You know the cartoon Tasmanian Devil, which for some reason looks nothing like a real Tasmanian Devil? Well, that’s what I look like right now.
My friend, Shelly, who was a reader long before I ever was, shared some book passages with me, and I’m going to make a Guest Blogger of her, and have her share them here.
From Haven Kimmel, the author of two books of memoirs [as well as children’s books and fiction] whose writing I truly enjoy.
1) “If Quakers had saints, then Olive Overton would have been one. She had narrow eyes that in a mean woman would have been threatening but in her were like a laugh happening no one else could hear.”
2) “There are horrible tortures in this world, like going to church and that moment your sister notices you have never once in your entire life washed behind your ears. Dinner is routinely late and homework is given. There are mean boys who talk about underwear, and mean girls, but the only one I knew (Dana) I really liked. There is the torture of the dead baby pig pile at your best friend’s house, a pile which is frozen in the winter but in the summer must be faced squarely. Your hamster, Skippy, drowns in your potty chair and your sister and brother WILL NEVER LET YOU FORGET, even though Skippy was a biter, and indeed was found with his mouth wide open and his teeth as long and dangerous as those of a saber-toothed rodent. There is the cruelty of being made to wear shoes; there is the fact of an unheated house in the wintertime; there is a critical lack of plumbing for months at a time.
But no torture I knew as a child compared with canning season, which seems to have been devised by Satan to reproduce the environs of Hell long before we get there. Imagine a kitchen at the height of summer, pans boiling and pressure cookers steaming, ball jars being sterilized (and not by something cold), Dad running the operation like a band director with a grudge and a twitching baton. We put up apple butter, we put up snap beans. We boiled corn on the cob then sliced it off in strips with a sharp knife. There were bread-and-butter pickles, chowchow, yellow squash. But nothing matched the sheer, violent hatefulness of canning tomatoes.”
3) “Mom always said she was a size 7 woman she kept wrapped in fat to prevent bruising. When she started at Ball State she weighed 268 pounds, so the Thin Mom inside was abundantly safe. But by the end of her second full school year, she had lost a hundred pounds, or an entire other Thin Mom. She still had long hair she hated and wore in a bun—Dad wouldn’t let her cut it—and she was still missing some of her teeth, but there was no denying she had changed.
It wasn’t until I stopped and looked back that I saw what she had done: she had taken the CLEP test and leapfrogged over an acre of requirements. She had finagled rides with seventeen different people over her first year. She had found Sabrina [a car] and redeemed her with advertising. Her too solid flesh had melted; she had gone to the theater; she had written a play that had been performed as a staged reading; she had taken me to the big campus and made me feel comfortable there, the way birds make their babies fly farther and farther afield, all the while saying, “See? It’s just the world, you know the world.” What I hadn’t noticed, or hadn’t recognized, were the course overloads, the punishing summer schedule, the arguments with advisers who told her no. (She handed to me, in those years, one of her greatest gifts: the ability to say with a smile, “Tell me who will say yes, and then direct me to his office.”)
She had done all these things and she was going to graduate summa cum laude, which meant Good But Loud, from the Honors College, and she had done it all in twenty-three months. It takes some people more time to hang a curtain.”
4) “In Mooreland all parties were held in churches, either in the big basement of the North Christian Church, or in our Fellowship Room at Mooreland Friends. That was problem one, right there. Dad didn’t like to go in churches; they didn’t work for him. The few times I’d seen him at the Friends Meeting, he looked claustrophobic, or as if his tires had been overinflated and he should NOT be driving on them. I couldn’t watch it. I didn’t like him to go to specials at church, nor weddings, funerals. If it were up to me I’d have kept him away from anyplace with pews and hymnals. I think even podiums and a certain kind of light were a bad idea.”