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Iron Will

August 27, 2013 2 comments
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The beginning of a long day, at Alta Lake.

Love, respect, and determination intermingled with the Whistler mountain air Sunday.

Joining a long string of bikes making their way to Rainbow Park post dawn – fellow spectators – there was an ominous mix of expectation, hope and worry. A knowledge that there would be achievement tinged with pain. There would be victors and at the same time carnage. Dreams realized, but at significant cost.

I had butterflies in my stomach. And I was only watching.

Someone had told me spectating an Ironman was hard work, which I found slightly ridiculous. But they were right. It’s not the jockeying for prime position around the transitions that is hard, it’s the wide range of emotions you experience. From incredulity to disbelief. Whether you are watching the pros streamlining down the highway or willing someone to take another step just by clapping hard.

It was, in its own way, grueling.

I wondered, as I watched an older man in incredible pain limping along the run course at the fourteen hour mark, what was possibly motivating him to set out for the second thirteen mile lap. What could inspire someone to strap on a headlight once darkness fell, knowing they had entered the water before the sun had risen. Behind every athlete, their unique story. Because even the ones who looked fresh on race day had suffered at some point of their arduous training.

A day of dichotomy. At times I watched perfectly sculpted super humans gliding past, while at others I watched softer forms in various stages of struggle. At the finish line some athletes sat on picnic benches and chatted with family, while 20 meters away the medical tent overflowed with salty casualties awaiting IV’s or wheelchairs.

Some athletes bounced away from the finish line, while others were carried.

One thing they all shared was the courage to try. Every face etched with resolve. Evey face.

On top of all that, this.

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Don’t blink or you’ll miss her.

Euphoria at watching my friend rocking a race that I will never attempt. Chrissy, who I try to persuade to have another glass of wine, stay out later, come hang at the beach for a while. She quietly sacrifices these leisurely moments in order to train, making various excuses but never complaining. She chose her dedicated path, and on Sunday, was rewarded.

Tenacious despite fatigue. Focused and unwavering, she was the fourth superwoman to cross the line. I went to cheer her on, but every time I saw her on the course, getting it done, my throat closed up and I couldn’t squeak out a word of encouragement. A spectating fail. Amazed, I could only gawk at her strength.

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Christine Fletcher proving her iron will

Incredibly proud of Chrissy, and my other friends who not only finished Ironman, but achieved new milestones. In fact, props to everyone who attempted this test of mettle. Not only are you an Ironman, you are proof positive that we are capable of incredible things.

How Hard Can A Triathlon Be, Said No One, Ever

July 9, 2013 7 comments

Taken in isolation, a 1500 meter swim isn’t hard. A 37 km bike ride is certainly not daunting. And a 10 km run? Please, I could do that in my sleep. Backwards.

So entering my first Olympic distance triathlon, I told myself, was nothing to write home about. (Sorry about that, mom.) It would be an interesting experiment, a way to celebrate my year of finally learning how to swim, Phelps style. (Because in my mind’s eye I swim just like him.) It would be – and I really thought this – easy.

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Get. This. Wetsuit. Off. Where is that cord?!

And what better place to spend a few hours splashing around than Squamish? Fresh from the running Whistler Half Marathon in early June, I put the Squamish Triathlon on my race calendar for early July, enabling me to wallow away the remainder of summer nights reliving my triumph over copious glasses of Pinot Grigio, until it was time to cheer on my (crazy dedicated) friend Chrissy and her (crazy dedicated) buddy Steph in the #Ironman late August. You know, a real triathlon. The big show. At which point the celebration would kick up a notch.

Typical me, I under-trained and paid the price. But you just never know until you try. So. Now I know.

Still, a very cool and gratifying experience, if heavy on set up time (and supposedly training time, who knew?). I balked when the website requested athletes be on site at 7 am despite a 9:30 am start, to set up transitions. My sleep requirements go way past the beauty, and verge on the sanity, so this threw me off. Unlike running races, there is no fall-out-of-bed-get-yo-ass-to-the-start.

