Thursday, May 14, 2009

Just remembrances ...

Daughter No. 2 has moved into my living room.

Her books are piled in a growing tower of procrastination on the coffee table, while loose-leaf, notes, binders and various and sundry other essentials required for the Perfect Essay spill off the loveseat and slowly, insidiously take over the couch.

Rowan is a fungus. Largely benign, but implacable and incapable of being stopped.

5 to 7 pairs of shoes litter the floor while several of her quirky book bags lie forlorn on the floor, weeping granola bars and oatmeal squares festooned with chew marks from the dogs, vomiting wisps of paper, gum wrappers and hand creams into a mess of rapidly increasing gargantuan proportions.

She is ensconced on the loveseat, laptop perched on her knees, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, bare except for the straps of her summer dress (Rowan logic –blanket AND summer dress). Facebook whispers from one screen, while regular little MSN squeals punctuate her animated discussion of medieval English religious rites.

I’m frustrated – we’re going into Month 2 of the Occupation yet she amuses me despite myself.

She is often there to greet me when I get up at 3:15 a.m., fingers busy, chipper and together, my night owl child. I feed her tea and advice and admonish her for staying up all night. But it is a wise child that knows herself and easily distracted Rowan works best when there are no excuses left to occupy time better spent writing and no family left to supply amusement.

And truth to tell, it brings back memories of my own. For the child comes by it honestly!

But she has it easier in some respects. I remember my old battered armchair, where I would nest surrounded like her by books and papers and necessities of life (in my case, a huge mug of tea and cigarettes), an old plank across the arms providing a writing surface where I would scribble my thoughts in my outrageously unintelligible scrawl. My coffee table was a crassly stolen Stop sign, laid atop “borrowed” milk cartons.

When a rough draft was done, I would leave the comfort of my chair to perch on a wobbly kitchen chair (rescued from the garbage) and flexing my fingers, began the battle with the ancient Underwood typewriter liberated from the musty archives of the newspaper office where I worked part-time to pay the piper.

I began in Grade 9 with a small turquoise Brother portable typewriter – bought when my English teacher called my parents and swore he had never seen such terrible writing. But my fingers learned to dance over the keys and my thoughts tumbled and fought in my mind and sought liberation in the hunt and peck of inky want and the typewriter would skitter like a dry leaf on a brisk autumn day across the table.

Discovering the Underwood and its 90 lbs of cast iron beauty was a wonder and a joy. After years of chasing the elusive Brother in its journeying, I was victorious in my rough love of the Underwood.

I marvel at how lucky Rowan is to have spell-check and insert and delete and the great comfort of making versions, erasing and redoing … all with a few keystrokes. White-out was my friend when I was in university and I learned early on to spell correctly and type accurately to avoid tripling the workload.

Plus, in addition to my own writings, I had D’s to transcribe as well. Like father, like daughter.

D was a denizen of the university library, a procrastinator extraordinaire, a maestro of avoidance when it came to actually putting his thoughts on paper although his debating skills and ability to control the discussion are legendary to this day.

Inevitably, he would arrive home in the wee hours with coffee-stained penned papers in hand, and handing them to me, have his tea and toddle off to bed. I, on the other hand, would sit at our smoky kitchen table, pounding away at the Underwood, straining eyes already exhausted to read his chicken scratch manuscripts which were inevitably due at 8 a.m. the next morning.

That is how in his final thesis “Transcendental Aesthetic” became “Transcendental Athlete” – I know, I know – at the time I thought it odd, but then it was Philosophy! And as I pointed out after the paper came back marked (and well, too, his Professor luckily had a sense of humour!), it seemed apropos in the context of the essay!

The cycle of life … I watch my child with fond eyes, her voice animated and loud in the dark of the early morning and wonder at the paths taken – who would have thought I would be doing THIS, standing in the early dawn watching my child repeat with her own twist the excesses of my own youth?

9 comments:

Loving Annie said...

