just call me sir edmund

January 31, 2005

Had there been any one there to see the sight, it would have been a sight to see: Yesterday I crawled to work on my hands and knees.

Before continuing the tale, I ought to clarify that I am no martyr or glutton for punishment—just a naïve soul stuck with an odd situation and trying to figure out how best to remedy it. A storm over the weekend left treacherous ice on the roads Saturday morning, and as I was to head up the mountain to open the library, I was pretty sure it would not be very welcoming up there.

Sure enough, a 6:00am call to the mountain police department left me with a stern “Do NOT try to come up the mountain until at least Noon—it is solid ice!” So, I told the first shift student worker not to come in, and told the second that I would have it open at 12:00.

The drive up the mountain consisted of a couple of veering around fallen trees or glaring patches of ice, but nothing me and my grandma car couldn’t handle. Turning in to campus, however, I gasped at the sight. Approximately ½ inch of solid ice covered everything in sight—from cars to pebbles of gravel to blades of grass. One car was precariously tilted over the guard, partway down the hill after sliding over the ice-covered barrier. Another, icicles hanging from rear-view mirrors and between the tires, was diagonally halted in the middle of the drive, apparently abandoned before careening out of control.

Thankfully, I realized I had just entered a skating rink, barely in time to—very slowly—back out before I lost control. I stopped the car in the middle of the entrance, stepped out, and took a deep breath as I surveyed the scene. Somehow, I had to make it up the hill and to the library.

Parts, I realized, were relatively manageable. Where there was grass, I found I could make an odd animal-like walk, ramming my heels into the icy blades in large, cumbersome steps. Doing this allowed each footstep to grip decently and I managed to make ridiculously slow but sure progress. A vision of myself as an ice-climber flashed in my brain as I went, and I imagined that I was hacking my way up a towering icy cliff.

But then, I came to the steps. This is when I dropped to my knees and gripped each rail—wincing slightly as my gloveless hands clung to the ice. As my knees had no grip on the rounded steps of ice, I just pulled myself up rail by rail. Eventually, I made it to the top. I rested for as long as I could stand to and then gave myself a little pep talk for the tight-rope-style walk across the pavement to the next “safe” stretch of grass.

At any rate, in this slow fashion of alternating between clawing my way up the hills, clamping my way through the grass, and, yes, falling, I made it. The library was opened—hopefully to be well-used that day. It better have been hopping with studious activity!

Mind you, by the time I had finished opening up, and the desk coverage had arrived to take over, I was not interested enough in its use to wait around and see. A slow hour-long drive later, I was ever so glad to be off the mountain. Oh yeah, and there was also that getting back to the car part of it all. My knees being sore, and it being downhill this time, I just plopped down on my behind and I slid, making perfectly ladylike sound effects all the way.

the valiant attempt

January 30, 2005

The bloodmobile came to my workplace this week. I have assumed for years now that I simply have blood that flows too slowly through my too-small veins in order to be able to give the amount they need–within the time frame allotted for drawing it [an assumption based on good reason, mind you]. So, I initially did not think twice about the bloodmobile’s arrival. Upon further thought, however, I realized that I actually really wanted to give it another shot. I mean, my blood pressure could very well have risen since the last time I tried to give, back in college . . . And my blood type is rare, to boot, and therefore valuable . . . It’s worth a shot, at least. So, I sucked up my fear and signed up on an open slot.

After I had sufficiently explained to them my yes’s for Malaria and Hepatitis, assuring them that I had been an otherwise healthy resident of Africa—as opposed to a promiscuous 7-year-old—I was ushered in and my proffered right arm was taken [I am generally protective of my left, writing hand]. It was rejected . . . dejected. A quick look at my measly little veins and the nurse requested my left arm after all. I sighed–I was afraid of that. But, other than this, I was encouraged by the day’s happenings in the bloodmobile.

A blood pressure reading showed, amazingly enough, a relatively normal 120/70. When I commented on my reading, though the nurse did dampen my excitement, explaining to me that most people have a significantly higher blood pressure reading upon entrance of the bloodmobile, regardless of whether or not they feel nervous. Oh, well, I offered, if that is the case then I’m afraid I can assure you that I am decidedly nervous—memories of sticks, and re-sticks, refusing to be suppressed.

