Category Archives: Sometimes I wish I were five

First Day of School

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Now I ride a train to school.

I started law school, officially, this week.  We had some highly structured orientation for two days last week, but Monday was my first day of real classes.  With real people.  Who were all strangers.

Needless to say, I had the first day of school jitters.  I couldn’t sleep the night before, I couldn’t decide what to wear, I had visions of Reese Witherspoon in glasses and a robe (why, oh why the shiny robe?) looking in the mirror and declaring herself “a serious law student!”  I read about Jackie Kennedy, hoping to glean even an ounce of her grace and poise.  I rolled over a threw a silent and minor temper tantrum that I couldn’t fall asleep, and then I mentally checked off all the items I needed to make sure made it into my giant, bulging, impossibly heavy school bag.  I reminisced about first-days-of-school past.

I can’t remember much about getting ready for my first day of kindergarten.  I do remember walking into the classroom.  Many of the other students were already there, seated in groups around low tables with tiny, primary-colored plastic chairs.  I think I was wearing a dress–in kindergarten, I would only wear dresses (this was during my short-lived and unfortunately-timed hyper-girly phase, which happened to coincide with my mom redecorating my room–I chose pink walls and carpet) and the only dress I can remember had a white top and a red skirt, so we’ll pretend that’s what I was wearing.  I put my bag in the cubby hole with my name on it, and went to pick a chair.

Isn’t that always the most nervewracking part of entering a roomful of strangers?  Choosing a seat makes my heartbeat speed up and my lips purse.  I’m sure my eyes get wide and twitchy, like that stupid Felix the Cat clock, ticking back and forth, desperately searching for a seat that’s close to the front, but not too close, and seated far enough in that people won’t have to climb over me, but not far enough in that I have to climb over a ton of people to get to it.  An empty seat that isn’t next to the girl who looks super chatty or the guy who looks like he hasn’t showered this week.

That’s pretty much a play-by-play of my inner monologue.

As a five-year-old, my most pressing instinct was to look for a kind face.  I was surprised and elated to see a familiar one–my friend Annie from the babysitter’s, sitting at a table with an empty chair.  Relieved, I slid into the seat and greeted her, only to be met with the worst phrase a paranoid-seat-picker could hear.

“Somebody’s already sitting there.”

My face fell.  Apparently so-and-so had gotten up to go to the bathroom.  “Fine, so-and-so,” I thought, “take your seat next to my friend.  I’ll find another!”  I brushed it off like it didn’t matter and stood up with as much dignity as I could muster, turning to face the rest of the room.  20 or so other children stared back at me.  My heart raced and blood rushed through my ears as I considered having to ask for another chair, when suddenly I heard magic.

“Over here!”

Nicole, my friend from Sunday School, was sitting at a nearby table!  And the table had an empty chair!  I practically skipped to the table and sat down across from her, smiling with relief.

While I didn’t happen to run into any surprise familiar faces on my first day of of law school, there were some similarities.  I chose a seat in my first class and, being several minutes early, dropped my bag and hurried to the restroom.  When I got back, my professor had arrived, and watched me walk to my deposited things.

“Could you move to the front?  This is a small class.”

I nodded quickly and gathered my stuff, moving as quietly and unobtrusively as possible toward the front.  When I sat down next to a tall girl with dark curly hair who had my same nervous look about her, I had a sense of deja vu.  Much like it must have been on that first day of kindergarten, I smiled with relief.  I smiled at her, and stuck out my hand.

“Hi, I’m Bonnie.”

NSFBD = Not safe for before dinner

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This post contains graphic descriptions of raw meat.  Just sayin’.

My mom always told me that she was sure I would become a vegetarian when I moved out on my own.  Not because my parents force-fed me animals against my will or anything, but because any time I was asked to help with dinner, I would actually, physically wretch if I had to touch meat.  Chicken, with its weird veins and floppy skin, was awful, but hamburger was the worst.  Processed hamburger looks like skinny little worms oozing blood.  (Sorry for that, but it’s true.)  When I was told to put my hands in the hamburger, I thought that was going to be it for me.  I’m squeamish at the best of times, but with the blood of another creature on my hands?  Forget it.  Did I love eating the final product?  Of course.  Cheeseburgers, tacos, meat sauce?  Fantastic.  But I could not force myself to keep my hands in that bowl of hamburger.

I’m maybe going to gag just thinking about it.

When I was little, I was crazy about animals.  Anything fluffy, scaly, or hoofed was on my favorites list.  Disney princesses weren’t even on my radar; all I cared about were The Aristocats, The Lion King, and Raja from Aladdin.  The first chapter book I read was Charlotte’s Web.  At some point my parents let us have a cat, who promptly had kittens, and my life was set.  I had a theme, I guess is what I’m getting at.  Dolls were okay (even though I went into detail about my love affair with one particular doll earlier, dolls were not my thing until my later years), but stuffed animals were the be-all, end-all of Bonnie, ages 0-8.

