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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

desultory fish princess

Ten points if you know what the title adjective means. It was my dictionary.com word of the day, and I've decided to become briefly attached to it, then quickly move on to something completely unrelated… for no reason really, except my own wanderlust tendencies. I was six years old and I still remember exactly what I was wearing on my first day of school. My best sweater, the yellow one with long sleeves I could pull over my hands, the shiny silver flower clip in my hair, my brand new “inside shoes” were white with black stripes on the Velcro. I looked like every other normal six year old stepping into the classroom for the first time… except of course I wasn’t anything like any of the other six year olds. I was me. Little Miss Mischievous hidden behind the golden face of pure Canadian country life innocence. If you’ve ever read Little House in the Big Woods, then that was me… only a generation later. We had a truck. We had a satellite phone that could be hooked up to a battery for emergencies, we had propane tanks for our stovetops and refrigerator, and a huge brick inlayed wood stove. We had a gas generator, kerosene lanterns (with proper replaceable wicks) a plethora of candles inspired by my hippie mother. We even had one small TV set we could watch movies on if we were good, or in my case, if we were simply convincing enough. I remember asking my friends to lend me the movies I thought my parents would like just so I could have a suitable bargaining tool. I may have been six years old, and I may have looked exactly the way I was supposed to look, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience that first day of school. I shuffled through the doors and stood awestruck, staring at the majestic, glorious and magnificent setting for millions of little girl dreams all over the world. There was a castle built in my first grade classroom. Okay… so it was made of foam and cardboard, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t take my eyes away. I could barely think about anything else as I took my seat and everything around me melted away. I cared only about that castle and the all-consuming need to have my princess wish materialize right there in front of me. I think I remember it so clearly because I was the true opposite of a princess. I shot squirrels with pellet guns for fun, could gut and clean a fish fast enough that I considered it a talent, ran barefoot all summer and laughed while killing ants with a magnifying glass. The pink pointy hat with the ribbon flowing down, sitting visibly right there in the castle, represented everything that I wasn’t… everything I had seen in those Disney movies I borrowed… everything that I wanted. I was Cinderella, and that castle was my chance to find and lose an imaginary glass slipper. I finally snapped out of it and listened to my teacher for a while, focusing intently only when she explained the rules of playtime. There were stations. PAINTING, PUZZLES, LEGO … and oh yes… CASTLE. I’m sure there was more that I cant remember now, but we each had little gingerbread people cutouts with our names on them. To choose a station we just hooked them on one of the pegs below each name. The castle had five pegs and before I even knew what was happening, they were all filled. One little girl stomped away to sulk in a corner; another simply hung her cutout man over another cutout man and screamed when the teacher said she couldn’t do that. I watched. I watched my dreams fade away from me as I realized, they weren’t my dreams at all. They were everyone’s dreams. In an instant, I no longer loved that castle. In fact, I didn’t even care about it one little bit. I put my gingerbread man named Heather on the PUZZLE peg, because it only had two hooks, and no one else wanted it. For days I just smiled as everyone else -even the boys (for there were also foam swords in the castle) - fought over those five pegs. Eventually the excitement dwindled and I decided to try the castle. As I expected, it was a disappointment. I wasn’t a princess and no pink hat or makeshift towers could change that....

.....besides, the castles I created in my head were so much better… and they were all mine.

3 comments:

Michael said...

When I was in kindergarten we got assigned to paint, or play with clay, or building blocks, as well as several other things I can't remember. And each week we would be reassigned to something else, so that everyone got a turn at each activity.
Except I never got to paint.
I don't know why that was. I had perfect attendance that year, so I know I didn't just miss the week I was supposed to do it. I suppose it was just an error on the teacher's part. Somehow I got overlooked. But I really wanted to paint, I kept waiting and waiting for my oportunity, but it never came. Maybe I should've said something to the teacher, but I didn't.
I know this is about the mildest childhood trauma you can imagine, but it has haunted me my entire life. Even several years later, I would sometimes cry when I thought about it.

Ibrahim said...

Bloody hell.. Now it's my turn to sniff over a post. That was fucking beautiful.

old hack said...

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