Happily, one stick seemed to do the trick this time . . . on my left arm. A reassuring flow began. And then, after a few minutes, my little blood bag began to beep insistently, alarmingly. And the nurse rushed back to my side. Never having heard this beeping bag before, I knew all the same what it must mean. It slowed down, didn’t it? Yes, I’m afraid so—let me get our vein expert. The vein expert arrived and began tweaking the needle, warning me that she was going to re-position it. After too long of this “re-positioning,” the pain was getting to me. My nurse looked at me again, and said, teasingly “Don’t give us a pouting face now.” Laughing, I answered that this was probably my I-will-not-faint face. By this point, though, I was getting seriously queasy—this feeling I knew a bit too well.
Um, I really am about to faint . . .

Well, the vein expert was tiring of her attempts by that time. Thankfully, as I had just warned them all that the little fidgeting I was trying to distract myself with (wildly wiggling toes and fingers) was no longer enough and I was about to have to let out some sort of a scream. But, they gave up—assuring me, when I asked if it had all been in vain, that they could still use my blood for “testing purposes,” and I have had to, yet again, resign myself to being a failure at giving blood. I guess I at least cannot be accused of not giving a valiant effort—or something like it.

a head full of words

January 18, 2005

A 5-year old freckle-faced tomboy, I sat cross-legged on the floor with my classmates, listening to the tales of Dick, Jane, and Spot, and repeating after Miss Deacon, “roof,” “book,” “look,” carefully copying her correct British pronounciation, as we were instructed to do.From that point on, I was hooked. Just a short time after the first term of boarding school that year, I had mastered the art of reading, and was reading voraciously.

It was later on that books became more than just a hobby–they were a lifeline after my happily simple childhood was rocked by our family tragedy. Suddenly books were an escape–beautiful worlds of fantasy where life was kinder than the real world. I read, and re-read classic works of fantasy, fiction, and fairy tale.

I needed these books desperately, and then was embarassed at how much emotion they wrought. Once, when reading Where the red fern grows, I was moved to tears, and then was bawling my eyes out. Embarassed, I crouched behind the couch in the living room to cry in peace, knowing that our noisy household would keep my muffled sobs from giving me away. I was foiled, however, when our Boxer came to lick my face and whimper with me, giving away my hiding place.

Another embarassment came in the 7th grade–somehow, the summer previous to that year, my mother managed to keep track of the number of books I had read–I certainly wasn’t keeping track! At any rate, I was getting ready to start at a new school, moving from my small elementary school to a large college preparatory girls’ middle and high school. So, here I was, a shy new student at the first day of classes, in opening, school-wide assembly.

Suddenly, the headmaster said he had a special announcement. He said that a new student had read 100-some books over the summer, announced my name and asked me to stand up to everyone could applaud–I was mortified, to say the least, proclaiming my nerdiness for all the cool upper schoolers to see. Now, mind you, I proclaim my own nerdiness for all the world, with pride :-)

Thanks to the completion of the core requirements, I have begun this semester to study my field in earnest–that being Children’s Literature. As a result, I have spent each night lately reading and studying various titles–some of which I read as a child and some that are new to me. My reaction to them is the same as my childhood response, in that I still laugh out loud and cry as I read.

A new feeling, however, has been surging in me as well. I no longer am content to simply enjoy the thrill of knowing that I am reading a quality work of literature; I now feel a swelling of intense longing to contribute somehow. Part of this is my years-old desire to spend my life cultivating in other children the same love of books and knowledge that I benefited so greatly from. But another part is the suspicion–a hesitant twinge of a hope, but a suspicion all the same–that maybe, just maybe, there is more in store for me than just sharing other people’s words.

Perhaps there is an outlet yet for all the words that have been swirling in my own head all these years. Perhaps there is a practical reason for the 25-year lifetime I have spent filing away mental images–snippets of portraits, stories, and memories. And perhaps I can use the experiences I have had to aid other children along the path of healing from life’s batterings.