At some point–I’m assuming when we took the kittens to be fixed–I learned about the existence of veterinarians, and being one became my life goal.  I found out that sometimes vets had to put animals down, and I quickly jumped ship to being a future zoologist.  One who studies animals–that had to be good, right?  I was pro-animal all the way.

Somewhere in this time frame I figured out the truth about the dinner I ate each night.  What?  Beef came from cows?  Pork came from pigs?  Chicken came from…oh.  (Trust me, it would be totally typical of my childhood self to know what a zoologist was before I caught on that meat came from animals.)  Needless to say, this was devastating.

Also possibly picking a wedgie.

Me as a cat, before realizing I was Jonathan Swifting my fellow animals.

I came to terms with eating meat for a little while, but then another tragedy of realization struck: my dad took my brother and I fishing.  Now, my grandparents lived on a farm, so we had done plenty of fishing.  I was just blissfully ignorant of the reality that went into making those yummy fried catfish nuggets that magically appeared after we had spent the afternoon catching catfish–but not for long.  My dad had decided we were old enough to help he and my granddad clean the fish.

“Clean the fish.”  It’s a relatively innocuous little phrase, but oh, the horror hidden behind it.  I still remember watching them cut the head off the fishies (all of which I had probably named), the awful smell of raw fish in the air, and the cats circling menacingly.  Seeing the insides was even worse–all those little bones, how could you make sure they were all gone?  What if one was in the fish I ate?  What if I swallowed one by accident and it stabbed my throat AND THEN I CHOKED UNTIL I DIED?

It would be a tragic death, and the cats, smelling my last meal, would again circle menacingly.

The next time we went fishing, I put my foot down.  I told them that I would only fish if I got to throw my fish back, and I would not eat the fish they caught.  I wasn’t eating meat anymore, no sir, no way.

My granddad, the cattle farmer, sat me on his knee and told me very kindly but very firmly that he would not be having my shenanigans.  “If you catch the fish and throw them back, they’ll already be hurt from the hook.  They’ll die in the water or get eaten by another fish, and then we won’t have any dinner.”  He told me that animals were put on the earth for people to eat, and as long as we treated them well while they were alive, then it was okay.

Being the pushover I am, I nodded and returned to my carnivorous ways.  Still, it was only recently that I’ve really been able to bring myself to eat fish again.

I’m still not sure exactly where I stand on eating animals.  I do believe that, in the long run, a vegetarian diet is probably healthier, and that taking meat out of a diet makes it easier to shed pounds and keep energy up.  I watched the documentary Food, Inc. pretty recently and that has made me think hard about the morality of how we get most of our food, and how we treat our animals in order to make them our food (because I am totally that person who would alter their lives based on a documentary, let’s just face it.)  I can’t even really think about the live-animal-to-food process without holding in a wince.

But I made beef tacos for dinner, so I guess you can tell where I stand for now.

866 words on Ikea and American Girl dolls

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Last night I sat in the floor of our new big-kid apartment in the city, half a country away from my friends and family, without furniture or cooking utensils, and I did what a thousand city newcomers and empty apartment dwellers have done: I scoured the Ikea catalog.

I’ve heard about Ikea forever but, being from a small town, I had never had the opportunity to actually visit one.  As I sat with the 400-some-page mini-book of wonder, I turned from wall to wall, trying desperately to imagine what that bookshelf would look like over there, or how I could maximize my closet storage.  Each page contained items that would set my imagination running anew: look how sleek that unpronounceably-named chair is, or how bold would we be with a red couch? How many shades of grey can I put in a room before it becomes monotonous? (Answer: about three.)

Ikea is the compulsive organizer’s crack.  Fight Club makes so much more sense to me now.

It had been a very, very long time since I had leafed through a physical, paper catalog.  Something about turning the pages, about being able to stand with it and run from room to room (literally room to room—we only have two) matching colors, rather than clicking from thumbnails, made the whole experience more exciting.  There was just something about saying “Oh, look at this!” and sliding the book across the bare floor that doesn’t always exist with, “Here!  Can you see this?  Let me enlarge the photo.  Hold on, it’s taking forever to load.  Oh $%*#, my computer froze.”

The whole thing reminded me of when I was a kid and obsessed with the American Girl series.  I read every book with the original group of girls, and when Josefina’s series came out, I gobbled that up too.  I checked books out of the library like mad, and when I could wheedle it out of my mom, I bought them too.  When my parents started talking about moving from our middle-sized city to a small, rural city, I imagined running through fields like colonial Felicity, complete with bonnet and boots.  More than once, I tried to fix my hair in Kirsten’s thick, Princess Leia-like braids.