And transitions remained a rather murky concept to me – what did I really need for each one? Towels, food, iPhone to text for help? I hated the thought of needing something I hadn’t thought to leave myself. What if I was bored out of my mind and craved music for my run? What if I needed a cheeseburger after the bike? Or a bed to rest in? What then?

I managed to figure it out by simply attaching myself to a couple that seriously looked the triathlete part (sculpted cheekbones and Oakley’s) and were so in love with each other that they didn’t notice me skulking around them the entire time. And beside them at each transition. Stalking has its advantages. I watched them hawk-eyed as they hung their bikes and carefully laid out a tiny towel on which to put their accessories. (Me: folded my beach towel to look tiny and placed socks and gels inside my shoes, just like the beautiful couple, then stealthily put my sandwich I’d prepared to the bottom of my bag before anyone noticed.)

There seemed to be a discrepancy as to wear a wetsuit or not, but when the charming ones donned theirs, I donned mine. I could use this duo in my everyday life. Decisions have never been so easy.

A fellow swimmer didn’t crack a smile when I asked him if he’d mind zipping me up – hard on my ego, but then those swim caps aren’t for everyone – but redeemed himself my giving me a few tips. And then I realized he was gay, so redemption all around! He encouraged me to get in that water and warm up so the start will be less biting, and to swim wide of the buoy markers to avoid the traffic jam. Noted.

My game plan was to hang back and swim wide of the chaos, in my own little world. And so I did, zigzagging myself towards buoys (sighting still not my strong point), and by the time I’d reached the second of the three turns, I started to get into my groove. Basically, just in time to get out of the water. Which would be the theme for the day.

So I made some mistakes. People flew out of transitions like they were on fire while I debated eating my Cliff bar. I had to stop and ask the crowd for directions on the bike, and asked a competitor, how many laps are we doing again? By the time I started the run (what were my words, in my sleep, backwards?), the relief I expected to feel (finally, my sport, this one I can do!) never came. Instead, just point me to the finish line please, I want this to be over.

That mouth is full of Cliff bar. Again.

That mouth is full of Cliff bar. Again.

And so with 1 km to go, and my legs finally beneath me and my stride lengthened at long last, I missed a pesky rock on the trail and took one on the chin. Literally. Sailed through the air and landed on my chin in front of two volunteers, shocking them out of their engaging conversation, in my best Jack Tripper imitation.

So there was that.

But also, there was this: Accomplishment. Pride. Sweat. Happiness. Triumph.

And the best part was that my two biggest cheerleaders, my girls (my oldest away with friends so MIA), were there every step of the way, and were more excited than myself when I finished.

Success, and love.

Still eating.

(Still eating.)

Father’s Day Reflection

June 13, 2013 16 comments

Dad at work

It’s been twenty years since I’ve seen my Dad, so Father’s Day can be difficult. All those ads for barbecues and razors fill me with sadness because I’m not part of the marketing frenzy this holiday presents. Instead, Father’s Day is simply a time to reflect, a time to remember my Dad and who he was and what he meant to me.

It was cancer, an explanation used too often, but there it is. He died the day before Father’s Day, when the lilacs were in full bloom and the the dichotomy of that has never left me, lilacs being my favorite flower. He’d had cancer and a heart attack before, so it was somewhat of a shock to my naive twenty-two year old self that this happened, that he could actually die.

He was a character, my father.

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At times he drove me crazy, as parents are likely to do. There were moments when I wished he were different from who he was. Perspective is a funny thing, because looking back, it’s these same differences that made him wonderful.

Ah, there’s the rub, that’s what he would say.

He wasn’t perfect, but as a parent myself, I have a better appreciation for him now, knowing what the constant pressure of raising a family feels like.

And I only have three children. He had nine. It puts his fatherhood into its own category, right alongside the crazy category, but I’m thankful my parents persisted, being the ninth. Sacrifice was not fleeting, it was a way of life when you have nine children. I could not have done it.

