Freeing the voices in my head

Posts tagged ‘School’

The Buzz-Buzz Monster

“Here it comes again!”  “Outta my way!”  Shrieking, jumping, laughing… My little sister and I clambered up to the top of the couch.  From there, we plotted out separate routes across the living room.  Pixie claimed the easy road; down to the arm of the couch, across the side table to the back of the big armchair and then jump onto the dining room table.  I was more daring.  If I timed it right, I could jump down to the middle of the living room floor, run to the stairs and perch on the table sitting on the stairway landing.  Risky, but the monster might go after Pix and give me time to escape.

“Buzz, buzz!”

“Aarrgghhh!”  The monster had a long reach; if we slipped, he’d get us!  Pix took her chance and I jumped.  Strong arms grabbed me, “Buzz, buzz!” And the tickling commenced.  I rolled in Daddy’s arms, laughing and kicking.  Pix jumped on his back, trying to help me, but Daddies aren’t ticklish, especially when they are Buzz Buzz Monsters.

Her little legs pummeled his sides.  “Horsie! Horsie!  Gi-pa!”  And the game changed.  With a rear and a whinny, the Gi-pa took off across the living room, Pixie shrieking with joy, her hands fisted in his thick black hair.  I sat up, trying to catch my breath and waited for my turn.

Every family, I hope, has games.  Silly fun games.  I’m pretty sure Jim Carrey (in “Liar, Liar”, I think was the movie’s name) does not have the exclusive rights to “The Claw!”  Hey, my daddy was “The Claw” before the actor was born!  Daddy was the big sneaky shark before anyone ever heard of “Jaws!”  He would swim underwater to us and one hand would rise up.  He would corner us in the shallow end of the pool, hands crooked, reaching for us, and ominously announce, “It’s The Claw!  The Claw!” in a twisted accent.  If caught, more tickling…  I learned how to swim just to escape into the deep end.

That was a rule.  “The Claw” couldn’t get you if you were on dry land or in the deep end of the pool.  Same with the Buzz Buzz Monster – it couldn’t climb on the furniture to get us, but if we touched the floor, we were fair game.  We didn’t play these games with Mom.  I don’t remember a single tickle session with my mom.  She did come outside and push me nice and high on my swing, though.

Maybe they were Daddy games because he was home.  We were “latch-key” kids long before the phrase was coined.  We’d walk home from school or the bus stop, enter the unlocked house, and do whatever.  Our older brother and older sister were supposed to be our baby-sitters, but, honestly?  Between the time we left school until my Dad got home from work, we were out in the neighborhood playing.

Dad had the typical 8 to 5 job; Mom, as a Registered Nurse, tried to work only the 7am to 3pm shift so she could be home with us in the afternoon, but she sometimes worked doubles or she’d be sleeping because she had to work 3pm to 11pm or 11pm to 7am.  If she was home, sleeping or not, we’d grab our bikes and take off.  We didn’t want to bother her – that woke up a whole different kind of monster.

But once she left for work and Daddy was in charge, ah, the games commenced.  Did she know we climbed all over the furniture?  Did she find out Daddy let us sit in his big chair with him to watch “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits” late at night?  Did she ever come outside and catch fireflies with us?  She did love to swim and I remember playing “The Claw” with her in the pool.  Mom made a good “Claw.”  She had long slender fingers and could cackle like a witch.

I have my dad’s hands – small with short chubby fingers.  But my fingers have Mom’s agility.  I played a variation of “The Claw” with my kids when they were little.  “The Spider” would creep across the table toward their highchair, creeping, “legs” extending up and out, wriggling forward…ooo, the suspense, the wide-eyed happy fear as “The Spider” advanced.  And then…Pounce!  Tickle, tickle!  If my baby swatted at it, “The Spider” would dash away.  If my child landed a hit, my hand would flop over, palm up, the “legs” curled in defeat.  Ah, but maybe the monster was just playing dead.  Maybe, if you poke it with your baby spoon (never your soft meaty little finger, oh no!), it will move and jump at you again!  Cats love “The Spider” game, too!

My husband makes an awesome “Claw.”  He has big strong hands with long slender fingers.  Back when we were first “going steady” in high school, I taught him how to swim properly.  Oh, he knew the basics from swimming in the river or streams, but he had few opportunities to swim in a real pool.  I took him to our housing development’s pool or up to Saratoga Springs Park – for a dollar, you could spend all day at the two big pools there, swimming and diving.  I taught that boy the crawl, the backstroke, the side stroke, taught him proper form for a simple racing dive, beat him in lap races the length of the pool…then he went to SUNY Maritime College.  My aspiring sailor came home, challenged me to a race, and was halfway across the pool before I’d hit the water!  College had taught him better than I and I stood in the shallow end, watching a man shoot through the water with clean strokes from powerful arms and efficient kicks from those nicely muscled legs.  Then, he disappeared in the deep end…moments later, something grabbed my legs.  “The Claw” broke the surface and, well, that game didn’t end in a tickle session!  Maritime instructors taught him how to hold his breath for a long time, too.  I hope I’m the one who taught him how to kiss like that!  😀

I also introduced my love to “Scrabble,” gin rummy and poker.  Just a few games later, he was winning every time.  Hard to win against a guy with genius IQ once he learns something!  I took him horseback riding.  I had years of training and experience; he settled in the saddle, picked up the reins, tucked his feet in the stirrups – heels down, toes out – and, yeah, a natural, no more lessons required.  He had the “seat” and the “soft” hands, and horses responded beautifully for him.

