Monday, October 31, 2011

Dr. Little Miss Queen of Darkness

Something made me think of this old post I wrote in January 2009, so I am reposting it. Maybe every time I re-post it I will get a tiny bit closer to being over all of my educational-emo baggage. I do think this is one of the reasons why I like to teach, because I know so intimately what its like to hate school and I want to change that experience for others.

Since I am experimenting with being a scientist lately, I feel like I am on the verge of becoming square. Some people think that because I am getting my PhD that I must be a good student. But I am really not, and I never was. I burned my report card in our driveway once, I remember my heart sinking in fear and sadness when I saw the flame eat up my mediocrity. And I remember feeling even worse when the report card was a yellowy ashen pile, but I still felt like a loser. And another year I meticlously cut out all the C’s, it created a swiss-cheese effect. I missed school many times—especially in 4th grade—due to “sickness”, that was brought on by I-didnt-do-my-homework anxiety. And then of course there was the time I climbed the Japanese maple tree in our front yard to escape having to get on the school bus to kindergarden. I can still picture my mom and the bus driver standing at the base of the tree looking up at me and yelling. Incidentally, my escape was a total success. I didnt go to school that day and I got out of playing the deeply dreaded duck-duck-goose.

Highschool was just a mess, over-fucking-flowing with bad feelings about school. Kicked out of honors freshman year, never to live it down to this damn day. Harassing the nun who taught us French. Every time she turned her back to write on the board-we moved our desks up just a bit-every-time-she-turned-around until we were right up on her and she was freaking out. I never really cheated or did drugs or anything like that, but I acted like I was bad-ass and pissed off enough to do so. I think I drew on my sneakers once. I identified with Holden Caulfield, even though I probably never really finished reading the book.

And then of course there was Art School...

And now, by some strange fluke of adult-onset academic goodness, I am back in school. And I am feeling a bit like a Pollyanna, which I am not. I feel like I should get a tattoo or start smoking and wearing darker eyeliner and maybe become a self-loathing alcoholic. I think my voice should be raspier to reflect some kind of worldliness and experience in badness. I realized the other day that I still love the people who are super-smart, but who dont conform to what school has to give and who—because they have some kind of advanced crazy mind—are dark and brooding and screwed up. I still love people who are the most clever in a conversation but who got horrible grades. I like the tragedy of it and I love that song Little Miss Queen of Darkness because I imagine that they are talking about me, but I guess it will be Dr. Little Miss Queen of Darkness soon.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My Great-Aunt died today. Below is a story that I once wrote about her, so I am reposting it. The story, called Cross to Wear, is sad but she lived a good life. Her name was Marie and she was from Algeria. She came to live in the United States when she was 39. We called her “Tata Marie”.“Tata” was a term of endearment derived from the word aunt in French, which is “Tante”. When I first knew her, she lived with my other great Aunt, her sister Rosette, in an apartment above my Grandmother. Tata Marie and Tata Rosette shuffled around in well-worn pink or blue slippers and flowered house-coats. They paid special attention to their hair; its color and the configuration of curls. They only cooked the freshest fish, only ate two cookies in one sitting, erroneously referred to the store P.C. Richard as “Richardsons”, watched soap operas and had pristine, ornate couches, chairs and lamps around the apartment. They had Monet’s “Rouen Cathedral, The Portal, Grey Weather” hanging in the living room. Tata Marie’s personality could be prickly at times. And I remember her occasionally getting into riotous, cacophonous quarrels with my Grandmother, which were followed by days of uncompromising silence from both parties. Tata Marie and Tata Rosette were always old to me, even in pictures when they were young, they still looked old. Marie would often reminisce about her late husband, her white poodle named Mimich and the breathtaking landscape of Algiers. She would have turned 100 years old this coming February.

Cross to Wear

He wore the cross around his neck for 4 years in WWII. When he died, several years after the war, she wanted him to be buried with it. The funeral home did not allow anyone to be buried with jewelry on, so she took the gold cross that hung around her husband’s neck and she put it on. She wore it proudly and sorrowfully for over 40 years.

Gold and gleaming and on a delicate chain, it always hung outside her shirt. It reminded her of him. He was a milliner and an Italian. And according to my Great-Aunt he was equally courageous and charismatic. She believed that his cross shielded her from harm.

My Great-Aunt broke her hip the other day and was rushed to the hospital and then subsequently shuffled from room to room and stripped of her clothes. She speaks with a charming French accent but her personality can be virulent. She is 96. I went to see her the other day in the hospital and she is in some pain physically, but not as much pain as she seems to be emotionally. Tears welled up in her already watery old gray eyes. The hospital staff lost her cross. It is nowhere.

This made me awfully sad. Now there is a blemish on the great orb of old romanticism that encircles our blue earth.