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But he was indefatigable. He thrived in the chaos of our family, he was our wise and fearless leader, larger than life and full of stories. When he laughed, he threw his head back and it could be heard for miles around. The man loved to laugh.

Looking back, he seemed to be involved with anything that came his way – the church, the cancer society, the Kinsmen, whatever that is. On top of supporting us, he made time for positions on boards and volunteered heartily – yet frequently when I was walking home in the pouring rain, his car would appear and the door would fling open. He drove around until he found me.

He appeared in unlikely places at unlikelier times, and when no one else was thinking of me, he thought of me.

I once read that when you lose someone you love, it’s like a crater landing in the middle of your life that is never again filled; you simply learn how to navigate around it. And so it is. I miss him, but I’ve learned to live life without him, as you do. The world keeps turning. Last week I was in a used book store in Washington and I took a picture of a set of books he would have appreciated, maybe I would have given them to him for Father’s Day. In that moment, I felt the hole of his absence. Grief does that, creeps up on you, and you feel the loss and the shock, all over again.

He’s gone but not forgotten. I have his blue eyes and skinny ankles. His impatience and stubbornness, his passion for words, his love of sports. I see myself reflected in him, both his good traits and his bad.

He wasn’t perfect, but he was mine.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads, and especially to the fathers who are still with us in spirit, wherever we go.

Dad and I

June Bugs and Strawberry Shortcake

June 10, 2013 4 comments

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It’s June, and I’m tired.

Tired of making lunches and putting grapes into plastic containers that are returned at the end of the day unopened, or worse, at the end of the week as a mold experiment. Tired of washing an endless cycle of water bottles. Tired of cleaning out knapsacks with crumpled bits of paper I was supposed to read last week. Tired of nagging my kids to do their homework, put away their rain boots, and for the love of Miss Carroll, hang up their school bags.

The routines and good intentions of September melt into puddles of torment by June, and I need school to end already so I can fantasize about summer.

But aside from the rivulets of hell that June represents to parents nationwide, June also means local strawberries, and local strawberries, for me, can mean only one thing. Strawberry shortcake. Because what’s life if you can’t take something perfectly healthy and make it into something naughty?

Aha. Stop right there. Strawberry shortcake need not be naughty. Nope, nada, nien. Substitute the whip cream or ice cream for vanilla flavoured Greek yogurt and voila, a healthy dessert is born. I discovered this when I opened the empty ice cream container that was in our freezer, and was determined that my strawberry hulling would not be in vain. Who does that? Who among you puts an empty container back in the freezer?

I’m not known for my culinary genius, so when I make a rare discovery in the kitchen, I need to get out the megaphone. And it fits within my criteria of five minute turn-around, leaving me time to dream about swinging in a hammock this summer. Like that’s going to happen.

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Whole Lot of Protein Strawberry Shortcake: Feeds 4 and takes 4 minutes, unless you mistake your thumb for a strawberry, which I may or may not have done.

1 pint of local strawberries

1 packet of tea biscuits (Whole Foods makes them better than me)

500 ml 0% vanilla flavoured Greek yogurt

Clean and chop strawberries avoiding thumbs, spoon over halved biscuits, top with yogurt, and thank me tomorrow. Off to buy my hammock.

Cheerfully, The Answer is No.

June 5, 2013 6 comments

If ever there was a mother who didn’t desire her daughter to be a cheerleader, it is moi.

So naturally, my teenage daughter is hellbent on being one. With Naomi Wolf as my witness, I didn’t see this one coming. Either irony is beautiful, or else someone is playing a divine trick, I’m not sure which.

Call me judgemental, but I don't see many positive role models here.

Call me judgmental, but I don’t see many positive role models here, unless you’re aspiring to be a look-alike doll, or Barbie.

Note: this is a cheer club, not wave a pompom when the football team takes the field, cheerleading. The idea is they work on routines (at ridiculously inopportune times) and enter competitions (in the middle of nowhere). If anything, it is even slightly more pointless.

