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Posts Tagged ‘daydreaming’

Despite the titles of the past two blogs, I have no desire to force a gender on my kids. This is something Jim and I have gotten into over the past few days; as you might expect, he’s got some pretty solidly thought out ideas about why and how a kid should be raised up without feeling like they need to like princesses if they are a girl or trucks if they’re a boy–or even to feel like they have to be a girl or a boy.

So: here are the third of three sets of books I will read my children.

1. My Father’s Dragon. This is actually a set of three books–My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland. They’re very simple, and very sweet. The illustrations are black and white, very round-cornered and old-fashioned. There’s one or two seriously pleasing maps and a cat who talks, and a baby dragon named… well. I won’t spoil it for you. It is absolutely perfect to read as a going-to-bed book.

 

2. The Children of Green Knowe. So far as I have been able to find out in the past fifteen years, I am the only person who has read this book. It’s a very beautiful, very quiet, very English book. It’s hard to say much else about it, because part of its strangeness is what the reader slowly realizes. I first heard it read out loud, and done right, it’s utterly enchanting. Plus, I refuse to remain the only person who has ever read this.

3. Redwall. Every child should be given the chance to drool over imaginary meals they will never, ever be able to recreate. And repetitive plots are soothing to small children, and this series is particularly prone to going over the same territory over and over. Plus they’re a blast to read out loud–so many different voices to do! And at least one of them was a major family bonding episode for my parents, brother, and me; we took a long car trip and listened to Cluny the Scourge take over the Abbey. Perfect.

4. Peter Pan. This is the book I would choose to read to a sick friend my age, to a kid I was babysitting, to my own child. I have a recording of it that I listen to on a regular basis. For those of you who have only seen the movie–read the book. It’s a spooky, strange, surreal and beautiful book; I want my children to dream of Neverland and look out the window for Peter and the second star to the right. I want to share that experience with them.

 

So there you have it. A round dozen book I consider to be indispensable to becoming a lover of books at a young age. There are dozens more, of course–I was a brutally focused reader even as a child, and I have so many books I loved and was touched by. I don’t have the time, or the space, to possibly cover them all.

 

But I invite you to share your lists, if you have them.

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…Well, and my son too. My dad read me the  Narnia series as a kid, and it remains one of my most treasured memories. But as a girl with a lot of aunts, I see the mother-daughter relationship play out in my family constantly, and it’s something I want to take my place in.

And so: a partial list.

1. The full Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and then backing up and proceeding chronologically. You can say what you like about the Christian undertones (and overtones and overall tones), but you miss those as a kid. All you hear is the talking animals and the epic fights and the children who become kings and queens. And it’s a simple-language book, for the most part; the words aren’t obsessively complex. And it takes a while–seven books will carry you for a long time.

2. The full Little House on the Prairie series, read from the yellowbound and yellowing copies that belonged to my mother when she was my age. When I took a Children’s Lit class, every girl in the room had memories of wanting to be like Laura. (And despising Mary.) I want my kid to be linked to me and my mother and her mother through these books.

3. Black Beauty. This is an extremely hefty book for a little girl; I was less than seven when my mother started reading this to me. It’s full of pain and suffering and appalling treatment of animals, but it’s beautiful too. It’s singlehandedly responsible for my early love of horses, and at the root of my desire to work in an old-style English stable; I own three copies. The biggest and heaviest is the one my mother read to me, because of the handsome pictures; someday I will sit in my bed with my daughter and give her her first lessons in horsemanship from that book.

4. Matilda. I will of course keep all the Dahl books in the house, but I have a soft spot for this one. The first way I experienced Matilda was on tape, and it’s wonderful to hear out loud, because it can be light and lovely for Ms. Honey and roaring and wicked for the Trunchbull, and deeply twerpy for Matilda’s parents. Preferably I’ll read to her out of my elderly copy, and she’ll read along in hers if she wants to. I never fell asleep without being read to when I was under eight.

I’ll be along with more later. It’s a long list.

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My name is Bones.

…or Edie.

Or–rarely these days–Talia.

I do have a perfectly serviceable birthname which suits me fairly well, but I decided to leave it off in favor of anonymity. I’ve also gone by other monikers; some of them the proper sort of nicknames that are derived from my the one I was born with, some more along the lines of “short stuff”. I went by Aurélie in highschool, from four years of full-immersion French classes. I picked up bossmare and hyena-girl somewhere along the line. I like names. I like the flexibility and the chance to take on a slightly different personality.

I’ve been moving between names without thinking about it for a long time, not just with myself but with other people. Cris and Liam were the same person, who was sometimes called Dragon; so were Melissa and Byrd, Fey and Heather, Carolyn and Leyna. Kendra was Kendra or Dama or Dee, depending on what year it was. Grace and George are she and he, two individuals in one mind, one body, one personality. We’re all of us in our twenties now–somewhere between 23 and 26, and these were names we took as kids, ten years ago. When I talk to these people about each other, I still use the names we used in those days; so do they. When I talked to my parents, or to those friends outside of that little gang, or now, to my post-highschool friends, I called and call them by the names they were born with. (Except George, who is always George.) This is a way that I show love; private names, private stories, things that are just-between-us-two (or three, or four).

