ESSAYS & SHORT FICTION
My ego is huge. And not in the trivial sense where I think I’m better than everyone. That’s just stupid. I mean in the sense that when a blow hits my ego, the hurt spreads all over. It doesn’t remain in the ego bit of my brain, it infects the whole body, mind and soul bit of my life. I was never able to contend with “you win some you lose some”. I need to win all and never lose any, in the most non-competitive non-jerk like way possible. To lose even one, pervades hurt throughout my existence.
What a shameful way to live. At least that’s what my mother says. My mother who always served herself last.
I grew up thinking that parents didn’t work in the summer. My mother, a talented designer, gave up her career in fashion to care for my sister and I when my sister was first born. My father was a teacher at a prestigious private school, who no doubt had his summers off, as most teachers do. Years later when I fell for a university professor, I was schooled on the importance of having the summer’s off to think. The explanation made sense, although I don’t ever remember my father doing any thinking. Not that thinking has a particular face. He did a lot of teetering with things, sleeping in the backyard on his hammock and fighting with my mother. Those were his main summer pastimes. Perhaps the thinking came in between those tasks.
My father was a silent man of a serious nature. Even when I was young I sensed his annoyance with having two kids screaming in his ear all summer. Not his idea of a dream life. He would retreat into the basement den and surround himself with books. Delve into the worlds of Dostoevsky, Fitzgerald and Dickens. There always seemed to be more books in his den each day. I would scan my hand across the titles, feeling their cracked spines of importance, wishing that I could just soak in all the knowledge of the work just by touching it.
I still feel that way. And I wonder why someone hasn’t invented a method to upload into our brains all the great works of literature, lessons on art, and mechanics. When I say this to my mother she winces, “everything so easy” is always her frustrated answer, which is usually soon followed by, “nobody wants to work anymore.”
She’s right. Would you want to work at something if you knew the learning process could be ripped and uploaded for free within thirty seconds? Does learning still carry it’s romantic notion? Pouring over books in the Harvard library, with an adorable cashmere sweater and pearls? I haven’t purchased a CD in 10 years. How can I be expected to read 864 pages of Anna Karenina without a significant fanfare? I want a marching band and cheerleaders welcoming me when I finish it up. To me, that’s a win. To my mother, that need is a loss.
I get it. Something’s in life are still safeguarded to remain archaic. Learning your first words, pedaling a bike for the first time, feeling your first minor heartbreak, dealing with your last major heartbreak, the joy of making someone laugh.
Perhaps the most archaic of all is finding your self-worth. Without significant fanfare, subtly and alone. To this, my mother would approve.