Early lessons in love and writing

September 20, 1988
“I have a bike. I like it very much. It’s a two wheeler. My dad and I put it together.”

When I was in second grade, something important happened. Well, two things.

#1: My first crush.

I had a crush on Kyle Chacon. We had the same homeroom teacher, Ms. Schiff, whom I’d mistakenly called “mom” a few too many times. That, I guess, will be the second important thing! Well, I guess it was important- humiliating and memorable, definitely. Everybody has the “time you mistakenly called your teacher mom” story from their childhood. I don’t just have the one though. Nope. I have a thousand of those stories, spanning over the years and still thriving presently. I’m clingy. Listen, my mom is great. But I’ve always had “mommy syndrome” when presented with an older female I respect and admire. Recently, I called a now former boss “mom” by mistake. That’s not why she’s a former boss. But it was definitely weird. I’m not proud of that- well, either of those things. I mean, I wasn’t fired. But I’m still not proud of not having that job? Or not having a job at all? Or calling my boss mom and being unemployed? I don’t know. Because that’s what this blog is all about- calling people mom by accident. What? OK.

Ms. Schiff was great. A real trooper (she never looked frightened by my overt familial affection for her). Also, it had been a hard year at St. John’s Elementary School. And we had more than a few dead classroom pets to show for it. That sounded bad. What I meant was, it was a bad year because the students were killing the classroom pets. Ok. That also sounds bad. It was an accident, guys. Tragedies. One after the other. And another. I mean, I could have cared less. Easy! They were rodents. I wasn’t into it. But the other well-adjusted students and the teachers especially, well, they all really seemed to care. And cried about it and stuff. Which also made me more than just a little uncomfortable. Let’s just say that was the last year of the “Weekly Classroom Pet Award” program. The deal had been that the most well-behaved and motivated student was permitted to take the designated classroom pet home for the weekend. Personally, I’d hated winning the opportunity to take the filthy rodents to my nice clean disease-free home. They all creeped me out. Hamster, guinea pig, bunny rabbit, whatever. Pests! To me, they all represented a future sleepless night filled with the intense anxiety that I might hurt the dirty fucker or even possibly kill the wretched little beast.

“But you get to pet and feed them!” the teacher told me. Oh, joy! And that was supposed to be a selling point, I guess. What’s that? You say I should be careful or I might get bitten? Really- they what? And my room’s going to smell like shit and cedar? GREAT. Infected animal scratches and sleep deprivation didn’t seem like a reward to me. But in the school’s eyes, I’m sure it seemed to be good exercise in growing up and, you know, trying not to kill things. But I didn’t need any lessons. I wasn’t going to kill the stupid bunny. But I wasn’t going to touch it either. Or look directly into its eyes.

The worst part is that the monsters had to stay the student’s bedroom at night, in order to ensure the safety of the pet (yeah, that worked out) and to give the student a real sense of responsibility. Enough is enough, people! I already had a litany of issues when it came to sleeping. Amongst them was the fear that an invisible man was hiding under my bed, waiting for me to fall into a deep slumber in order to stab me through the bed with a huge invisible sword. I didn’t need some rodent moving around stinky cedar chips, shitting and pissing all night, to add to the equation. Thanks.

Back to the number one important thing: the crush!

Kyle means handsome. Yes, that’s right. And I know this is true because during my younger summer days, my dear granny was a participant in just about every stinking craft fair held in southern Delaware, all of which I was forced to attend and assist her in. Yeah, I walked the invisible dog. Jealous? She also sold gold plaques and homemade buttons. Each of them featured a name in a scripted typeface, its meaning, and then a meaningful poem… written in lieu of that meaning. Sarah means princess, by the way. I don’t remember the poem. I’m sure it was delightful. And meaningful (sorry). I do remember being extremely disappointed when I made the discovery that Eric was the name that meant prince, which also meant that Kyle was most likely destined to be nothing more than a fling- a fling that was far from possible at the time. It was second grade and I was not even slightly close to being socially graceful. Some might argue that I’m still not. Back then, I was just particularly good at grossing everybody out. Some might also argue that I still am. I spent most of the down time during my classes eating paper scraps and investigating dark corridors… in my nose. The Kyle situation looked pretty grim. Even still, every time the Twix “Bow-Bow” commercial played I energetically sang along, proudly adjusting the lyrics to “BOW-BOW…. Kyle- Chicka-Chacon…”

On my birthday, about three weeks into the school year, at the peak of my infatuation with Kyle, my mother presented me with a secret. Well, it would eventually come to be a secret. It was my first diary. Ah! That was actually the second important thing. I knew I had a plan!

So, the official #2 important thing : My first diary.

October 12, 1988
“I cut my hair in the bathtub.”

The cover was white and puffy, featuring a corner sun and a big rainbow with hearts in place of the clouds. It also had a lock, the key to which I’d attached to a ribbon and hung around my doorknob. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best place for hiding something.

At first, I had no idea what to do with the thing. It looked like homework to me. My mom told me to write about all of the things I was too afraid to talk about. I told her I had no interest in cursing. She then told me what she’d really meant. Basically, I could write about anything. I could even make stuff up! Sold!

This resulted in my writing about some really important stuff… like when my sister’s friends were around and I had to take a poop but was too afraid someone might hear me- or smell the poop, god forbid. Being the big Nancy Drew fan that I was, I also tackled some real mysteries… like getting to the bottom of why my mother seldom chose to hand wash the dishes, or what my neighbors cats were up to, and hard hitting quandaries like if you swallowed a worm whole could you see it in your poop? And would it survive? There was a lot of stuff about poop. But the last two pages were devoted to something really special: a lot of hearts surrounding the names “Kyle & Sarah Chacon” with balloons and confetti.

Years later, after our big move to Delaware, I was unpacking some things and came across my old diary. I laughed. And then I blushed. And then I got a little nauseous. Man, I really liked poop.

November 9, 1988
“If I were an ant I would be scared of a person. I might run away. I would be afraid of being smashed. But maybe someday it would be fun to be smashed.”

Oh, boy.

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