Monthly Archives: August 2013

road trip wednesday: memories

First of all, a reminder that next Monday (August 26th), at 6 pm PST/9 pm EST I will be doing a live chat over at YA Highway. Please join me! Bring all your Charm & Strange questions, writing questions, any questions!

Now on to this week’s Road Trip Wednesday topic, which was inspired by Charm & Strange, so of course I have to answer it! It’s a tough one, though. The question is:

Did you ever have a childhood memory that you viewed differently as you got older?

It’s an interesting thing to think about: perception versus reality and how that fits in with the act of remembering. I know I’m better at forgetting than I am at remembering, but I think most adults are. I also tend not to remember things that other people find important, like my first kiss or the first day of high school or what the prom theme was. Those moments are lost for good inside my head, in the strands of time, which makes me think they weren’t all that memorable to begin with. However, I do have a few strange memories from childhood that definitely meant something different to me at the time than they do now.

When I was five, my father was a Fellow at Stanford University for a year, so we moved from Berkeley down to Palo Alto and rented a house there. I think the change of environment is what makes these memories stand out. Here are a few highlights from that year:

1. Waking up in my bedroom in the middle of the night and seeing all of my stuffed animals come to life and start moving.

2. Walking with my older sister to Jack In The Box with money our mother gave us for food. When we got there my sister said she had done a “magic trick” and made the money disappear, only she didn’t know how to make it reappear. This made me cry.

3. I loved my kindergarten teacher and one evening I invited her over for dinner. I put on this fancy dress and went out front to ride my bike around until she arrived and promptly fell in a giant mud puddle.

My perception of these events has evolved over time. I now know about things like sleep hallucinations and sleep paralysis. I also know that my sister didn’t really know any magic tricks, although I’m not sure how the Jack In The Box thing was ever resolved. The mud thing, I think is funny now, but I was definitely not laughing at the time!

Thanks for reading!

compassion and blame

A few weeks ago I went to see author and professor Kiese Laymon speak and read from his new book, ‘Long Division.’ The speaking part ended up turning into more of a discussion and someone asked Mr. Laymon his thoughts on how a community like Oakland (then reeling from the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl; today reeling from the shooting deaths of a father and infant) can heal from its violence. I’ll paraphrase Mr. Laymon’s response, since I didn’t write it down, but he told us that he believed if everyone in a given community felt a sense of responsibility for the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl, there would be less violence in the future. However, if everyone did not feel a sense of responsibility, then he felt there would be more.

I’ve thought a lot about compassion and blame, and why both feel so hard. Perhaps responsibility is a more palatable word than blame? I don’t know. For a while I considered writing a satirical blog or tumblr or something titled “here’s why I don’t have to care” based on comments on news sites, although that felt bitter and bitterness doesn’t foster compassion. It does the opposite.

Someone asked me yesterday why I wrote a book about something that was “so dark” and “so awful” and if I thought anybody would actually want to read it. I don’t know if anybody wants to read it, but I do know I wrote it because when children are violent or angry or sad, we are often quick to blame others, slow to be compassionate, and even slower to listen. Like Mr. Laymon, I believe that until we reverse this course, until we feel empathy and until we feel responsible, we will only have more hurting children.

I know I don’t want that.