|The flowers are plotting
`Didn’t you know that?’ cried another Daisy, and here they all began shouting together, till the air seemed quite full of little shrill voices. `Silence, every one of you!’ cried the Tiger- lily, waving itself passionately from side to side, and trembling with excitement. `They know I can’t get at them!’ it panted, bending its quivering head towards Alice, `or they wouldn’t dare to do it!’
`Never mind!’ Alice said in a soothing tone, and stooping down to the daisies, who were just beginning again, she whispered, `If you don’t hold your tongues, I’ll pick you!‘
-Through the Looking Glass
My husband and I looked out over a lush field one day. He said, “How beautiful.” I said, “Look, goldenrod.” I admit that I’m not a big nature freak. The great outdoors is fine, as long as there’s a working bathroom and some electrical outlets nearby. (Roughing it is staying in a tent in my backyard.) So it’s not that I don’t like nature. It’s that I’m allergic to nature. All of it.
I had my allergies tested recently. I am allergic to almost every tree, grass, or weed in existence. Green and I don’t get along. Also, I’ve got allergies to those cute little fluffy kitties and puppies. And birds. Don’t get me started on how much I hate birds. Even if their feathers didn’t make me cough and weeze, I’d want to strangle the chirp out of them.
When I go into a garden, I can’t stop and smell the roses, unless I want lots of sneezing followed by a possible sinus infection. I feel like Alice in the garden of live flowers – as if every flower were sneering at me and making rude comments. “Haha, you think your Zyrtec will protect you, eh? Eat pollen, evil flower-picking human!”
I could try to hide indoors, but well-meaning people are always bringing nature indoors. “Look at this beautiful house plant with the lovely mold growing in the soil!” (I also have a mold allergy. Shocked, aren’t you?) Or, “See my cute widdle poodle Snookums – he likes you, awwww.” Of course he llikes me, the little devil. I really can’t figure out the concept of animals indoors anyway. They shed, so you’ve got hair to rub off your clothes all the time. I don’t even like my own hair once it’s left my body.
|This is waiting under your covers.|
I am also allergic to cows and horses, which means I can never realize my one, true dream of owning my own ranch . . . cough, cough, okay the sarcasm hurts. But while I am not interested in gardening, farming, or ranching, I am interested in being able to breathe. I want to go outdoors and not be worried about breathing in pollen. I want to be indoors and not worry about the mold, or the dust mites (Never heard of dust mites? They are teeny, tiny disgusting bugs that leave their feces all over the place. In your carpet, your drapes, on your bed where you sleep. Think of that when you go to bed tonight.)
There are treatments for allergies and asthma. I’m on allergy shots, where they perversely expose you to stuff you are allergic to on purpose in hopes that eventually your body will quit reacting to it, or you’ll die, whichever’s first. Also, I take antihistimines and decongestants – you’ve probably seen them advertised by that bee with the sexy Spanish accent. (By the way, bees can also cause major, life-threatening allergic reactions and can hide deep in plants. Think about that next time you garden.) There are cases to keep your mattresses and pillows in that supposedly repell the bad guys, and filters you can buy to get the stuff out of the air – although how would one know if they really work, seeing as how no one can actually see the microscopic particles? “Just trust us,” the over priced allergy products people say.
Otherwise, about all I can do is avoid the triggers as much as I can. But they’re everywhere, so this can easily lead to paranoia which can lead to murderous thoughts toward your husband for leaving the window open AGAIN even though you’ve been married to him for twelve years and he knows how sick the outdoors makes you. He just likes the fresh air, ya know. Well, he’s not going to have ANY air if he . . . well, you get the drift. Allergies make you testy, and sick. They aren’t usually life threatening. (Unless it’s like peanuts. People have actually died from kissing a person who ate a pack of peanuts. Remember, protection people. Ask your partner to wear a mouth guard). They are, however, a daily hindrance, and can lead to frequent minor, but costly illnesses. So that’s one reason why I’m not a nature lover. Nature hated me first.
Also, there are no natural electrical outlets.
No, I give it up,’ Alice replied: `what’s the answer?’
`I haven’t the slightest idea,’ said the Hatter.
