Revenge of The Paste Eaters

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Today's book was also chosen by Kara, who requested that I read this book today because she liked the title. I bought the book in the first place for the same reason, so I completely respect her reasoning on this one.

Today is Kara's birthday, so I'm sending happy birthday thoughts in her direction while writing this post.

I'm starting to think I should let someone else pick out the books I'm going to read all the time. It's so nice getting up in the morning and not having to wade through the almost 200 books in my to-read stack to figure out what sounds good today. In fact, I'm toying with the idea of letting you guys vote on what I'm going to read on the 18th, 19th, and 20th (I have stuff planned out for most of the days from now until the 22nd, but I can't seem to narrow down the to-read stacks to figure out what I'm going to read for those 3 days). What do you think of that idea dear readers?

Today's book; "A collection of stories for anyone who shuddered at the idea of senior prom, REVENGE OF THE PASTE EATERS is about the way the experiences of childhood stay with us and shape us into adults. Cheryl Peck applies her signature wit to more personal stories and reflections--about hurting people and getting hurt, about discovering who you are and who you want to be, about feeling "not good enough," and about being bigger--physically and mentally--than many of the people surrounding you. This is a wickedly funny view of what it's like to be a middle-aged woman in middle-America, and what really happened to the kids who were different."

I was an odd child - but I'm sure you've already realized that, especially if you've read my blog entry about my Little House obsession. So, having been an odd child myself, I thought I would be able to really relate to this book. I kind of did, in a way, but the author describes herself as a "miserably unhappy child" - and I was the exact opposite. My parents describe me as a baby who was "so calm and happy we thought there was something wrong with you." My mother loves to tell me the story of how I was such a well-behaved, happy baby that they actually took me to the doctor to find out what was wrong with me. After the doctor stopped laughing at them, he gently explained that I was just a happy baby. The other difference between myself and the author is that I was perfectly happy being weird - it didn't cause me the slightest bit of distress. I have no concept of what it's like to be self-conscious or upset about being odd - I reveled in it - so that part of the book was kind of eye-opening for me.

The rest of the book kept reminding me of my sister - maybe because she was just here visiting - or maybe it's just because whenever I think of childhood I think of the time I spent with my sister most of all. We lost my brother to the Nintendo when I was about 6 years old, so I don't have very many childhood memories of him, other than that time when he sprayed Windex in my face and when he saved me from choking on a Mentos (Thanks!).

The author describes her two sisters having a secret language between them that she never really understood. My sister and I really did make up our own secret language - it was called Gemesh/Jemish - we don't exactly agree on how it should be spelled which probably provides you with some clues as to why we never actually got the Gemesh/Jemish language off the ground. We could never agree on what the names of the colors should be. The goal of our language was so that we could make fun of mom's clothes and her 80's permed hair - and use profanity - all without getting into trouble. We eventually abandoned all attempts to create our own language, and started just coming right out and telling my mother what was wrong with her hair and clothes - which probably sounds pretty harsh, but it was tough love and it was necessary. After watching home videos of herself from that time period and exclaiming, "Oh my goodness, why did I leave the house looking like that," my mother has finally come to realize that the tough love was necessary. No daughter who cares about their Mother should ever let her walk around in public wearing puffy gray sweatpants with her shirt tucked into them. I'm not kidding dear readers, she actually tucked the shirt into the sweatpants.

Later in the book Peck describes her childhood habit of writing songs - and while reading about it I had a flashback to my sister's own song writing ventures. She loved bread so much that she actually wrote a song about it when she was about four years old. It's called Bread is My Life - and just so you can experience the joy too, I'll share the lyrics with you:

Bread is my life, bread is my life

To me yeast is a feast

Bread is my life, bread is my liiiiiiiiiiiiife

B-R-E-A-D, bread is my life

I think there was a second verse that started with: When I'm walking down the aisles of the grocery store..... But my sister insists that there wasn't. We disputed that back and forth for a few minutes before the conversation sadly devolved to this:

Alissa: Don't you think John Lennon remembered the lyrics to Imagine? Do you think that Irving Berlin would just forget a verse of White Christmas?

Me: Does this mean you think you're in the same category as those people?

Alissa: Yes . . . Maybe . . . No . . . I don't know . . . Okay not really.

The author (I really should stop calling her that, but I kind of like how it makes her sound mysterious and distant and larger than life even though she isn't, like she should be sitting behind the curtain in Oz), also talked about using the box their freezer came in as a house that she and her siblings spent weeks fighting over. My sister and I had the boxes to the new washer and drier - but since there were 2 of them, and my brother was glued to the video games, there was no one to fight over them. We used out boxes as covered wagons and headed west. We would spend hours in the basement playroom recreating the scene from the Little House premiere movie where the Ingalls family left the Big Woods. I loved those scenes. I thought they were the most dramatic thing I have ever seen - until I got to junior high and I snuck over to my friends house to watch the Thorn Birds, a movie my mother wouldn't let me watch at home because it would "give me ideas."

Another part of the book that gave me an instant childhood flashback was when the author (pay no attention to the writer behind the screen), describes being stuck in an office waiting for their parents to buy something. She wasn't sure what her parents were buying, but she remembered the rest of the scene quite vividly. Here is the sentence that takes me back to childhood shopping excursions with my mother, "Elephants walked by, conceived children, carried them full term, and deposited them on the rug in front of us while we waited - not making any noise - for our parents to each sign their names twice." That takes me back, and not in a good way. That scene played out over and over again - every time we would go shopping with my mother. Her shopping approach can best be described as careful. First she has to debate where she's going to put whatever it is that she's buying - even if it's something as trivial as a towel - then she debates the color, then she searches through the entire stack to find the best ones because she's convinced that there will be 3 or 4 towels in the stack that are far superior to the other towels that are merely worthless pieces of cloth. Then she asks for opinions, which she never believes are sincere - so the asking is followed by a five minute grilling period that goes something like this:

Mom: What do you think of this blue towel?

Me (or any of my siblings): I like it.

Mom: Are you sure, because I was kind of thinking the green one was nicer.

Me: If you like the green one better than why don't you just get the green one. The green ones nice.

Mom: Are you sure, because I think the think the green might be a little too light for the bathroom.

Me: Then get the blue one.

Mom: I don't know, maybe it's too blue.

At that point the whining would set in. My brother and sister and I would fall to the floor and start complaining, "We're never getting out of this store. We're going to die here."

All of my rambling about my childhood and family members has brought me to a question I have been pondering since I started writing this blog: Is it a bad thing that every book that I read reminds me of something that has happened in my own life? Does it just mean that I'm more self involved than I ever realized? Or is that what good books are supposed to do, strike such a chord with people that it reminds them of their own lives? Should books be taking me outside of my own life and my own experiences more, or am I too self-involved to allow the books to push me beyond my own life? I'm not really sure what the answers are to any of those questions yet, but I guess it'll give me something to talk about in tomorrow's blog when I continue on with obessively talking about myself and my family.