Nothing against cheerleading, except for the stereotype. And the fact that they wear more makeup on their faces than clothes on their body. And it objectifies girls not yet women. And it attracts a certain person that may not be the best influence. And there are a thousand other activities I would rather her spend her time on. The debating club, for instance.

There are many reasons I don’t want her to join competitive cheerleading. Everyday she asks, and everyday I throw out a different way of saying no (you could break your neck being today’s flavour). But somewhere in my head I worry that I should let her be who she wants to be. I agree it’s important that kids express themselves, and that those parents who get in the way of that expression are doing a disservice to their children. When she wanted to wear mismatched clothing, I was cool with that.

But this is different, and so I’m choosing to ignore that little voice in my head, and go with my gut instinct, the instinct that draws the line in the sand just before cheer club, and makes me unpopular. The consequences are large and possibly, unforgiving. I might pay for this for years to come, but then I may thank myself, too.

These children should have come with specific directions attached. What would you do?

A Teacher Who Made a Difference

May 21, 2013 2 comments
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Miss Ritcey, circa 1981, Alderney Elementary School

Her name was Miss Ritcey. She wore tweed skirt suits, sensible shoes, and a hint of a smile.

A few of us were pulled from our classrooms once a week and taken to the library to spend the morning with her. We sat in table groups, hardly believing our luck.

On our first day, she called us into a circle, and said quietly, “A boy wants to go home, but there is a man with a mask in his way. Who is the man in the mask?” We were allowed to ask her questions with yes or no answers. We fell over ourselves coming up with possibilities, before realizing the key to the answer was asking the right question. We finally got to the idea of sport, and then baseball, and the answer: the man was the catcher for the other team – the boy was afraid of being tagged out. It was drastically different from the Halloween or horror ideas that initially popped into our collective heads.

From then on, we were hooked. Unaccustomed to learning being fun or engaging, her class was like a mirage to a delirious desert traveler. Days spent in our regular classroom dragged by, while we waited for that quiet knock which signaled her presence in the building.

She lead us in discussions ranging from books to science. We did the talking. She mostly listened. Everything fascinated her.

When she did speak, she was quiet and deliberate and began all of her sentences with, “Now, people.” As though we were adults. As though we were important. As though she was giving the Throne Speech instead of addressing a motley group of kids aged ten to twelve.

For those few hours each week in the library, it was cool to be a geek. No idea was ridiculous. No question was stupid. No contribution went unnoticed.

We became our very best selves. Freed from chalkboard pointers, we dared to dream. We learned what it meant to think outside the box. We were encouraged to be different. We were encouraged to be daring. Miss Ritcey often smiled, but never laughed. We emulated her, and listened carefully to our classmates, used our powers of critical thinking to debate ideas rather than dismiss them out of hand.

She didn’t need to raise her voice. Robbie and Jennifer – prone to misbehaving – sat quietly for a change. We were all in awe of our wise teacher, mesmerized by her serene aura. Lulled by the calm oasis she created, despite it being in the basement of the school, where three rows of books amounted to the library. Her presence induced a pavlovian response to learning, cobwebs cleared from our brains and we readied for takeoff.

From grades four to eight, Miss Ritcey parachuted into our school, a Mary Poppins amongst mortal teachers. After that I never saw her again. I never kept in touch. She was constantly on the move, rotating schools around the city, and it was long before email existed. Dropping by to see her wasn’t an option. I haven’t seen or heard of her for thirty years, but I will never forget. Her voice was one of reason, her body was one of composure, her pores reeked wisdom and the palest scent of Chloe, and especially the unwavering respect she showed each and every one of us.

Miss Sally Ritcey, wherever you are, you encouraged us to believe in ourselves, instilled in us a hunger for knowledge, and a desire to be different. Thank you.

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” – Socrates

Who was the teacher that made a difference in your life?