`Nor I,’ said the March Hare.
Alice sighed wearily. `I think you might do something better with the time,’ she said, `than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers.’
My grandfather passed away last Tuesday. He’d had Alzheimer’s for around five years. Alzheimer’s is an insidious disease that robs a person slowly of his memories, his sense of self, his identity as a functioning adult. My grandfather was a large man, broad shouldered, 6’4″. He served in the Navy. He worked on oil wells most of his life. He took in a young woman with two tiny daughters and raised them as his own. One of those daughters is my mother, but I have never considered him a “step-grandfather”. He was just my grandfather, period.
I didn’t get to know him much at all until my grandmother died. Before then, he was that funny guy who counted my ribs and called me “stinkerpot” for no particular reason. Also, he asked for sugar (that’s Southern for kiss). After my grandmother died – it’s been twenty years now – I got to know him a little better, though never as much as I should have.
He loved to play poker, but only certain types. 7 card stud, 5 card stud, 5 card draw, sometimes mix it up with “jacks or better”, and the usual “racehorse” in which we’d deal out cards for the whole pot. A pot of pennies and the occasional nickle – rarely did someone get brave enough for a quarter – but it was a lot of pennies, and we all wanted it. I played with my father and grandfather. They fought each other, watching what the other was doing, raising the bet (a penny at a time) on each other, trying to guess whether that person had a real hand or was just bluffing. They didn’t look at me, until I casually tossed down a full house or a straight. Then there would be – modified of course- cursing all around. At times I would want to leave the game, but they never let me, certainly not when I was ahead. I had to stay for the long haul.
My grandfather loved to eat. He made big breakfasts with sausage, biscuits, eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and gravy – lots and lots of gravy. He didn’t believe in measuring, that was for sissies, so often he was stirring and stirring and stirring until it got to the right thickness or he gave up. And then he would pepper the gravy until it was black, and eat the bacon, fat and all. And yes, it was Alzheimer’s that got him, not heart disease. Take that, diet nazis! I’m eating my bacon.
He loved going to Vegas. My father and grandfather were like children at Christmas, unable to sleep or wait. They’d leave at 2 am and hit the road. Of course they were big gamblers, sometimes playing the quarter machine! But gambling wasn’t really what they were there for, they were there for fun. My grandfather liked messing with people, like the poor lady who sat beside him while he grabbed quarters from my dad’s bucket, not realizing that the two were together. He said, “I just grab some from people when I get low”. She moved. My grandfather couldn’t hear well, especially from one ear, so driving with him was an adventure. It was even more fun when he let out gas from his many cheap meals in Vegas, nearly gassing my father to death. This always prompted giggles.
He liked to laugh, and he did so often. Even after he forgot who we were, or who he was – it was always hard to tell what he knew – he still smiled and laughed. The only time he was mean was when the Alzheimer’s first hit. For some reason, his diseased mind focused on my brother and me. He was convinced we were stealing from him. The stolen goods? My grandmother’s diamond chip wedding ring and his hearing aid. The hearing aid robbery was especially interesting. Apparently we were selling the hearing aid on e-bay. Used grandpa hearing-aids are a hot commodity, didn’t you know?
It made no sense, but that’s Alzheimer’s for you. Why did he get this disease? Why and how does it erode a person’s brain? How much of our self is in our brains, these organs that science still understands so little about? Is there a soul, or is it just the sparks of brain synapses? Why is a raven like a writing desk? It’s a riddle with no answer.
But my grandfather was more than what the riddle took from him. He was a great man, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a best friend, a joker, a hard worker, and a generous, loving soul. I’m not sure what happens after death, but I do know that he lives on, at least in the hearts of those who knew him.
I often say my job would be so much easier if it weren’t for those pesky customers. Patrons: can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without . . . their stats. Seriously, most patrons are not a problem, and some are even fun to get to know. And boy do you get to know some of them. In every library, there are the regulars.
|If you’ve never seen one
of these, I hate you
A lot of business at the public library comes from the very young, the very old, and the computer lab users. The very old are desperately seeking the past, whether in actual history or books on tape – you know, cassette tape. If you haven’t ever heard of these, I hate you. Anyway, old people also love to chortle when the electricity goes out and our card catalogs go down, as well as our ability to check out books. In their day, there were card catalogs with actual cards in them, that didn’t disappear with the pulling of a plug. If you don’t remember these either, see above.
