Tag Archives: Mistakes

Who Are You?

One day this past weekend I hung out with a twelve-year-old kid who lives on our street. He was playing in his driveway with his six-year-old brother and their five-year-old friend. I was going for a walk and I heard U2 playing. The two little kids left after a little while, and one thing led to another. The kid in question plays, as far as I know, four different instruments, and is a much better guitarist than I am. He also knows how to use protools, which is an audio engineering software that professionals use. I can’t decide if it’s laughable or annoying or scary or what. Anyway, we had fun. He’s a really polite, pretty mature kid, for his age. After the little kids left I actually scurried back to my house and got my guitar so we could mess around for a while. I have no rules about who I’ll hang out with, as long as they’re cool.

I didn’t used to be like that. When I was in high school especially, I hated kids. I don’t think that’s an understatement. Kids were annoying and stupid, and that was it. Of course, at that time, a “kid” was anyone under the age of eight. Now I refer to the high school freshmen I teach as “kids.” It’s kind of disturbing. I think I used to have a much higher view of myself. I used to think I was the queen of the universe. It was entirely undignified to associate with such plebeians as children.

I think I understand kids better now as a writer, too. Kids are much more willing to believe things, so long as their capacity to listen holds up. I think you have to be able to believe something in order to enjoy it. You have to be able to pretend, and be willing to enter into a different universe.

A friend of mine who is older with kids once asked me what I thought about allowing his kids to read the Harry Potter books. He’s Christian, and he wasn’t totally inclined to let them because magic is seen as the highest power, and the battle between good and evil is entirely up to human ability. There is no mention of any kind of God (though the Christian holidays are mentioned offhandedly), and though there is a general sense of morality, like in any fantasy story, it isn’t directly spelled out. For example, I’m re-reading the series now, and I’m actually surprised at just how much the characters lie. Ultimately I advised my friend to let his kids read the books because it’s simply another universe that isn’t governed by the same rules as this one.

As I reread the Harry Potter books, I find myself laughing a lot. I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, but they’re not nearly as good as the books, and I’m finding they cut out a lot of humor. Maybe my sense of humor has changed too, but I think the movies tried to make the story too dark in places where it didn’t need to be, and not dark enough where it’s really creepy. I’m excited because I’m almost halfway through the fourth one now, and it’s after this one that things get serious, and in my opinion, the series gets more cohesive from book to book.

I don’t want this to turn into an analysis of the Harry Potter series, so I’ll make my point. I like these books. They’re meant for a younger audience, but I don’t care. My dad taught me a rule when I was in high school, and I have faithfully lived by it: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to get thoroughly annoyed with myself when I did something embarrassing. I used to think I was so dignified. I have no idea why. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m clumsy and silly. I spell things wrong and say ridiculous things. I make dumb mistakes. My friends laugh at me about this stuff, and that’s okay.

Mistakes are part of life. Messing up is part of life. Silliness is part of life, and being wrong is part of life. I’m writing this down because kids used to annoy me for the same reasons that my friends laugh at me (not in a mean way). In the past several months my mom and I have been listening to audio books in the car. We started doing mostly contemporary realistic fiction and moved, really by accident, into science fiction. We went for a few weeks without a story because I know she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi, and we couldn’t think of what to listen to. Finally I suggested The Brothers Karamazov. We just started it yesterday.

My point is that it’s okay to love Dostoevski and Rowling. It’s okay that my favorite foods are fancy pasta dishes and fried buffalo chicken wraps (for the record, yes, I also eat healthy food). I’m getting comfortable joining in events at my church where most other people are at least in their fifties, and hanging out with kids on my street who are under ten. The teenagers I teach think I’m kind of weird, which is probably at least a little true, but that’s okay. Lately I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Weird is more fun, anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

His Time To Go

Last night my dad got a call from my grandmother. When he hung up he said that his dad probably wasn’t going to make it through the night, so he got in the truck and headed to Maine around midnight. Well, Papa made it through the night, but my dad sent a text to my mom a couple of hours ago saying that he had a fever of 105 and was having trouble breathing. We haven’t had any news since.

I cried when I went to bed last night, but the weird thing is, I haven’t felt all that sad today. Other than my dad not coming home for dinner it’s been a pretty normal day; I got up, finished my homework, played some Minecraft, went to class, went shopping with my mom and my brother, had dinner, and now I’m procrastinating working on a philosophy paper.

The only thing I really am bummed out about at the moment is that this had to happen right before Thanksgiving. A friend of mine is coming home tomorrow night and the new Hunger Games movie just came out on Friday. It was going to be like any other fun holiday weekend. Now we’re all just sitting around, waiting for something to happen. We had made plans to go out to eat in Portland for thanksgiving, and we had invited a bunch of my mom’s cousins and her two sisters. We were going to have a big party and stay in a hotel for the night. On Friday a bunch of us were going to go cut down our Christmas trees. Mom said we could still do all that if Papa goes, but I’m not sure I’ll want to. I know the best way to deal with sad things is to keep busy, so maybe I will anyway. It just seems like it would be too soon to be trying to have fun.

It would honestly be a blessing for Papa to go. He’s been in a nursing home for two years. He could barely talk, and what he did say hardly ever made any sense. I suspect the stuff he did say that made some sense was by chance. After the first year I started avoiding going to the nursing home. I never really knew Papa as a normal, healthy person. The only distinct thing I remember about him is that when I was really little, maybe even before my brother was born, dad and I would go to Grammie and Papa’s house and Papa would make me Ovaltine chocolate milk. I do feel bad about avoiding the nursing home now that he’s going to be gone for good. From what I know, I believe that he was a good person before he got sick, and I believe that he’s going to heaven. I just hope he forgives me when he gets there.

I’m not sure what things are going to be like for Grammie once he’s gone. She’s been going to the nursing home every single day since he’s been there, and my dad has gone up to Maine every other weekend, alternating with my aunt Betsy. It would be good if Grammie decided to move down here to Massachusetts, but I don’t think she will.

Honestly, it feels weird talking about this with my mom. I think she thinks that I’m not emotionally attached to Papa, but I am. I mean he is my grandfather. He’s not just some old man, even though I hardly know him. My mom tends to think that it’s not good to be sad for very long and that people should get over things as soon as possible. I guess I sort of agree with that, but getting over it does take time. I think things are going to be weird for a little while even when we’re done being sad. Life is going to be different anyway.

Well, I should get back to my paper.

The guinea pigs will always be flying.