Men and games.  Kids and games.  Family games are necessary, made up games are the best.  Imperfect and dysfunctional as my birth family was, we had some fun times.  I worry that I’m the only one who remembers, that I’m the Keeper of the Good Memories.  They’re gone now, those two beautiful, talented walking wrecks of people, but, sometimes, I miss them.  My brother battles intense pain and struggles with a mind fogged by powerful pain-killer drugs.  My older sister is lost to us, buried in mental illness.  My little sister, Pixie to my Trixie (Daddy’s nicknames for us), is raising her family, working, living through the grief of having her oldest son die at the age of twenty.  So I frantically type, attempting to organize the memories and get the family stories out of my own failing brain.

Don’t be my mom; go catch some fireflies with your kids or point out the stars in the sky.  Better yet, let your children climb on the furniture while you, the Buzz Buzz Monster, crawl on the floor below.  Make the good memories now and they’ll help you fight off the Dark.

Over The Rainbow

When did I first learn to read?  I don’t know.  I do have a clear memory of sitting on the landing of the stairs in the house in Schenectady, reading “The Wizard of Oz.”  I’m very small, very young in that memory, not quite understanding the entire book, but deeply immersed in it.  I wanted to verify the memory and asked my brother about it.

Harry said, “You were always begging to be read to.  I think I got frustrated and just handed you the book.  You read it in a week and begged for another one.  Pretty amazing; you were five years old.”  Really?  FIVE?  Did I understand all of the book?  No.  Some of it?  Yes, apparently, because Harry grilled his little sister over it.  He told me I seemed to enjoy the story and the characters, even got some of the themes (the second part of Oz is kind of dark), but most of all, that little girl wanted to BE in the book, be part of the fantasy.

My brother and I have had our problems; we were part of what is now recognized as a dysfunctional family.  In the beginning, right up until his freshman year of high school, we were a pair.  Mary Lou ( my older sister) and Christine (my younger sister) were the other pair.  Harry and I were the dreamers, the lazy kids, the quiet ones.  Mary Lou and Chris were smart, fast-talking, loud, bold and gorgeous.  Oh, we all fought, called each other names, hurt each other in awful ways, but sometimes, one of a pair would defend and protect the other.

No matter what, I’ll always be grateful to Harry for sending me “over the rainbow.”  I was a middling-to-good student.  Teachers would say I had potential, but was lazy.  Nope, I’d spend the first days reading the entire textbook and then be bored with the class, so I daydreamed through the rest of the school year.  I had unicorns, spaceships, robots and aliens dancing past my eyes inside my head and so vividly that the Real world was the dream.  I filled my workbooks with my own stories.  If a teacher asked a question, I usually knew the answer.  I’d read the textbook, after all.  I didn’t understand why we had to plow through it chapter by chapter, page by page, for the next nine months.  Unfortunately, school doesn’t want you to just KNOW something, they want you to WORK to get there and show your work.

Case in point: Geometry.  I failed it, big time, for a number of reasons.  I had no use for math, it didn’t interest me, only words mattered to me.  I could look at a problem and KNEW the answer, but show how I got the answer, step by step, in a theorem?  Fugeddaboutit!  I needed the class to graduate with a NY Regents diploma, so I had to retake it.  Good friends did my homework for me, tried to teach me; they helped just enough that I ended up with a “D.”  Science class, specifically – Earth Science.  Loved the teacher; she took us places!  Spelunking!  I still love wandering through a dark cave!  The labs were interesting and she made them fun.  The workbooks, not so fun.  My lab partner was a sweet boy, but after we did the experiment, Rob would go to sleep  while I was writing stories in my workbook.  Mrs. Stamos gave us the middle grade – a “C” – because we excelled in everything but lab workbooks.  She decided we learned through osmosis!

I sucked at sports, any sport, but I could sing, draw, and write.  I was the slowest kid, the clumsy kid, but I could dream and act out those dreams, share them with like-minded friends.  When we played “Pretend,”  I became that character, I wasn’t acting or playing; I WAS that person, alive and real, and Eileen the klutzy, dumpy retard no longer existed (yeah, I got called that awful word, by my family, by teachers.  My IQ proved them wrong, but all they saw was a lazy daydreamer who walked into walls and fell out of perfectly good chairs.  Oh, nothing physically wrong with me – I just was in another world – which made navigating my body around in their world a bit of a problem.).

I’ve lived an interesting Life, I think and have been told.  For much of it, Eileen sat to the side while her other selves lived “over the rainbow.”  Will you join me there, in my stories – real and imagined?  I’ll try not to put you to sleep with endless fields of poppies.  Instead, grab a sword and bring on the flying monkeys!