Glad there are fond flahbacks about that time, Selkie ! I don't have children, but the way you drecribe it, I can hear the poignant amusement in it...

Sir J said...

actually who would have thought it would be any other way

Liras said...

What terrific if yet chaotic, fun.

selkie said...

Annie- I have very fond memories of my overnight marathons! and it is actually sorta sweet to find rowan up and ready to engage in conversation on obscure topics - even at 3 in the morning.

Sir J - truth? way back then this was the LAST place I would have envisioned myself! I was the penultimate career person - obsessive about writing (I was a journalist then).... NEVER ever a dreamer about marriage and kids and all that - never any interest - just one of those quirky things that happens when life happens.

Liras - chaotic yes - 4 kids, 2 dogs, 4 cats, 1 rabbit, 1 guinea pig and numerous friends who sweep in and out - it's good.

Tallgrass said...

I relate pretty well to this. My son has been living with us (for the most part) since he got out of the army last August. He is getting married in July so just as he is getting his stuff out of the house, we are preparing for our daughter to move in with us while her husband leaves for his third tour of Iraq.

I bought a refrigerator magnet the other day that says, "It ain't an empty next untl their crap is out of the garage."

The upside, you get to have adult conversations. The downside, they revert to their childhood ways of letting others take care of them.

I'm renting a storage unit this weekend. If nothing else, I'll move in there.

cutesy pah said...

I had to laugh when I read this post. My teenage daughter, the ultimate slob and procrastinator, who is also a burgeoning writer with a great affinity for anything retro has requested a record player and a typewriter for her birthday. Oh yes, and a sewing machine.

When asked in English class her thoughts on how the perfect way to get the creative juices flowing, and put her thoughts to paper, my daughter said she would "put on Abbey Road and type on her typewriter."

Is it that obvious that her dad is an artist, her mother a professional obsessed with the written word, and her entire family enamoured with yesterday's technology?

I recall far too many times that I would write out my papers the night before they were due in class, and my mother would sit up all night at the typewriter making sure they were neatly typed for me with no errors.

Ahh.... it does feel at times that energy is wasted on the young. What I wouldn't give to be able to live on 5 hours of sleep, be awake and focused the next morning, without the need for gallons of coffee, and even be proud that I pulled off another job last minute.

However, I do now appreciate why my mother always made us clean house each weekend, and why I had to make my bed every day. I didn't do this with my son or daughter, and they are both the ultimate in messy, and it follows them from room to room in my house.

All that time we spent singing "clean up, clean up" with Barney seems to have had no effect on their ability to pick up after themselves. But, yet, they remember singing, "I love you, you love me." This is what I called selective memory.... *smiles*

thanks for sharing a bit of your homelife with us.

cutesy pah

selkie said...

your mum typed it up?? What a GREAT mum LOL - and your daughter will HATE the typewriter! I thought I died and went to heaven when I got my first ELECTRIC and then one that self-corrected! But now, WHAT A BIG PAIN IN THE ASS THEY ARE!

My kids are slobs too - and yet right up into well into high school, we had a chore list with a list of chores, broken down into four - rotated every Sunday -

ultimatley I think they become self-obsessed naricisstic little buggers - which they do grow out of .... my eldest started to change a lot 6 months beofre she moved out and her apartment now is pristine!

TG - I know what you mean! People at work are lamenting their kids leaving home - I'm like, I keep pushign them out of the DAMN nest and they keep crawling back in!

Rowan still technically lives here but admits her inability to actually concentrate when she is in her own room (she starts reading or falls asleep!) - thus the Occupation of my living room LOL

john smith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ronnie said...

Loved your post.

I had to clean my bedroom every weekend, make sure clothes were hung and not left on the floor and lay the table for dinner. As cutesy pah, I didn't make my son do any of these when he was growing up and he's messy except for his clothes, makes sure there hung :)

Have a good weekend.

Love.
Ronnie
xx