Archive for January 18th, 2008

When I was in the fourth grade I became obsessed, for awhile, with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. I must have read it at least ten times that year, although I’m not exactly sure why. In part, I simply liked the physicality of the book itself–it’s brick-like heft that made it an everlasting gobstopper of a read. Maybe it was that I was always desperately searching for any avenue of imaginative escape that I could find from Laramie, Wyoming, circa 1970’s. And, of course, the patina of old-school Hollywood glamour associated with the movie starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable was inescapably compelling to the hopelessly freakish geekozoid that I was, so there was that, too. I liked the epic-ness of it all, I suppose. And yes, the trashiness, too.

I remember that my mother used to love the skit on The Carol Burnett Show where Carol Burnett played Scarlett O’Hara preparing to meet Rhett Butler after the war–forced to make a dress out of those dusty green velvet drapes at Tara. Carol Burnett came sashaying down the stairs of the set with an enormous drapery rod yoked to her back and my mother just laughed and laughed and laughed. At the end of the show, when Carol sang, “Now it’s time to say so long” and tugged her earlobe–a special “hello” to her grandmother–I noticed my mother always looked up from her knitting and tugged her earlobe too.

I particularly liked the skit that was a spoof on soaps on The Carol Burnett Show–“As the Stomach Turns,” I think it was called. Or was it “The Heartbreak of Psoriasis”? No, wait. That was a commercial. My parents actually did watch the soap As the World Turns together on a regular basis after lunch before my father went back to the office. I remember that they liked to idly gossip about someone named Rachael–Rachael this and Rachael that . . . Rachael, Rachael, Rachael–and it took me the longest time to realize that they were talking about a character on a T.V. soap.

I have fuzzy memories of T.V. shows that I liked when I was really small. I used to love The Glenn Campbell Show, for example. When I was four, I announced that I was going to marry Glenn Campbell when I grew up. I also apparently announced that I was going to marry Gomer Pyle as well. So, okay, maybe I was a little bit fickle. And apparently weird, too. There were shows that I was too young to get, but with theme songs that I loved. I adored the Hawaii Five-Oh theme song, for example. And the Mission Impossibe theme song, too. (“This message will self-destruct in 60 seconds!”) And for some reason, I really liked that silly show Love, American Style. (It was because I saw the episodes with Karen Valentine, and she was just So! Dang! Cute!) I remember dying Easter eggs one year while Love, American Style was playing late in the afternoon. And a very, very faint early memory about playing on the living room floor as a toddler and watching Dialing for Dollars during afternoons while my father was working at the office?

But in the fourth grade, it was all Gone With the Wind all the time.

In the fifth grade, I started taking my first college classes. During the lunch hour, I’d walk to my father’s office in the English Department from the University Pilot School that I went to, and I’d eat my lunch–which he’d keep for me in his desk drawer. I read all sorts of books I wasn’t supposed to. I particularly liked reading all of his students’ short stories.

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