The very young, and their harried mothers, are the public library’s next most popular customers. They come for story time, because that is fifteen or so minutes out of their day that the children’s attention is focused on something other than them. Even if it is the children’s librarian. At the library I once worked, we called her “The Puppet Master” for reasons that went beyond her job description. Every once in a while, you’d hear her talking to the puppets. Not for practice, just because.
|Oh, great, I look like a
snausage to him!
An enormous puppy was looking down at her with large round eyes, and feebly stretching out one paw, trying to touch her. `Poor little thing!’ said Alice, in a coaxing tone, and she tried hard to whistle to it; but she was terribly frightened all the time at the thought that it might be hungry, in which case it would be very likely to eat her up in spite of all her coaxing.
-Alice in Wonderland
I have no use for pets. This wasn’t always the case. There was a time, as my mother loves to recall, that I begged and begged and for a dog or a cat. The family dog died when I was 16, and I so wanted something to take care of and pet and all that stuff. But no, just because they didn’t want to be stuck with an animal for 15 years or so when I got out of the house, I was denied.
Well, now my parents have their revenge. My youngest daughter really wants a puppy. I mean, really, it’s serious here. She mentions it constantly. My reasons were clear. I don’t wanna, This does not suffice for her.
She is very good at showing her pitifulness by tying my honor cord around the neck of a stuffed dog and dragging it along behind her. Oh, yes, Mommy, I would take care of it. Sure, she would. I know who would take care of it, and I don’t wanna. I used to want pets, because I wanted to be a mother (another one of those odd dreams!) and baby something. Well, I need no more babies since mine are well out of diapers. I am not scooping any more poop.
At least I thought I wasn’t. My husband – yes, my husband, not the kids – brought home a water turtle and a tank. They were free, he said. So hooray we had a pet. Sasha the turtle lived in the laundry room, where occasionally she would bump against the glass while I loaded laundry and make me jump out of my skin. I didn’t care for Sasha. I’m sad to say that I thought of ways to do Sasha in. I mean, I was very close to the bleach in the laundry room. Oops. But I didn’t. Lucky for me, she died on her own.
|“Hey, anyone know the number for PETA?”|
Unluckily for me, my husband then took the girls to a pet store, swearing that they were only going to look. Why do I continue to trust this guy? Anyway, they come home with another free turtle. But this time it’s not a water turtle, it’s a tortoise. A Sulcatta tortoise. In case you have never heard of these turtles, they’re from Africa, they live like 100 years, and, oh yeah, they grow to be FREAKING HUGE!!!! Like Alice’s puppy, the thing makes me a little nervous.
But hey, it was free! Well, except for vet visits, and food, and a place for it to live. We had this minor problem of having no fence. My husband had been meaning to build a fence for around three years or so. He got about half done, and stopped. So we had this huge turtle – luckily for us he is still a “baby” and only about the size of a small dog, if said dog were lower to the ground and had a shell and leathery skin – walking slowly around our house and wedging himself into corners where he would stay for so long you’d have to nudge him with your foot to make sure he was alive. You see, the reason he was free was that this was a “Special Needs” turtle. He’d injured his mouth and couldn’t eat.
So then we have this turtle in our house that only eats through a syringe, when my husband gets in the mood to even try feeding it, and who wanders around scaring the crap out of me and at times, nearly making me trip. At one point, he camped out near our computer, and I realized just how insane my life was. I followed it a lot, searching for any signs that he had left me “presents” in my house. Let me tell you, I have enough trouble with house cleaning without pets adding to the mess. But I didn’t see anything, so I wondered seriously how the thing was even surviving. There should be a warning sign on our house – my husband loves to collect animals, but the whole taking care of it part is sorta secondary. They usually don’t survive that long.
