Toilet or no, life goes on.
The Plums of Childhood
I have absolutely no memories of being four. I don't mean four people, (which I am, at least, according to my shrink), but four years old. Or do I? Well, here's a memory by proxy. Is that ok? We can just pretend that my mother is one of my personalities, which, by dang, she is! If you're female, you can't avoid that no matter how hard you try.
Anyway, my mother tells me that at pre-school, I “read” “Harold and the Purple Crayon” to the class. This is what the teacher, having infantilized to the point of an embryo from hanging with toddlers all day every day, actually thought. Basically, it was just memorized. I loved that book to death. I can attest to the death sentence in that I went on to marry a Harold (well, not at four, exactly), who didn't even own a crayon, much less a purple one.
I didn't find this out about the three-dimensional Harold until the night before the wedding. Already, “for better or worse” was coming at me like a swarm of furious bees. A Harold without a crayon. How could this have happened??? Should I call off the wedding? Rush out for art supplies at 2 a.m.? Marry a book instead, and go on to birth little chapbooks named Lavender, Periwinkle, Indigo, and Violet? How could I consider such a thing?! I mean, I only wanted TWO children. No, wait. I didn't want any! The thought never crossed my mind. So why in heck was I marrying a crayon-less Harold? Twenty-five years have not brought an answer.
I was fascinated by Harold's (the real one, the one in the book) creating his own reality. Every moment. At four, I was already a budding Kierkegaard, a a true existentialist. To my knowledge, K never literally DREW a bath, but those puns were fascinating, almost scary – the good kind of kid scary (which reminds me, I must tell the pig story). The other Harold, the one who will use only a cartridge or gel pen, has also drawn baths, but they're just, well, wet, and colorless. Hold it, can a bath be said to be wet? Is that redundant? Must be; I've never heard of a dry bath. But how can one even say "a dry bath," if a bath by definition is wet? But that's so redundant! And no, I'm not drunk.
Aha! I now recall cutting the windows and doors of children's book pages so I could see what was behind them. My parents were not all that happy with this past-time, but it's not like we had video tapes or computers or Nintendo, or like my brother had ever come out of hiding ever since the diaper incident. I had no one. What did she expect me to do at age 4 or 5? I don't know how humanity even thrived past 4 or 5 before all this technology.
Anyway, this is when I found out that publishers or illustrators or both were cheats! Complete and utter liars -- fakes! The only thing I could see when I cut open the doors and windows was the next page! This infuriated me, and was probably my introduction to what is known simply as The Complete Disillusionment and Disappointment with Illustrators, Publishers, Books, Possibly the Entire Human Race, Reality, and so forth (TCDADWIPBPTEHRRASF for short) (I'm sure this can be googled) (successfully).
I was just discussing this heartbreak with my dolphin. Yes, since Chapter Six, I've acquired one. It occurred to me that with self-consciousness, yet relatively untainted by human society, a dolphin would be a great companion. He lives in the hot tub out back and seems fairly content except when discussing children's books and crayons, or when I climb in with him. Then it's a little crowded. Also, he doesn't care for his bathing trunks. He says they make him look fat.
At any rate, Indigo (what else?) seems to feel he has missed out on something. When I say that the lack is simply boils down to TCDADWIPBPTEHRRASF, he is not comforted. I don't mean to ruin things for my happy dolphin, so I'm going to tell him that, actually, I married a man named Thaddeus who is color-blind, and that inside the windows and doors of all those pages were entire households of stuff, including people all dancing with skinny (just like him) naked dolphins (this can be done indoors, away from nosy neighbors who for some reason would find lounging in a hot tub with a dolphin, our both drinking martinis, smoking cigars, and discussing Kierkegaard, to be somehow kinky).
But the scariest book I ever had the thrill of hearing was “The Mellops go Diving for Treasure.” The Mellops were a happy family of mother, father and four boys. FOUR boys? A happy family? Sheesh. Maybe because they were porcine? Is that the word? Not as self-aware as a dolphin? I mean, maybe they thought they had four girls, or maybe they only thought they were happy. Well, anyway, all the pigs except Momma (of course this is very sexist, like all good children's tales) go looking for treasure, snorkeling, something I didn't question at all, and when they came up, there was the humongous ship.
On its side, it read --- GASP!!!!! The Pig Julie. I cannot express the fascination and downright horror in seeing my name in a book. I couldn't get over it. Sure, it wasn't about an adorable if rageful book-mangling existentialist little girl, it was prefaced by a pig, and slathered on a big ugly boat, but none of that mattered. My name was in a book. It was so weird that, sometimes, I had to avert my eyes for fear of ........I'm not sure what. For fear of suddenly and maniacally cutting into the portholes only to see more portholes? No. For fear that I'd lose my own name and suddenly be renamed Periwinkle? No, that's not it. It was more like someone had found out about me, been stalking me (though I didn't know the term then), and decided to steal my name for some nefarious pig project.
Actually, I decided, I was flattered. I thought I was the only Julie in the world. And that of all names, ever, mine was selected as the absolute best for a book. In fact, that special feeling lasted all the way until kindergarten, where I met Julie Wolfe, who had a fascinating proclivity: she was left-handed. I could not believe it! But that's another story altogether. It would be just wrong to to address crayons, husbands, existentialism, disillusionment, dust-storms, cheats, dolphins, pigs, boats, neighbors, scissors, martinis, and left-handedness all in one chapter. It could drown us, if only in a hot tub with a dolphin. I just couldn't do that to a dolphin. And I'm in trouble enough.
You see, I've never again been able to find the Mellops book. I would no longer be afraid, but of course, nowhere near as titillated. My husband is still sans crayon, my dolphin demands to go to Wal-mart for trendier trunks, and several of my personalities are hungry as heck. So let's just say that apparently I did have a sort of life at age four – one that involved scissors, a good memory, a dim view of the world, and the secure knowledge that I, and I alone, was wonderful and special enough to be an extremely important adjunct to snorkeling pigs.