Saturday, May 14, 2011

Grading's going so well...and no more alarm clock until late August! So I can do what I love, stay up late and write.

I'll be turning 50 in September. A lot of my friends from high school and college are also celebrating "the big five-oh" this year or next, or have hit that milestone in the past year or two. I'm constantly writing happy fiftieth birthday greetings on facebook, and summer parties are on the horizon.

I remember Mimmie telling me, when I was a teenager and she was in her 70s, that she still felt the same on the inside. I didn't really understand it at the time, but I finally do! It isn't that you don't mature emotionally - internally (externally is a given). Of course you do. But in some ways your perceptions don't change - and the mirror can be something of a shock!

I thought it might be fun to gather some photos and writing to mark the beginning of every decade. All of this was written pre-GPB, and is squirreled away, here and there. (Packrat city - a minimalist would have a convulsion.) I'm choosing the first things I run across that fit the timeframe. So here goes:

I was around 10 in both of these early '70s photos (above and below). I'm pretty sure the fashion show one took place when I was in fifth grade, in 1971-72. My mother sewed the green polyester dress, and knitted the green cable sweater for our dog, Pud. But I might have been 11 in the one with the raccoon, because I remember getting my long hair cut in sixth grade.

It's funny that more of these photos don't show my hair extremely long or extremely short - because I've worn it those two ways for more years than the medium length it seems to often have been at the decade changes. Maybe if I'd done half-decades as intervals instead? It's also surprising that animals are only prominent in these two! Where are the rest of my buddies through the years?

Here's something I wrote when I was 10 or 11:

"Priss," as she was referred to in the city reported to Linda that she was going to camp out. She didn't give any details, just that she was going to camp out. Linda laughed. "You, you!?" she mocked. Prissy was determined to do it. She said, "just because you're from the country and I'm not doesn't mean you're braver than me!"

"And when will you perform this feat that will make history?"

"Saturday night."

"You'll have to prove it to me."

"I will, I will!"

Saturday night came. As Prissy didn't live in the country, she had brought her camping equipment to her grandmother's house, which was in the country. She walked into the woods, but when she got there she was terror filled. An owl hooted and she screamed. A dog began to howl and she started walking back home. She finally reached the house. She decided to pitch the tent in the backyard. After almost crushing her hand with the hammer, she called her grandfather out to help her. While he was pitching the tent, she decided to start a fire. "Ol" Gramps ended up doing that too.

She had pork 'n' beans that were raw on the inside and burnt on the outside. She crawled into her sleeping bag. She was petrified. A few hours later, she went crying to "Gramma."

"Gramma! Gramma! I'm scared! I'm hungry! I'm lonely!" She slept in the guest room the rest of the night. The next day she sadly told Linda of the previous night's happenings. Linda smiled.

"Don't worry. I'm a liar. I'm terrified to sleep out alone. I hardly sleep well in my own room or in groups." Prissy couldn't believe her ears. "Oh, you!" she said. Both girls smiled as they walked away.

This story comes complete with illustration, a precursor of Nileston News, perhaps?:

Here's something I wrote when I was nearly 20:

August 31, ‘81

Today’s Chuckle: How not to do it

“My dear,” he said, “that’s a poetic name!”

“Thank you,” she replied, emotionlessly.

“Did anyone ever tell you that you have a moustache?” he asked.

“I think I’ve heard this routine before," she replied, leaving.

September 2, '81

“Please listen to what I’m not saying.”

“Don’t expect anything and you’ll never be disappointed.”

A doodle that was nearby:

I was 21 in this next picture. I distinctly remember the day it was taken, and not because it was a yearbook photo or the age was significant. Becoming 21 didn't have the same meaning in those days, when the drinking age was 18. I remember because it was a couple of days after my birthday, and a dear friend had just committed suicide - he died the day before I turned 21, in fact.

Later, when I looked at the proofs, I was surprised that they didn't capture how sad I felt that day. Maybe the photographer somehow retouched the pain away?

This is from a nonfiction article I wrote in 1991:

My mother frequently used the word "bungalow" to describe the various houses that she and my father lived in when they were first married. To me, it meant a small, probably rented, damp, dark, and (of course) unpleasant temporary residence. As an adult, I still thought of bungalows as small structures, but they seemed much more appealing, especially when I was searching, with a limited budget, for my first house.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered while doing research that while some of my thinking was misguided, not all of those childhood images were incorrect. The literature does not mention bungalows as being particularly damp, dark, or unpleasant; in fact, Gustav Stickley (1912/1982) wrote in The Craftsman that they are "houses that are durable, beautiful, comparatively inexpensive and always convenient" (p. 59).

The picture below was taken the day I got my master's degree in 1991, when I was nearly 30. My only comment: hair!

I have done some of my best writing while riding on Amtrak. Here is something I wrote in my journal in 2001:

In the Chronicle this week, a grad student writes about Western culture and the changes that education has imposed on him. He hasn't figured out the big picture. I don't know whether I've discovered the big truths but one thing I do believe is that the answer is somewhere in what is the most small - the personal.

I was sparked to write that opening by two men who were sitting behind me on this morning's ride. They spoke of their children, who I got the impression are in their 20s - one is at Stanford, the others living in NYC. They remarked about the differences between going to SUNYA or Siena, where you meet other students from Gloversville and Long Island, or going to college in NYC, where you meet peers from all over the world.

"That's the good thing about having kids scattered all over," said one, "you get to travel." The other responded, "my wife doesn't like to travel. She doesn't like disruption, and she misses her own bed."

Why did the conversation remind me of the Chronicle? (Aside, of course, from the fact that I recently read the article.) Because, as with so many of these snatches of dialogue overheard on the train, they concern opinions and insights on big picture life issues. Is there something about the train that encourages such thought? Are the riders educated folk, deep thinkers, or is it the scenery and the rhythm of the ride?

The big picture questions always bring me to the same conclusion - it is what's most personal that is also most important - not going to NYC to meet people from all over the world - but seeing your mother, who hates to travel.

Here I am at about 40. It was probably the summer of 2001, near the pool in S'ville. I turned 40 a week after 9/11, and I remember how much that overshadowed "the big four-oh" and how relieved I was that I had opted not to have a big party. (That's assuming relief can be used to describe anything at that time)

I cropped myself out and made a tiny picture, which is why it isn't the best quality, but it seems sort of artsy.

And this is me now, at age 49; this is the picture I have been using as my most recent fb and blogger profile. Taken Christmas time at Dinosaur BBQ in Troy; we met there for a family dinner.

What I will be writing when I am 50?

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