Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Very Dark Post

I awoke this morning from dreams that my four year-old daughter had been kidnapped and abused--it goes without saying, but I will write it anyway: this was the worst nightmare I have ever had. The worst part of the dream was the aftermath. She was found after four months or so of being held. I was so happy and so relieved to get her back, but then I saw how much she had changed because of what had been done to her and how it would stay with her and taint the rest of her life, maybe ruin it. That knowledge crushed me.

I know that the dream was probably triggered by the recent reporting on JonBenet Ramsey and Natascha Kampusch, but it started me thinking about survivors of violence. How do you, how can you put your life back together after any kind of long-term systematic abuse? What do you become if you survive? Everyone deserves the opportunity to grow up and live without fear, without violence, and without pain. But how many people in the world actually live that reality? Spin a globe, put your finger down at random and see what you see. And that's only talking about physical threat. What about growing up in an environment of petty rules and restrictions with no freedom or potential. Do you stop dreaming after awhile? How long? How many places in the world is that situation the norm? Spin the globe again.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Der Struwwelpeter

When I was about 12 we helped some friends with spring round-up on their ranch. It was a really big ranch in the Big Hole Valley in Montana. I was over the moon because it meant I got to ride a horse all day and there was nothing I would rather do at that age. Round-up consisted of bringing all the cows and their young calves down to the ranch yard and checking over the calves, branding and vaccinating all of them, de-horning some or all (I don't remember which) and castrating most. My memory is vague on the details. I remember chutes and the throw-down of calves, but mostly what I remember is how very quick, methodical and efficient it was back on this ranch where all cattle were free-range (was there any other kind?).

That's mostly what I remember until lunch anyway. We were in the ranch house and I found a copy of a very old children's book. I don't know if it was a modern re-print or an original edition from the 19th century--either would have been reasonable in the setting. I don't recall all the stories--even shock-headed or slovenly Peter, the one the book was named for--and I couldn't say whether it was in the original German or if it was the English translation by Mark Twain. What was etched permanently and vividly in one little corner of my brain, however, was the picture of the little boy getting his thumbs cut of by the scissor-man because he sucked them. I hadn't even been a thumb-sucker and I was traumatized.

On and off over the years I have thought of this story, and though I don't know what made me think of it this time (yesterday), I obsessed on it enough that I went to the Internet. In my search I found the complete text and pictures, several printed versions of the complete stories from early 20th century editions to current paperbacks (I purchased one with the original German version and the English translation and the original illustrations). I also found biographies of the author, essays on the cultural context of the writing of the stories, comparisons to other children's literature of the time, and lists of other works supposedly influenced by these stories including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Edward Scissorhands.

The unfolding of these events brings home to me again how much life has changed because of the Internet. Sure, we say everything is now at our fingertips, but how much are we able to step out of our daily context with that knowledge and really see the impact that that access has on what we do (how quickly we do it) and how we think? I remember again the old set of Encyclopedia Britannica we had in the basement when I was growing up and how its contents defined my immediate access to knowledge. Less immediate but more complete was the library.

The library was a relatively complete but very slow gateway to learning. First you would go to the card catalog and search on subjects. For items that looked promising, you would write down all of the necessary information on a small slip of paper with the stubby pencil provided. Then you would go to the stacks or to the librarian and gather together all the books and periodicals which contained the references to the subject you were researching and you would go through those books and periodicals to find the references. Sometimes those materials would reference other works that might be interesting and you would have to go back to the card catalog or the librarian to see if the library had those works. If it did not and you wanted them badly enough, you might be able to request an interlibrary loan and wait a few days or weeks to get them.

Gathering information and learning used to require patience and a lot of effort. Now the amount that I can find to cram into my brain and cycle through it is limitless and immediate. And I don't even scratch the surface of what is available on the Internet. I don't think even Bruce Sterling gets more than a micron deep into the surface of what is available and he is a far more sophisticated surfer than I am. Next time one of the networks decides to do another reality show they should make one called Lost in (cyber)Space. That would be a far more interesting reality than Survivor or the Apprentice.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Quote of the Day... part deux

Me: I'm gong to Chicago in early December
J: I want to go with you. But I hope I don't get any boo boos while I am there.
Me: Why not?
J: Because Gramma Mary K pulls them off.
Me: Pulls off the boo boos?
J: Yep. Uh no, pulls off the bandaids (severe ripping motion) and I cried and cried, and I had to scream!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Quote of the Day

Me to J: What are you doing?
J: I am making a paper gun.
Me: Why are you making a paper gun?
J: I like guns. I like to shoot people so they can play zombies with me like Shaun of the Dead.

A King-Sized Bed

I had every intention of writing this when I got up this morning full of love, well-being and exhaustion, but the day got away from me and I was almost completely derailed by someone swiping my coffee and the purple stapler we were getting for Jessie at Target after breakfast (they were in the cart and someone took off with the cart. How rude!). If it had not been for a lovely laid-back lunch at Osteria and the prospect of more lazing and a nap this afternoon, I might have lost all inspiration.

The entire family went to their respective beds early last night, and I slept hard until sometime after 2:00 am when I was woken by the rattle of the Tums bottle in the bathroom. I turned and found J cuddled up on my right side. When she came into our bed was a complete mystery as we had both slept through it--maybe she had too. Upon coming back into the bedroom Dave asked if he should spatula her back into her bed. I said no, she was fine for awhile.

So he climbed back into bed on the other side, and soon I drowsed to a symphony of soft rustlings and snorings. The rest of the night I didn't sleep well, but I slept happily. I had my own bout of heartburn necessitating a trip to the Tums bottle, and I finally did break down and ask Dave to spatula J about 4:30. It didn't take though--she was back in with us within the half hour and this time I just let her stay.

Sleeping sandwiched between two very warm bodies is not conducive to restful sleep in the hot summer. Nor are the occasional blows to eyes and nose from outflung little hands and elbows. But though the sleep was not restful, it was peaceful. About 3:30 I started to have an anxiety attack about one thing or another and I just clamped firmly down on it and said not here, not now. I will think about that issue in the morning, and if I feel it is a problem, I will deal with it then. And that was that.

The peacefulness came from the decision that I didn't Have to get to sleep as the morning would bring Sunday and I could sleep in if I were so inclined--or I could even nap in the afternoon. I could just enjoy being close to my family. So I reveled in the cuddling from the left alternating with the cuddling from the right. Only once did I end up squished with a big arm around my waist and a little arm around my neck at the same time. It was so good to get such a long reminder of the really important things in life. Some people may say TGIF, but not me. I am all about TGIS.