September. I – whose mother was on the Board of Education – was not one them. I was relieved not only because I was terrified of the teacher but of French itself. Even though I hadn’t started learning French, I knew that it had a lot of letters that weren’t spoken (only English is allowed to do that!) and that the letters that were spoken often sounded slurred together and nasally (only English is allowed to do that!). Who wouldn’t choose the blissfully phonetic and clipped (how naïve!) Spanish instead? Continue reading →

Oral Hygiene

If you survived my K post, you’ll probably survive this one too, but just a warning for everyone else, this one is gross. What I was wrong about that begins with the letter O was oral hygiene. I hated brushing my teeth when I was a kid. I think all of us kids did because my mom put a little wooden hourglass, snatched from some board game that had survived through her childhood into ours, in the bathroom and we were required to brush our teeth until all the sand ran out.

So I would go in the bathroom, shut the door, turn the faucet on, and play the soap dish game for two minutes. The “soap dish game” was our family term for lingering in the bathroom unnecessarily. Not a very nice thing to do in a house with six people and one bathroom. Continue reading →

Math

I spent many a night at the kitchen table in grades 7 through 9 with tears streaming down my face, hating the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Persians and anyone else who had helped develop and expand that detestable field of mathematics known as algebra. I just didn’t get it. Those uninviting 600 page text books with 50-problem homework sets, just a jumble of meaningless letters on the page, the answer key in the back pages taunting me because I had to show all my work to get any credit. The brainiacs working through the problems on the chalkboard in front of the class in mere seconds and then returning to their seats leaving me standing there alone, backside exposed to my classmates, chalk poised and hoping that one of my friends in the front row would whisper to me what to write so I could return to my seat before the teacher talked me through the problem while everyone else tapped their feet and doodled impatiently. Algebra was the worst.

Fortunately for me, I was in accelerated math in grade 8, which clearly I shouldn’t have been, but since I was a straight A student in all other subjects, it was just assumed that I belonged there. Being in accelerated math meant that after grade 9, I could quit math altogether because New York State standards only required two years of high school math. And only three of science, yet four of physical education, oddly enough. So after grade 9, you bet I quit! I also successfully avoid the two-semester requirement of university math by taking a Critical Thinking class (a mix of logic and probability, run by the Philosophy department) and a Basic Stats & Computing class to fulfill that requirement. Somehow those counted as acceptable substitutes and I got an A- in each. Continue reading →

Cassette Tapes

Given yesterday’s post, I think it would be too easy to choose coffee as my letter C mistake. I was definitely wrong to not like coffee at first, and I was really, REALLY wrong in my early thirties when I gave it up for a whole year, but I’m going to write about cassette tapes instead.

When I was young, I earned a small allowance for doing household chores, and after I grew too old to want to spend my money on stuffed animals, I wanted to spend it on music. There was always a lot of music in my house. My dad had managed an electronics store for a while and had always enjoyed finding broken equipment at garage sales and fixing it up. Between that and the crates of records that he rescued from people’s lawns, there wasn’t even room in our garage for a bicycle, much less two cars. But on the plus side, we had a great stereo system in the house and there was always music playing. Pretty early on, I got the bug to build my own collection. Continue reading →