Monday, February 26, 2018

Eating for beginners

My mother liked to make an opera--soap or grand, as the occasion demanded--out of little things.  For instance, she thought my brother was in imminent danger of starving because he had skinny arms and legs.  So she fed him at every opportunity.  After he had eaten dinner, if he left so much as a pea on his plate, she would take him to the drive-in and stuff him with French fries like someone stuffing a Strasburg goose.  This continued until the kid weighed 200 pounds, at 5'7".  She then started harping at him for being too fat.

 I was a fussy eater.  I liked hot chocolate, but if there was a layer of skim on the top of the cup, I not only would not eat it, I  ran out of the room screaming.  I wouldn't eat anything made with mayonnaise, because I couldn't identify the ingredients.  My father believed in stern discipline on the food front.  He made me sit at the table until I had consumed enough to satisfy him, or until bedtime, whichever came first.  Long dreary hours (probably only minutes, but they seemed like hours) passed as I stared at the congealed fat on my now tepid plate, without eating it of course. Mercifully, bedtime freed me.

  Then there was the morning milk.  Dad believed that milk was good for children, particularly at breakfast.  I could not, or would not, drink cold milk in the morning.  If I was made to drink it, I usually threw up.  Mealtimes were full of drama at our house.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

How the Anglo-Saxons saved my life, with the help of the Bexley, OH library

Of course I'm an Anglophile, and have been since the age of 13.  That was how old I was when I read my first book by P G Wodehouse and discovered the wonderful world of country estates, servants, and the Drones Club.  What a great place to live!  Even at that age, I knew it was too good to be true, but that in no way detracted from its charm.  Fortunately, that was in the old days, when the Bexley  Library had not discarded any books, so I was able to read a dozen volumes by the Master.

  And then I discovered Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, to be exact.  I loved that book so much that when I first finished reading it I went back to the opening and read it again.  Country houses!  Balls!   Gossip!   But it wasn't just the setting, I loved Jane Austen's style.  These two authors taught me to write, taught me what a great writing style could bring to a book, and got me on the road to being a lifelong Anglophile and a prodigious reader.   

  I'm not kidding when I said they saved my life, either.  I was a miserable kid, attending a new school, and two years younger than my classmates.  My parents were getting divorced, not that either of them mentioned the topic, but my father's total absence from our new house was noticeable even to an unobservant child.  I also didn't have the clothes the popular girls wore.  Even my shoes were not quite right. 

  In addition to this, I was so shy that I dreaded anyone even looking at me.  Needless to say, I had no friends.  My classmates scared me.  I hated that school with an intensity that frightens me to this day.  Once I went away to college, I never walked down the street where the high school was located.  I never wanted to be in Central Ohio again, and mostly I haven't been.

  I buried my head in P G Wodehouse and Jane Austen.  When I was in their world I was released from the realities of my own.  I don't know how I would have gotten through high school without them.  But I am eternally grateful to the library for making my continued existence possible.