I am fascinated–and occasionally frightened–by the power of quality children’s books to teach, move, and heal, and I am inspired by the prospect of helping young people discover this power as I did. There is no doubt in my mind that reading was more than just an escape for me as a child; rather, the literature I read played a vital and active role in my healing process.

You see, when I cried as I read Where the Red Fern Grows as a child, I was not simply crying for those dogs. Those were not simple tears–they were gut-wrenching sobs that leapt out of my closed-off heart. I cried for my father, for my mother, and for myself. The gifted author’s words allowed me to release all the grief that I could not let out on my own. Being too young to understand and process the pain I felt, I needed those stories to allow me to feel the emotions that I did not have the capacity to release on my own.

So, that said, I cannot help but wonder at the longing I have to play such a part for other children. No fruit has been born of it yet–frustrating as it is, I recognize that this could be a Godsend; the fact is that I need to focus on studies at the moment, if I do have free time, rather than being consumed by writing, as the seed of a book in my mind would no doubt lead to. And it could be that what I am feeling is simply the desire to guide others to quality children’s literature that I have discovered–that would certainly be a worthy goal for a lifetime.

But, could it be that there is also a home for my brain-full of words, somewhere in the not-so-distant future? Could there be a story inspiration on the horizon? Maybe so . . .

p.s. If I have any faithful blog readers out there, you may recall the event, in the not-so-distant past, that prompted my Where the Red Fern Grows memory. If so, the first to correctly tell me what it was wins a prize :-)

It seems I inadvertently created a mini drama in my family the other day, thanks to Operation Pea Transport. Last week my brother drove down from spending Christmas in New Hampshire, bringing his college roommate to visit us here in Tennessee. As Alex drove down a few days after I flew back, my Mom loaded him down with a few things to deliver to my grandparents and to me.

One thing I should explain is that Mom habitually prepares a pot of peas and carrots for Mamie every night, and that when I am there for a visit, I am generally the only other person who eats peas. So, at the grocery store recently, a sale on canned peas prompted Mom to stock up. Then, the occasion of Alex’s departure led Mom to send 6 cans of peas to me as well, seeing as how she had a lot of them, she knew I liked them, and she does have a tendency to send random presents periodically. So, Alex and Ryan spent their 2 day drive battling the cans of peas that rolled around the floorboard at will—it did not seem to occur to them to contain the peas somehow.

But, Operation Peas was a success, and the peas made it. Until, that is, Alex gave my grandparents their basket of Northern goodies. Along with it, he left them the peas, not bothering to mention the fact that he intended to give them to me eventually. So, several days ago my grandmother thought to ask Mom why she had wanted them to have so many cans of peas. Confused for a moment, Mom replied that she actually meant for the peas to come to me. With her tendency to thrive on stress, and consequently create little crises regularly, GramBea was horrified that she had my peas.

At the time, Alex and Ryan were playing a game of scrabble with me, and when my phone rang, Alex answered it, since he was expecting a call from a friend. What I heard was: “Hello?” . . . “You’re gonna wop me??”

I looked up from my play and, once he was off the phone, asked Alex what that was about. He explained that GramBea was going to “wop” him because he hadn’t told her that the peas were for me, and that he had tried to assure her that he would make sure the peas reached their intended owner. We laughed and resumed our game. And, yes, he did present me shortly with a bag full of canned peas.

Then, last night, I walked into my grandparents house to retrieve the boys for our evening outing. As soon as GramBea heard me walk in, she came running down the hallway to greet me at the door, waving something in front of her. When she reached me, she shoved a can of peas at me. I took the can and looked at her questioningly. In a barrage of rushed words, she told me that, in her ignorance of the intended owner of the peas, she had actually already opened one of my cans, so I had to take one of hers to replace it. Now that I understood, I laughed and assured her that I had plenty of peas and did not need a replacement can.

So, Alex, Ryan and I began our evening with a good laugh about the need for more of a strategic mission next time, if Operation Pea Transport was to be a success.