But Molly, oh, Molly was my girl.

I loved everything about Molly: her glasses (like mine), her hair (not like mine), her not-quite-girly-girl attitude (also like mine.)  I became obsessed with her World War II era, and began imagining what I would do during threats of air raids and foreign bombings.  (This became less like fun and more like dread post-9/11.  Molly always had hot chocolate and stuff, and she wasn’t super concerned with nuclear radiation.)  I wanted to be just like her.  And then, at some point, my mom signed me up to receive the American Girl catalog.  I found out that, while I couldn’t be just like Molly, I could, in fact, own her.

Like a boss.

CHECK the jaunty beret!

The begging began immediately.  I wanted an American Girl doll, and I wanted her badly.  I could flip through the catalog and immediately begin dreaming of how I would dress her up, the furniture I would buy for her, and how much fun we would have.  Oh look, I could get her a dog!  It’s on page 24!  And my heart would melt.  In fact, we could have matching outfits.  I was caught up in the love that only a girl and her hypothetical doll could share (or not share, as it were.)  When my parents made me be—horror of horrors—patient, and didn’t buy me the doll straight away, I sighed wistfully and decided to delve into my quickest means of getting exactly what I wanted: my imagination.

I would like to preface this by saying that I had an incredibly vivid and consuming imagination to an inappropriately advanced age (by that, I mean to this day.)  Always an easily self-occupied kid, I could spend hours playing with my imaginary doll.  I would talk to her and we would have adventures, and at night before bed I would still flip through that catalog, dreaming of the day she would be mine.

Finally, after what I’m sure was a couple of months but felt like eons, my parents got me my very own Molly doll for my birthday.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to get exactly what I wanted for a gift.  I would brush her hair and dress her up, and I would make her furniture out of shoeboxes (because some of that stuff in the catalog was stupid expensive), and we would have many adventures.  I still have her—I opened her box the other day and looked at her stylish outfits, some gifts from my grandparents who are now gone—and she holds that same magic in a nostalgic way.

I’m writing this from the hardwood floor of my new apartment, trapped inside because it’s raining and I’m waiting for the Ikea delivery truck to arrive.  As torturous and pathetic as it was as a kid to play with an imaginary doll, let me tell you what—it’s a lot less fun than that to sit on an imaginary couch.

Sometimes I wish I were five…When Harry Met Sally edition

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I get canker sores like nobody’s business.  If I have a glass of orange juice, I will pay dearly for the next week  with a welt on the inside of my cheek, the back of my tongue, the underside of my lip.  Wherever it ends up, it is guaranteed to be a spot that will be hit by every single chew, every spoken word, every subtle expression.  It’s always there, always pulsing, never letting me forget that it’s lying in wait to take all the joy out of my next meal.

I have one now, and I’m a little bitter.

When I was little, however, my affliction was bloody noses.  Much like my canker sores, they would arrive at the most unwelcome of times, and far overstay their unenthusiastic welcome.  One in particular ruined a playdate with my then-very-good-friend, a fellow kindergartener named Casey.  We were at my house when the bloody nose struck, which was unusual because we didn’t often play at my place.  We had cats, and Casey was incredibly allergic to them.  Casey was allergic to cats, into playing tag, and together we would pick on our little brothers and wrestle in the grass.  Casey was also a boy.

Used under Creative Commons license

How adorable is this?

At the age of five, this didn’t matter at all.  The only difference between boys at girls at that point (at my school, we didn’t get into the boyfriend/girlfriend thing until around the fifth grade) was that girls occasionally had ponytails and the teachers yelled at us for hanging upside down on the monkey bars when we were wearing skirts.  For obvious reasons.

Casey and I were great friends.  We played blocks in school and roller skated together at various birthday parties.  I went to his house often, and he was the first person to try to explain the logic behind hunting to me (at five years old and animal OBSESSED, I was horrified).  We even talked on the phone, our little kindergarten selves, about what I’m sure were very important and intellectual matters.

Then the first grade happened.   Suddenly everyone was aware of the “girls rule, boys drool” (and vice versa) mentality.  It hit me like a brick–I hadn’t received the memo everyone else seemed to have read over summer break.  Precocious girls of six and seven were beginning to smuggle makeup into school, shoved inside their Trapper Keepers.  Wearing pink was considered “babyish”.  And Casey stopped returning my calls.