I never even thought about the swapping back and forth, and I rarely slipped up, which considering I was also swapping pronouns was pretty impressive. I was doing things like this within moments; getting off the phone and saying “Bye, Liam,” and then instantly saying to my mother “Cris wants to know if (whatever)”. I lived quite happily in two realities, and although parts of them eventually came crashing down, it’s a skill I kept.

(Incidentally, and for those who don’t know, I was called Talia.)

When I started spending a lot of time online, I ended up in a slightly different but surprisingly similar situation, in that when you’re online, you choose your name. Hapa, Juno, Luna, Winger, Pocky–these were names people went by because they worked for them, because they matched with their identities and views of themselves. We don’t get to choose our names as a general rule; our parents choose our birthnames and our friends choose our nicknames and our lovers choose our pet names (in case you weren’t listening, that’s where Bones is from). But online we choose who we are; there are people who don’t know me as anything other than Edie.

I think what I was trying to get to, in a roundabout fashion, is why it’s easy for me to swap people’s names and genders in a way that gives other people a lot of trouble. I have, sort of by accident, rather a lot of gender-variant friends and partners, and sort of by accident I’m comfortable with swapping names and pronouns over. I’m always annoyed by people who mess up pronouns again and again, who don’t listen for sentence and context clues as to how one should be referring to an individual, who don’t ask, when they hear those clues and are confused, what name and pronoun the person prefers. I used to say, “Who are we being now?” to my friends, and change how I addressed them accordingly; these days I say, “What pronoun would you like me to use?” This wasn’t a hard transition, no pun intended; more like walking over a bridge than jumping a chasm. I don’t understand — and yet I do — why people find this hard.

I grew up like this. Not everybody does.

I’m pretty sure that when I started this entry a month ago, it was supposed to be about gender pronouns and the way the way people around transgender individuals handle their transitions, but it didn’t turn out that way–that’s actually something I’ll handle later. Seven years ago today I lost one of those private identities pretty much for good. I learned what it was like to have to talk about yourself almost as another person, and while it’s not the same as listening to my trans* friends try to talk about themselves before they transitioned, it runs parallel. How do you talk sensibly about someone who is and isn’t you? How do you draw the line between selves, and how far do you let that line blur–or isn’t there a line? Does that self become, at some point, a different person, who you can talk to and understand and remember, but separate, or was it always you at the bottom of things?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself for years. I know this bit of the post at least is coming off self-indulgent and silly, but having a partner who has deeply examined themselves and their identity, in a really meaningful way, can mean you start to do a lot more thinking.

I’m Bones these days, and happy being her. But sometimes, I miss fitting so comfortably into Talia’s name that I didn’t know where she ended, and I began.

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The water thrusts me towards it, until
I am ankle-knee-hip deep,
mouth already tasting salt, hands
cupping up the liquid as if
there is no other choice, small ripples
cresting on my skin, muscles
tight and shivering against the cold, sand
pulling at bare feet, reluctant toes. It takes
everything not to fall down into buoyancy, let
the ocean overtake me,
waves breaking down a body
(no more than bones and meat
and sun-scarred skin) that is
no longer fully mine, letting something
out to swim and twist and sink
as wind and tides will let it, within
the boundaries of the blood-deep sea.

(I continue not to make this a poetry journal, but it’s easier to talk about the ocean in poetry for me, so this is what you get.)

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My main source of income during the summer is working as a petsitter. I work for a company that shall remain nameless, run by two gay men who did so well at it that they were able to quit their day jobs. They also got a horse, and horses are not cheap, so that suggests to me they have been extremely successful.

It’s generally a pretty good job. I usually have between 3 and 10 visits/walks a day, which can be rough but also means that I 1) get a lot of exercise, and 2) make a lot of money. My pay-per-visit is ten dollars for a regular walk, and 12 dollars for an off-leash run, which means that on a particularly rough day I can make upwards of a hundred bucks. It can severely cramp my social life, given that my day has the potential to  start at 6am and end at 9pm. However, I’m generally off by 6 or 7, which means I can do things at night, and I also have three-to-four hour periods off during the day – and I’ve been known to bring my friends along on walks once in a while.

It’s a weird job, though. It gives me a lot of time alone, and when I’m alone for long periods of time I start to mutter to myself. This should by all rights be good for my writing; one of the ways I used to compose stories and poems was out loud, at the barn — unfortunately I seem to have only one mode of thought during my dog walks. And it’s not poetic.

I call it “Where do greyhounds put their organs?”

It’s not that I only think about greyhounds (although I often do, because I walk four of them a day in two sets of two), but that’s the question I keep returning to. I just cannot figure it out. Where do they put their stomachs? Do they not have intestines? They seem to be all legs and fur and ribs. I mean look at this dog.

Variations on “where do greyhounds…” include things like “What possible reason is there to breed a maltese?” (I take care of five), “Are all Jack Russells missing the part of their brain that says ‘do not bite Grace’?” (two dogs), and “I wonder how many Labs it would take to knock me down?” (uncountable dogs, and the answer is ‘more than two’ but I do not know the exact number, please do not let me find out).

The problem isn’t so much the questions themselves. They are all valid questions (especially the last). It’s that I will ask myself the exact same question every time I see the pertinent dog, and go over the exact same answers, and come to the exact same conclusions, every. single. day. I do this when I’m working out a scene or plot or character or line of poetry, but at least I do it to some end. This is just sheer repetition. I need new questions, because I’ll be working this job for at least another month and a half.

Next time: Dognose says hello.

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