Ask.Fm: Where Wild West Meets Social Media

May 10, 2013 5 comments

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Another day, another social network to monitor. I first learned of ask.fm from my friend last week. She was in a flap. Generally, she is unflappable. My interest was piqued.

It’s horrible and nasty, you won’t believe what kids are saying on it, and ALL the kids are on it. Check it out.

So I did, and my unflappable friend was quite right to be flapping.

Ask.fm is an anonymous platform that allows users to post questions or comments to a user’s profile. It’s the social media equivalent to the wild west: anyone can follow anyone, and users don’t have access to who is following them, they can only see their number of followers.

In other words, it is a hotbed breeding ground for bullying, harassment, and inappropriate comments. If I could sound alarm bells here, I would let them ring.

You should know I’m not a helicopter parent. I have somewhat liberal views on social media, I believe it will play a role in our children’s lives and we need to keep an eye on things, while understanding that we don’t fully understand its (important) role in their lives. Whether we like it or not, it’s here, and it’s big.

That being said, I created an alias on ask.fm and followed my kid and her friends.

The questions and comments range wildly from inoccuous compliments to ranting insults, and everything in between.

Interestingly, as dismayed as I was with the content, I was impressed with the way she handled the insults, basically by laughing at the caustic comments or posting silly YouTube cartoon videos as a response. I suppose a sidebar of these social network sites is kids learn to deflect and stand up to haters. (I’m not sure I have the same capacity.)

But inevitably, others will fall victim to its nasty nature. Ask.fm is being blamed for the suicide of at least one teenager in England last month.

Apparently, you are able to block a user that is being abusive, and if you don’t respond to a question or comment, it won’t show up on your profile. This article, aimed at parents and teachers, will give you the lowdown on this potentially caustic site.

I can’t see the point of this network – it seems like nastiness personified to me, but I guess that is also its charm. My daughter tells me it’s just silly fun. When I was her age my friends and I stuck jellybeans up our noses for silly fun, but there you go. The times they are a changin’.

The Maze of Uncertainty Under My Feet

April 18, 2013 2 comments
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While it may look like Greek, should Greek be a labyrinth of pipes instead of a language, this is actually our water heater. Ta da!

I’ve always meant to get acquainted with the inner workings of our house. Being the biggest investment I’ll ever make, I thought I would find the time to learn what the hell all those pipes and wires are all about.

My intentions were pure.

But our first house was a fifty-year old split level, and the mechanical room was located in what can only be described as a decrepit dungeon. The furnace and some other contraptions were perched on a mass of exposed rock. Many a creature made their homes amongst the dirt floor and granite, cobwebs made up the vast selection of art in the corners.

My enthusiasm for the details waned.

When I turned up the thermostat, the furnace kicked in. The water flowed plentifully from the taps. The mice staked their territory, and upstairs, I staked mine. All was good, and perhaps ignorance was bliss.

Then we decided to build a house, and I assumed this would be my chance. The mystery of what pipe held what would naturally unveil itself to me as I laboured alongside the many trades that came and went. But the only thing that unveiled itself to me was my impatience with the project, and how interminably slow it was. The plumbers and electricians came and went with their leather holsters and tape measures, and honestly, I was just happy to see the back side of them leaving.

In my haste to have it finished, I missed it being built.

So in the following years, when things occasionally went wrong, and I needed to direct a handyman/plumber/man with toolbox to the mechanical room, I would wave them in the general vicinity, because truth be told I couldn’t tell our air exchanger from our wifi portal. A couple of the wisecrackers, who understood my vagueness for ignorance, commented, didn’t you build this house? And I did what I always do when caught out; I pretended not to hear.

So when our hot water started disappearing three days ago, I willfully ignored it. But freezing cold showers can only be ignored for so long.

A nice boy from the local heating and plumbing shop (is it just me or do they seem younger and younger?) donned his booties and asked me to show him the water heater.

I froze. I should really have located the water heater before he came. Then I babbled about how we had just moved in, all the while moving towards the mechanical room where, surely, the water heater must be. Or was that the central vacuum?