In high school I feel in love with When Harry Met Sally, the movie starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as adorably neurotic almost-friends, almost-lovers who meet time and time again over the course of their lives.  And I learned the quote Collegiate-Aged Harry so eloquently says over greasy diner food to his new acquaintance: “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”

Now, as we all know (if you’ve seen the movie), Harry and Sally do in fact become friends.  And then the sex part gets in the way, and then they fall in love.  So I’m not entirely sure what the movie really does other than prove Harry’s initial thesis, but I’d like to pick the part in the middle and focus on that.  The friend part, I mean.  As little kids, we have no idea that there’s any difference between us.  Boys, girls, black, white, whatever.  Then, as we begin to learn about the world, we start looking at each other differently.  We notice blondes and brunettes, short and tall.  We notice that someone talks funny, or dresses strangely.  For a long time, we focus on those differences, and we may or may not be able to be friends because of them.  We lose that childhood innocence and we become wise to the ways of the world.

But I like to think that once we become “wise”, we become educated as well.  I like to think that we will be able to see those differences not as hindrances, but as points of interest.  That being different doesn’t mean being separate.

I may have gone a little off-topic there, but what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad that after the divisive days of grade school, I was able to have guy friends again. It’s nice that now I can hang out with guys with no pressure, with no one singing K-I-S-S-I-N-G in the background (of course now that I’m married, people do that a lot less anyway).  I’m glad to have guy friends that are just as close as girl friends, and I’m glad to be one of many proving Harry’s line of thinking to be incorrect.

But I do miss the innocence a little.

Sometimes I wish I were five…and wearing fairy wings was totally fine.

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Have you ever found yourself on the verge of making some major adult decision, such as:

Should I buy the generic cream cheese, or can I really afford the name brand?

Do I really need to take out the trash this week?

Do you think anyone can tell that I overslept my alarm and totally didn’t have time to shower this morning?

…and while standing there, you think, “Man, wouldn’t it be great if I were five years old again and didn’t have to worry about any of this BS?”

I think that—literally—all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I do enjoy being an adult.  I like the independence of paying my own bills and the ability to have a glass of wine with dinner.  I enjoy having conversations with my parents and relatives as equals, and I like having a basic life plan.  But sometimes I just want to say screw it and, instead of inquiring about so-and-so’s new house at the neighborhood barbeque, put on a pair of fairy wings and take off running into the yard.

My cousin Lexi as an awesome fairy.

Seriously, how awesome was being five?  When I was a kid, my best friend was a girl named Annie, whose mother was an artist.  She would kick us out of the house some days because she was “creating”.  When this happened, we were banished outside for what seemed like hours.  But as kids?  No problem!  Outside was where we learned to use our imaginations to create vast landscapes to accompany our playtime games of school or house or personified cats who climb trees and hiss at passers-by.  When it rained, we covered our skin with mud and played day spa.  (“Oh dah-ling, I am just so relaxed. Aren’t you?” This may also be where I began learning to fake accents.)  When the sun started to set, we chased lightning bugs, calling them the source of all magical power.  When the streetlights came on, it was time for me to go home.

The days that Annie’s mom let us in the house were perhaps even more inspiring for young and wild minds.  She was an artist of all mediums—a painter as well as a sculptor, a sketch artist and  an interior designer.  My parents still have a clay figure she created, a man with a snowflake face and billowing clouds of tulle wrapped around his body to signify gusts of winter wind.  Once inside, we could play trophy wife with Annie’s extensive collection of dress-up clothes (“Oh dah-ling, you’re simply stunning!”—maybe I just learned one specific accent) or put on a puppet show with handmade puppets.  For a period of time, Annie’s mom ran a sort of art school, where we were encouraged to paint and glitter and cut and paste to our imagination’s content.  Once, or perhaps several times, we made papier mache masks and fake casts, and walked around feigning injuries neither of us would ever really experience.

In my mind, the ultimate example of pure, unabashed, five-year-old glee happened at one of Annie’s birthday parties.  Her mother dressed us as fairies, complete with wings, and took us to a friend’s house outside the city.  Along with several other little girls, we were let loose on a beautifully landscaped estate, looking like tiny woodland nymphs.  Sometimes I still drive past the place when I’m heading in or out of town, and I remember little ballet-slippered feet running over tiny bridges and past perfumed lilac bushes, stopping to grace the fish pond with their glittering presence.  I remember thinking that maybe my wand really will make that flower bloom, or make that cat speak.  I remember running, breeze in my hair, feeling that overwhelming bliss.

I really like being an adult.  I like my freedom and the fact that I no longer need a car seat.  But sometimes, when I’m driving down the highway by myself at night, I roll down the windows and throw my hand out into the night, letting the wind in to whip through and destroy my hair.  I’ll turn the radio up—Van Morrison if I can find the CD—and I’ll let myself give into that bliss, that sweet joy of freedom and innocence.  And I’ll pretend I’m wearing fairy wings.