Breathless

There’s an audio book I get from the library for my kids — Maynard Moose’s Tales. It’s a version of the trickster tales but super silly, the reader pronouncing everything with lisps and mis-conjungations. He’s brilliant, silly and highly addictive. My kids have memorized his entire Uglified Duckling script.Where he gets me most is when he asks the listener, “did you ever get the feeling you were a deer being raised in a family of sharks?” Well, sure! Where do we come from? Where do we fundamentally belong? I have been asking myself this question for a long time — at Catholic college where I was the only non Catholic; at graduate school where I felt like a total fraud, and now in Atlanta, where I’m the only woman in the zip code who never pledged a sorority.I must have crawled up from some strange shore, right? That may be the reason for my sense of kindred spirit with mermaids. Though they seem to be perfectly at home in their ocean element, what about when they step ashore? When they’ve had to relinquish their voice? Get hauled aboard a ship? It’s never for the mermaid’s good in the end, even if Prince Eric waits at the top of the overhanging crow’s nestI’d like to come ashore as a REAL Atlantan, as someone who belongs. But I’m a Midwesterner. And not even a good one. I’m half English. I lived enough of my life in the UK to mispronounce everything in school and to be teased on the bus for “going home to tea.” That kind of thing stays with you.

I suppose the good thing is that Atlanta has enough transplants that every other household is from Alaska or Amsterdam. But I still hope I’ll find my place here. My not really American not really Southern not really Catholic not really grad student place. I’m a mom now, and I do my best to tell my two kids to be themselves. They should. They shouldn’t let their classmates make the rules for them. I think I must have made a mistake somewhere to feel so out of the element so often. I’ve been here eleven years and it’s still like someone just hauled me in wiggling, from a river.

My parents hardly visit. My sister has become a recluse. My husband has no siblings, we seldom have a houseguest, and those we do have are often phobic of the children. Hard to know with all that what is the right way to be a supportive parent and a good neighbor and a productive American.

My solace is to write fiction  —  often, it turns out, abut others who don’t fit in. Or do, but only after the trial of being dragged up onto shore. Is it their choice they came up with the dredge? Did they mean to be discovered in a fish net? To become mortal and marry the boy with the perfect teeth? Who knows. I stare at oceans still, and at rivers, wondering. What’s under there? Is there something waiting, coming to shore for me?

A great list of YA mermaid taleshttp://www.goodreads.com/list/show/7878.YA_Mermaid_Novels#8782399

Many of these are retold fairy tales and/or fantasy. Love to see this done with a crime/mystery angle.

6 thoughts on “Could you be from the sea?

  1. I can so relate to this. It feels like I have been searching for a place to belong for a long time. Some days are harder than others. I have begun to realize that I create my own place of belonging, although that doesn’t help on the days where I feel truly alone. So i write, and I read, and I dream of fitting in through my words.

    1. Thank you for your reply, Lisa. It’s funny how the process of writing is BOTH therapeutic and isolating. I write and read in the same way — to participate in the world, and to find a way to include a version of myself in a place of inclusion. Problem is, we writers place ourselves so often in the spot of observer and commentator, it’s hard to actually be a joiner. I find I often prefer to observe than to do. I’m sure that’s the writer in me. But it does make you wonder — what about belonging? How am I supposed to perform that function, too? My characters really stumble over this, I think. Or else they’re in a regular wrestling match between the joiner and the separatist.

  2. This Post Resurrection Hop is producing all kinds of interesting contacts! I think you have to live your life not caring what other people think about you. I’ve always preferred people who are a little (or even a lot) eccentric – who march to their own drummer. My best friends have always been that kind of person. I used to say to my mother when I was growing up, “We’re not like other people.” And she would say, “I don’t see that we’re so different.” But my mother was not very self-analytical. There were just the two of us – no men in my family except an uncle and grandfather who were not exactly cuddly examples of the species. That will make a difference right there. And I always preferred learning to socializing. That doesn’t help, either, when you’re a teenager!

  3. stunning metaphors here and ones that hit home – I too often feel dragged ashore. You have company in that i’m in a similar situations; little family support from either side, no house guests, and those occasional few, yes, don’t have children. I often worry about how insular our little family is, especially on holidays when it’s often just us and my 94 yr old mother.I too, resort, to fiction, or wiriting of any sort, if not weaving. I felt much more connected when my kids were in preschool but now that they are in school full-time the clock ticks differently. Lovely post.

    1. Thank you, Sandra, for these words. I’d always heard “Your kids will bring friends to you.” I think it was true in the first year of their lives, when neighbors were out with their own strollers, but then . . . Here in Atlanta, where we’re very limited by driving distance and crushing traffic, I find I lack the energy to seek out a lot of kindred spirits who I went great lengths to find in my single and not-yet-parent days. Now, however, things do revolve around my little ones. I adore them, and I’ve never been a more productive writers, and yet . . . The space I once found in the physical world I now only write about. Is that a gain or a loss or a little of both . . . OK. Too many ellipses.

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