Monday, September 20, 2010
Not Just a Mama: My Pen is My Sword and it is Rarely Sheathed
My mother tells me when I was a shy little girl in kindergarten, I wrote a story about a gumball machine, comparing the little round balls of varying colors to people in the world. I'd share the poem with you, but Susan isn’t exactly the scrapbooking kind of Mama - no hoarding of precious little memories for her. I'm guessing she read it, smiled, then rolled something into the tiny piece of paper and smoked it.
It was the 70's, after all.
I should note, my mother is the type of mother who would, years later, wake me with a three a.m. phone call: "I just had the best idea for a porn movie!!" What followed was a three hour trip to a local store the next day, where I was horrified to find the toy dolls made for young girls looking suspiciously like whores. Out of that shopping adventure came a three page script for a movie that could only be described as Barbie-Porn, and would years later come back to bite me in the ass.
Mom and I were working on a film project with learning disabled students at the local elementary school when the school administration became aware of Making Porn With Mom. (catchy title, right?) Well, apparently someone thought to look up our production company name and not only found my blog, but also my Internet Movie Database Listing and my cache of YouTube videos. The whole thing left me with a raging case of the runs, but frankly a simple Google search before we spent a year working with the kids might have been a good idea. Alas, they dropped the ball, not I. I was merely doing what I always do.
I have spent almost forty years reading and writing and I've learned to speak out when I have something to say. As a ten year old Catholic School girl I checked out The Diary of Anne Frank and it made a huge impact on me because I related to her. I was about her age. I could be her. I could rage against the horrors of a life lived in secret. I, too, could be remembered long after I was gone.
I asked for and was given a diary to record my own juvenile thoughts. My entries were decidedly less awe-inspiring than Anne's.
July 9, 1978
We went on vacation and it was nice, except there was a strange smell in the VW van the entire trip from something Mom and Dad were smoking. She said they were ‘herbs‘.
(note to self: look up the definition of herbs)
At the Grand Canyon I was surprised that the railing to keep you from falling was so small. Resi ran right up and swung from it, but I stayed back. I don't know why but suddenly I thought one of my family members might push me over the edge. Could that happen? I don't think any of them are THAT crazy, but the idea would not leave my head, so I stayed back while they all looked.
(p.s. I do not trust them.)
Then we went back to the campground and while Mom and Dad took a nap, Resi and I played with two brothers named Nick and Roger. Roger asked me if I knew what a ‘blow job' was.
(note to self: Ask Mom what a blow job is.)
July 12, 1978
My parents are horrible, horrible people. I must be adopted!!! Resi asked Dad what a blow job was and he said "What the hell?" and his face got all red and he pulled the VW van over and got out. I hid under my pillow in the back seat and cried, so Mom told me and Resi what it was. My parents are GROSS!! She said when two people love each other, they do certain things. I said "Gross things..." and she said, "Come back and tell me how you feel about it when you're thirty." I told her she was going to hell and so was Dad. Resi just asked if she brushed her teeth after. My sister is so stupid. I hate my family!!!!!!!!!!! ...And I am stuck in this van with them for three more days.
At that point in my writing life, what I was regurgitating was a plethora of unmemorable material which could only qualify as melodrama. Sappy, unrequited love story type of stuff that even now causes my lunch to take a sudden u-turn, heading back from whence it came. (READ: Kind of like anything that appears on Lifetime Television for Women.)
Next came my dark period. I cannot recall what these stories were about either, except to say that after reading some of them, my father had one comment: "Jennifer, must everything you write be so maudlin?"
I had to look up maudlin and thus began another unfortunate chapter in my writing life: my obsession with the dictionary and thesaurus. ...which spawned my poetry phase. It was not pretty, but in my defense, I thought everything was supposed to rhyme.
Today, as a writer, often my job is to put a spotlight on life’s sores. So, if I have something to say about how today’s dolls look suspiciously like streetwalkers - and choose to do that through a satiric Barbie Porn - I’m going to do it.
Just like I’m gonna write raunchy song parodies with two writer friends and assume people get that I’m not singing them to my thirteen and nine year olds.
If I have something to say about former President Reagan and his treatment of AIDS in the 1980's, I’m going to shout it from the rooftops in the form of a short film entitled Macy’s Wait.
If I don’t like what my government is doing, I’m gonna have something to say about that as well, hopefully providing a little entertainment in the process. (READ: Waiting for Karl Rove--Come on publishers, you KNOW you want it!)
And if I want to volunteer my time to help a class of learning disabled children on a project that helps them not only learn the art and fun of writing, but help them gain self-confidence, I’m going to do that too. Until such time as I’m told I’m no longer able to because somehow what I write about or film is unseemly when juxtaposed against working with special needs kids.
Bump that, my friends. I’m not just a Mom. I think there’s an inherent danger in being all autism, all the time. Or all Mommy, 24/7. I’m a woman, a writer, a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter, a citizen of the world - and so much more. I refuse to make my life all about the one thing in my life (autism) that takes more effort and attention than the rest of those other areas. That would not only be unfair to me, but would be extremely unfair to my kids.
They’re more than their autism. They’re amazing, profound, funny, delicious little creatures that deserve better than to be summed up by a medical diagnosis, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna be the person who shoves them into a box.
By all means, stay in your box if that’s where you feel most comfortable. But don’t concern yourself if someone else jumps out of theirs, bends over and takes a crap on it, douses it with lighter fluid and watches it illuminate the sky.
To each his own.
I am one person with many facets, each one as important as the other. I don’t believe one facet negates another. For me, it’s as simple as that.
If this is the one thing I manage to pass on to my kids, then my job here is done.