As soon as I switched on the light he confidently strode towards a box in the corner, and I exhaled. There is nothing I loathe more than feeling like the dumb housewife that I am. I seized on this opportunity for learning; no tradesman gets to quietly go about his work undeterred in my house at $100 an hour.

So, how does this thing work, anyway, I asked.

To his credit, he actually tried to tell me. But as soon as he started talking, my mind left the mechanical room and entered the arena of what I should make for dinner. I instantly regretted my feeble attempt towards self-fulfillment. He rambled on and on. I stared past his full head of hair (not one of which was grey) at the maze of pipes, but then noticed he was quizzically looking past me. He stepped around me and flicked a switch that was beside my shoulder. A piece of masking tape above it read boiler.

There you go, problem solved. On his way out the door, I launched into my (now familiar) spiel, about how silly I am, I can’t believe I didn’t check that switch. Not that I knew that switch was there, mind you.

No problem, happens all the time, he lied. All this to say that ignorance, while blissful, can also be expensive.

Running Towards the Smoke in Boston

April 16, 2013 8 comments
Finishing Boston - Boylston Street was a sight for sore eyes and tired legs

This is what it’s supposed to look like.

Instead of reading her a story, I laid down with my eight-year old, Ella, and I told her about the Boston Marathon that would take place the next morning.

I told her it is the most popular and iconic marathon in the world, it is the crowning glory for thousands of runners, who log hundreds of solitary miles in preparation. It overtakes the city for the weekend, packing out the world famous pasta joints in the north end and clogging Logan International with runner-clad travelers. It has an atmosphere all of its own, uniquely Bostonian, and someday, I hope she will experience it first hand, and I will come and cheer her on.

It is chilling and saddening to think this very same conversation could easily have been repeated in the household of eight-year old victim, Martin Richard.

It’s been three years since I ran Boston, and being there was a dream come true – as boring as that sounds it is crazily accurate. A seed was planted in my head with a surprisingly fast (for me) half marathon time.

That was it. This odd thing on my computer screen told me I could qualify for Boston, and I decided it would be foolish of me not to try; computers aren’t dumb. I trained, qualified, and registered for the race I had always dreamed of doing, but never believed I could. I tell you this because people who are not runners may not realize that Boston is more than a race, it’s a lofty badge of honour.

In racing terms, my result was disappointing, but the experience of running it was anything but. Every mile was filled with laughter and inspiration, and kinship with the other runners in my midst. Some things you can’t put a clock to, Boston being chief among them. I didn’t want that race, that journey filled with peopleĀ  – the very best of people – running into their dreams, to ever end.

And so, for someone to mar this event, this moment for thousands of amateur runners like myself, who feel like running Boston is the closest they will come to glory on a grand stage, is particularly vile and upsetting.

My friend, who had finished the race and was waiting to meet his buddy when he heard the bombs, wrote an emotional email to his many supporters after the tragedy. He wrote, “marathon runners are such amazing, peaceful people, and everyone is walking around with their heads down instead of celebrating.”

But of course, there is another side to the story. Someone – maybe just one person – planted those bombs. Hundreds, and by now likely thousands, in different ways, jumped forward to help. I responded to his email:

“When things are senseless, there’s no point in trying to make sense of them. On another note, though, did you see the people who immediately ran towards the smoke? See, there is hope and humanity all around us, let’s concentrate on their huge contributions, and not the crazy bastards who attempt to ruin our world.”

For its victims and their families, their worlds stopped yesterday, and for those people we collectively grieve and mourn. Yet, I can’t stop replaying the images of the hundreds of people trying to help. To all those who didn’t think of dangerous consequences, and selflessly did what they could for the injured, thank you thank you thank you for your bravery. You give us hope.

So for me, Boston will still be Boston, filled with unlikely heroes and courageous runners, spectators and officials alike. And maybe one day, my daughter will run this marathon, and I will stand on Boyleston Street and cheer her on.