But so far, this one lives. On air, maybe? Is his metabolism so slow he only needs food every year or so? I’m not sure. We had very hot weather – a drought – for several months. Eventually, dear husband , thanks to a little elbow grease and a warning from Code Enforcement, put up our fence, and Mr. Turtle got to go to his natural environment, Africa. Everyone else hated the weather, but he seemed to like it. As much as turtles can express liking something, which isn’t much. Mr. Turtle did get a name. I named him Rio because I like Duran Duran. It makes no sense, but neither does the poor turtle.
But then it rained. Good for the land, bad for me. Rio is back inside, and still alive. My daughter wants a dog now. I told her we had a turtle. But a small part of me now wants a Doberman, ya know, as a pal to Rio. Not really. Rio has that tough shell, and can apparently survive everything, even my family. I admit I identify with him. He’s totally out of his element, he’s slow, he likes to nap, but he’s persistent.
Still, if he poops on my carpet, we are going to have a discussion, woman to turtle.
There are so many stereotypes about librarians. They are stuffy old women covered in cobwebs, armed with date due stamps, shushing everyone, maniacally hoarding their books and looking suspiciously at those who dare to check them out, etc. I have to say that some of these stereotypes are not true. Not all librarians are old, although they all get that way if they stay long enough. Some of the other things, well, let’s just say the stereotypes often develop from at least a grain of truth.
- Fear of losing or not having things you might need.
- Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right.”
- Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches.
- Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning.
- Ordering or arranging things “just so.”
- Accumulating “junk” such as old newspapers or empty food containers.
|These books are not straight.
Someone will pay
Yeah, that’s nothing like librarians! I mean, just because most like to shelve books in a certain way (all edges lined up on the end of the shelf, sitting up ramrod straight and tight, but not too tight, with the call number showing) means absolutely nothing. Not even if they have to periodically check on this, dusting and cleaning and straightening books, even if they aren’t in their library, or even a library for that matter. And when they see that a book is say, shoved in backwards, or maybe when they start to tumble over, or possibly someone squeezed a book in too tightly, wrinkling the pages or scratching that brand new dust cover, or loosening the call number sticker, or getting chocolate fingerprints on a brand, new expensive book that BY GOD TOOK THEM A LONG TIME TO PROCESS, CATALOG, AND CAREFULLY PLACE ON THE SHELF DO YOU THINK ELVES DO THIS JOB WELL NO IT’S YOUR LOCAL UNDERPAID LIBRARIAN, THAT’S WHO!
We have rather loose standards for what goes into archives. Obviously we want materials that are relevant to our university. But relevant is often implied through degrees of separation. So we have a book that has nothing to do with the university, wasn’t written by anyone having something to do with the university, but was once owned by someone who had something to do with the university. Or who had wanted to do something with the university. Or who donated a lot of money and / or is elderly. And it just stands to reason that if one copy of such a book is good, then multiple copies are even better. What if one gets ruined? We’d need spares! So we store them all in boxes – in the same place!
|I found it! Hey, where’d
the patron go?
So our archives room is stuffed to the gills with these treasures. And don’t get me wrong, there are true treasures in there, like yearbooks from 1910, back when it was hard to tell the students from the profs because everybody dressed nicely, and engaged in debate instead of football. (Yes, there was a time when sports were not the highest priority at an institute of higher learning!) Also, there’s the old issues of our school newspaper, back when people cared about news, and bitched at each other through editorials and letters to the editor, back and forth, sometimes for six or seven issues in a row. Basically, it was the precursor to our modern online message boards. So that’s why there are stacks of newspapers in there – they’re important newspapers, thank you very much. Not just some uncontrolled mess of regular newspapers stacked to the ceiling.
|Our archives room|
However, there’s a lot of other stuff in there, stuff that is important, or maybe important, but we just haven’t figured out how to organize it properly yet. Or where to put it when it is organized. Or maybe it’s a cart of books that got tossed in there because our “workroom” is also a fancy room where we have luncheons and must be periodically cleaned out. So it’s difficult to find what we need in there, what with the stacks of unorganized stuff, and the fact that there is no light because light would damage the treasures. Not that this matters, since there is rarely time for organization anyway. And when we get a few spare minutes to try, we start having panic attacks, and run out as fast as possible. Basically, it’s a hoarder’s room, but one that, rather than being forced to be torn down by the city, is actually sponsored by the state.
