By Laura Spinella
|The mess that pushed me over the edge|
Is there a rule about using GBC as a confessional? Hmm, perhaps I’ll start a trend. Since the current theme is transitions, I’ve decided to share the curious personal transition that occurred last weekend. To begin, I set a kid to the curb. That’s right. I had my fill of a bedroom floor I couldn’t find, clothes strewn about like the remnants of a church tag sale, and an array of fuzzy bottomed cups that I may donate to the local middle school for fall science experiments. I was done with all of it, so I packed up Jamie and her belongings put them in her car and said, “Laters, baby!” As her vehicle inched down the driveway she offered a solitary backward glance. I stood with Jamie’s much neater sister and her little dog, which we kept, and waved farewell. Almira Gulch never felt such satisfaction. “Maybe you should have let her keep the dog,” Megan said, a teensy hint of guilt riding her voice. “Tough love, kiddo,” I replied, heading inside to redecorate.
|Happy Jamie at School!|
Okay, here’s the confessionJ My interpretation of Jamie’s departure is somewhat embellished. No worries, I’ve not set her up for years of therapy. Well, not with that episode anyway. We packed Jamie up and sent her 1,200 miles south, back to college where a comfy off-campus apartment with her own bathroom (she shares with three people here) awaited. I would have sent the dog too but no pets allowed. As a writer, I took a little literary license. As someone who writes women’s fiction with a heavy thread of romance, I tend to gravitate toward a touch of drama. In truth, my kids trend more toward a PBS special than Jersey Shore. So, for the most part, snippets of their lives must be overstated to achieve good fodder.
The personal transition came with the redecoration—which was true. I’d methodically plotted this all summer, and was ready with a paintbrush the moment she vacated the premises. Of course, before you paint, you have to prep. We set about corralling dust bunnies and filling a giant trash bag with whatever Jamie deemed unnecessary baggage. At one point, all but swallowed by a mountain of trash, Megan murmured, “Geez, if only we’d thought to call Hoarders first…” In her effort to clean sweep the room, she decided to pare down Jamie’s books. Jamie is a voracious reader. In part, I think this is because it avoids cleaning. We decided all the paperback James Patterson books could go to Good Will while the stacks and stacks and stacks of YA novels could be donated to the library. The rollaway bin in the closet, packed to the gills with cozy mysteries... Well, maybe the secondhand bookstore would be interested. Having worked her way to bookcase number three, Megan said, “What should I do with these?” It’s important to note that while Megan reads, she is not a book lover. She does not see books as keepsakes or memories or markers of time. She was asking about the Laura Ingalls Wilder series—including the lesser known hardback books. I guess it had been a while since I really looked at Jamie’s shelves. “Put them in my room,” I said, “they’re mine.”
I hadn’t forgotten the Copyright 1971 books, but I’d never really thought about how they related to me as a writer. Naturally, I was compelled to flip through, the stiff yellowed pages smelling of my bedroom back on Long Island. Or at least I decided they did. Inside the front cover of each book, glued to the page, was a mimeographed bookplate. In meticulous third grade scrawl, under “This book belongs to,” was my signature: Laura Jean Wilson. At nine I was convinced Ms. Ingalls and I shared a past life because we share the same first name. At ten I’d saved enough money in hopes that my parents would take me to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. Suffice it to say two East Coast parents never could see their way clear to a trip to the Midwest. While I never made it to the museum, I was, forty years later, struck by how obsessed I’d been with the words. It was all consuming, enlightening, and, frankly, a little weird. In retrospect, I suppose it makes perfect sense. Excessive pride of ownership at nine or ten now seems like an appropriate segue, taking me from reader to writer. How else could anyone justify the endless hours spent putting stories to paper, unless they’d first spent equal hours investing in them?
As for Jamie and her books, I stopped Megan at the top of the stairs. Her blue eyes peered queerly over the top of the stack. “We’re not getting rid of them, are we?” she said, deflated. I shrugged, telling her to run to Target and buy another bookcase. It would be a shame to get rid of Jamie’s books because, clearly, it may take decades for my voracious reader-hoarder to figure out what they really mean.