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Weird, depressing, cloudy-but-not-raining weather in Fresno for the last few days inspires my first 7QT theme: weird hang-ups.

1. Leaving booths in restaurants (childhood). For many years of my childhood, every time we left our booth at a restaurant, a very strong feeling of loss and anxiety would sweep over me, like I was leaving a dear friend or forgetting something important. It had nothing to do with the food or the atmosphere (delicious/disgusting, bright/dim, loud/quiet, whatever). I don’t know why; I was a lonely kid, though. Somewhere along the line, the feeling left; it probably ran-off with my imaginary friend.

2. “Mommie Dearest” (childhood). My folks liked to watch this whenever it came on TV (who knows why), so I saw it in whole or in part a few times as a kid. Frankly, the wire-hanger-whipping Mommy (who was supposedly modeled on Joan Crawford) was freaky as hell, and the perfectionism she tried to enforce on her daughter hit far too close to home for me. Just thinking about that movie even now makes me sad, anxious, and a little angry. Maybe even especially now that I’m a mommy.

3. “Kris”/being mistaken for a boy (mostly childhood). I’ve never liked my name (first or middle, but the last is OK), but I absolutely despise(d) the nickname “Kris,” which someone always assumes I go by, like people assume that every guy named “Robert” goes by “Bob,” even though some of them prefer “Rob” or “Bert” or the whole “Robert.” Before I, er, filled-out as a Mommy — and especially when I had very short hair — this nickname also aggravated the unfortunate tendency to mistake me for a boy. Once, my Dad was shopping for some jewelry for my Mom, and the salesman thought to flatter him by gesturing to me and congratulating him on his handsome boy. My Dad was very amused (thanks, Dad), but I was a very livid “handsome boy”! Anyway, I have a basic rule: Call people what they want to be called.

4. Ants. I hate them in my house and slay them with a burning hatred, Peter baits and poisons them in our yard, and I barely tolerate them anywhere else outdoors. Though few of them bite, and none of them destroy things (to my knowledge, at least), they invade en masse, and that is enough. It started once, when I was house-sitting for my parents: their laundry room hanging shelf set fell, breaking several jars of food open. By the time I came home, the ants were all over it. It was one of the most abhorrent things I’ve ever had to clean. Which brings me to …

5. That weird stuff that grows where water puddles around the sink. Now, you’d think that a woman who regularly sees/smells/cleans the barf/pee/poop/snot of numerous people and cats would find very little else in life to gross her out. Nonetheless, water pooling-up around the kids’ sink, with dirt and scum and who-knows-what in it, makes my skin crawl.

6. Cloudy weather. The only thing that makes clouds bearable is rain, especially Tucson’s monsoons, which are lovely. But, living in California again now, I hate the many days of clouds without rain. Like today. I’m not alone; it has a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

7. Helpless people/children/animals. OK, this one is not so weird. I am the woman for whom they make those SPCA and Food for the Poor commercials (only without the deep pockets to get the tote bag or monthly letter with my child’s picture). Any situation in which someone is helpless — real or big-screen — haunts me. I’ve always found it remarkably easy to imagine myself in others’ situations, which is helpful in creative writing, but not so much when every abused kitty fixes in your mind as your pet and every starving kid fixes as your child. I flatly refuse to visit certain websites (such as Reece’s Rainbow, which specializes in adoptions of foreign children with Downs Syndrome) because they yank my emotional strings while I am helpless to do anything for those who need it.

You know, I often tell my kids that we are “weirdos,” which we take as a compliment around here because weird can be good. Maybe “Weirdo Goodness Edition” will be the theme of my next 7QT. Join today’s 7QT party over at Jen’s.

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