Stay Gold, Ponyboy

April 12, 2013 5 comments

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As a parent, there is nothing better than introducing your children to things that you loved as a child, and watching the amazement on their face as they likewise are enamored by that same thing.

Or not, as may be the case. In fact, as always seems to be the case. That is to say, if I loved something as a child, it is almost a certainty that my children will abhor it.

Now, in both my and their defense, things like technology have come a long way in my thirty or so years (#liar!). With movies, for instance, special effects have evolved to the point where it is almost impossible for my kids to enjoy the same movies I loved. When I staged a screening of Pete’s Dragon for my children, my hopeful enthusiasm that they would cherish Eliot and Pete’s friendship as much as I did quickly went south when they started laughing in all the wrong places. Same thing with Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Shaggy D.A.

But they are vintage, I explained. It was a simpler time, you have to ignore the grainy picture, the poor acting, and the strange voice-overs.

They choose their movies now.

I moved on to books, and enjoyed a small window of success. I introduced my charges to The Paper Bag Princess and Where the Wild Things Are, with huge fanfare. When they asked me to reread these at night, my confidence in my tiny self was restored. Oh yeah, who’s your momma now?

As a fan of books, my kids are used to me shoveling them down their throats. I know, I know, I should back off, let them come to titles on their own terms, but I can’t help myself. YOU. MUST. LOVE. THIS. My enthusiasm gets the best of me. I can’t be tamed.

Yet with certain things I truly obsessed over loved, I tried to take a more delicate path, in order to ensure success. Since I know from past experience, when I return from the library with an armload of books for my kids, I’m met with three eye rolls, I have purposefully kept my lips sealed about the best book ever written for adolescents. The Outsiders, duh.

I speak for the generation of teenagers who listened to Kool and the Gang when I explain what The Outsiders meant to me. Despite never knowing how to properly pronounce The Socs, this book, about a family of orphaned boys and their peers, the Greasers, stole my heart and my imagination and made me pine for chocolate cake for breakfast. I went on to read every book S.E. Hinton ever wrote and wore out our Betamax machine replaying Francis Ford Coppola’s movie adaptation. Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Dally, ripped from Teen Beat magazine, adorned my walls. I committed half of the screenplay, including Robert Frost’s poem that Johnny reads, to memory, and in times of trouble I quietly utter, ‘stay gold, Ponyboy,’ which has been met with quizzical looks.

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This gem of a book I’ve been saving, wanting to offer it to my own flesh and blood at just the right moment. Several times I held it in my trembling hands in the library, only to kiss it and replace it on the shelf. It’s not time, said a voice in my head, similar to Darth Vader’s.

Then, goddammit, the school system stole my thunder, and my daughter brought it home for required reading – required reading being the kiss of death for any novel. (Note that the school telling you to read a novel and your own mother telling you to read a novel are radically different.) It took me years to come around to Charles Dickens after being force fed Great Expectations, so I can relate.

But surely, reading a book with your mother hanging over your shoulder, you know, just in case you had any questions about the context, or a need to expand and discuss on the themes presented, would only help someone enjoy it more. There is nothing worse than ambiguity, after all. I made myself available.

So, I asked her once or twenty times, what do you think? She looked at me with one of those looks. I backed off, but noted her progress, and when she neared the end I begged suggested we read it together. Savour the moment. Surely, this would be her ‘aha’ moment.

We snuggled in bed with the book between us. I bawled openly. She looked at me with a new strangeness. Through my tears I tried to bestow the magic that the book itself failed to reveal. S.E. Hinton couldn’t make her love it, but surely I could.

Yeah, that didn’t work.

It’s a hard lesson for me to learn, but I’m taking ownership. Thou shalt not expect my children to love what I loved as a child, ever again. I do, however, have my very own copies of Jane Eyre and The Catcher in the Rye, underlined in all the poignant places, should she ever want to take them for a spin. #HopeSpringsEternal