I can’t say I have these disorders to the extent that some of my coworkers do. For one thing, sometimes the saving of EVERYTHING (for a while we had some archival thirty-year-old rubberbands in the supply closet, but I threw those out, shhhh) kind of gets to me. Maybe because it reminds me of my cluttered house. And while I care about this history deeply, and want it respected and maintained, sometimes I don’t have quite as much enthusiasm for making everything look perfect. I’m not a perfectionist, at least not in everything. My motto has generally been “good enough for government work”. You will find that this does not go over well with most librarians. There is a perfect, and by golly, you’re going to maintain it or deal with the wrath of your coworkers.
|No, no, no, you’re being
fesitve all wrong!
So I usually go along pretty well, because I’m good at obeying authority. Though I will admit to a slight rebellious streak. When decorating the library Christmas tree, we use paper decorations (that have been meticulously saved for years and are ironed out before decorating) that we put on in a specific order. The swirly paper decorations are smaller, and make good accent and fill-in pieces, so are not to be put on the tree until after all the other pieces. I was informed of this during a group decorating session. So when they weren’t looking, I put the swirly pieces up first anyway. Just because.
|Don’t do drugs, kids|
`Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, `I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
`What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. `Explain yourself!’
`I can’t explain MYSELF, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, `because I’m not myself, you see.’
-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Who are you? A very good question, indeed. And, like Alice, not one that is so easily answered. I would have thought that by my mid-thirties, I would know the answer to this question, but I’ve yet to figure it out. If anything, I’ve only added more roles. Daughter, sister, student, teacher, girlfriend, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, serf, librarian, mental health patient, etc. It doesn’t help when you’re being questioned by a rude, smoking caterpillar. I hate those guys.
I could answer by name, but even that’s not clear, as I have more than one last name. Would you like my maiden name or my married name? I remember receiving a letter from the Social Security Office just after my wedding demanding that I change my card because my former self no longer existed. It actually said that. The old, pre-married me had ceased to exist, and now I was known only by the name of the goofball I’d just married. Curiouser and curiouser.
|An identity stolen by thousands in Las Vegas alone|
When do we form identity? Do we ever actually form our own identities? When my eldest daughter was born, the old Social Security Office was after us again. Where was her SS number? Obviously children are supposed to be born with this nine digit number tatooed on their foreheads. So we quickly labeled our daughter with a number so she could be like the others in the hive. But these numbers are hardly secure identifiers, as they can be stolen. Identity theft is very prominent these days. Yes, it’s not just the government that takes your identity, it’s Joe Smoe off the street who wants to buy 3,000 issues of Hustler and a burrito with your credit card.
All our lives, we struggle with this. How do we fit in our families? Are you the golden child or the black sheep, the baby or the eldest or the dreaded middle child? Did your sister get called the pretty one while you got the “nice personality” consolation prize? What about when you left the security of home for school? Were you a cheerleader or a football player, or were you a member of the chess team? And there’s work, too. Once again, are you the cheerleader, the smart one, the black sheep, or do you have that good old “nice personality”? Who are YOU?
It’s even more complicated after you marry and start your own family. Now you’ve got relationships in your first family (you are ALWAYS a kid to your parents, accept it), and in your second (sometimes I wish the word Mommy had never been invented). If you divorce, you get even more relationships and identities. A world of fun! Not to mention an adventure at Christmas time.
Yet with all these relationships, all these roles, with everything else removed, there is you. Who are YOU, and YOU alone? Do you like yourself? Do you want more from your life? Are you satisfied with where you are, with how you feel when you are all alone (if you ever get that lucky chance). It’s something many of us don’t ask until it’s almost too late, and we realize we’ve lived only for these other roles, and never for our own. I don’t want that to happen to me.
|How’s about a girl’s night out where we LIVE???|
So who am I? I don’t know yet. But I’m finding out. It’s a journey, and one that I can only hope involves girlfriends and road trips – though not of the Thelma and Louise type.