The interview meme, brought to you by Mouse:
You have probably addressed this to some degree; I bet you have this recorded in one of your old journals: What did your 18-year-old self imagine you would be doing in your 30s?
Well, let me pull out my grade ten journal, in which I recorded a "Timeline of my Life," including my date of marriage as well as the birthdates of my four children. According to my sixteen-year-old self, I was to be married by now to the U2-listening, eyeliner-and-Converse-wearing aspiring missionary of my dreams (though, apparently, not actually on the mission field in this vision of my future). My oldest child (whose name bears a very close resemblance to the Pie’s) would be eight years old by now, with the youngest (also a girl, after two intervening brothers) just about to turn three. In my spare time between pregnancies, I have published two novels, launching a modestly successful literary career.
So that’s my view of the future at age sixteen. I don’t think I altered very much in the following two years (though I did begin to toy with the idea of university teaching at around that point). The real death-blow to my life plan didn’t occur until I was nineteen, when the aspiring missionary of my dreams became engaged to someone who was not me. Alas.
Which book would you most like to live?
The first title to flash into my mind here, possibly due to my recent trip to Kentucky, was Gone with the Wind which is most emphatically not a book I’d want to live. There isn’t a single character in that novel with whom I’d agree to trade places, but if I had to choose, I’d say anybody but Melly, what with her hideous labour and delivery experiences and her post-partum wagon trip out of a burning Atlanta. The book I would like to live, and have tried to live, is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. It offers a recipe for life-change to the downtrodden:
- Move. Get away from the people whose confining perceptions of you are holding you back, and go someplace else – preferably to a beautiful island in Muskoka.
- Speak the truth. Say what you think and let the devil take the consequences. (I’ve been less successful in implementing this strategy, but I still enjoy it vicariously whenever I read the book.)
- Know who your friends are and stick by them.
- Remember that the flashy, popular, beautiful people are all about the window-dressing; it’s the quiet, mysterious ones who last. Still waters run deep.
- You don’t have to keep on being the person you’ve always been. Change really is possible.
I swear this is only one question: What is your favorite color and what do you think it says about you?
Yellow. Not lemon yellow or butter yellow but a deep, rich, vibrant gold-yellow. Like this:
Or, better yet, this:
Those images capture the right shade of yellow, but still, they’re all wrong. Yellow is not meant to be the dominant colour in an image: it should be a tantalizing flash in the background, glimpsed amid a clutter of ordinary shades of red and brown and blue. (There are some wonderful examples here of paintings with yellow teapots half-hidden behind casual hands and shirtsleeves, yours for a mere $2350!)
Yellow has been my favourite colour ever since I was a little girl; I have never wavered from it. I do love red, and can occasionally even appreciate an especially well-chosen blue, but yellow is in a category by itself. It’s a chemical, a mood-altering drug.
I am, I think, basically a happy person. My "set-point" of happiness is generally high. But I’m a happy person who sits blithely enjoying a pleasant picnic only a few feet away from an abyss. Yellow is what keeps me up on the ledge; on the rare occasion when I’ve fallen over, the colour yellow has been instrumental in pulling me back out.
Which of your character traits do you most hope your children will not have?
This is a hard one; I have an unhealthily expansive sense of self-acceptance that prevents me from really regretting any of my traits. I am hoping, though, that my children will inoculate one another against the crippling fear of (and yet obsession with) the opposite sex that characterized my teenage years.
This is the question I've had the most trouble framing. It originates in some issues I've been pondering lately, so I hope it comes across as I intend. What is one of Bub's personality traits you would not be willing to trade for some amazing treatment or therapy that would, without any pain or labor, suddenly make him 'normal'?
Another hard question to answer. All of the traits I adore most in my son are the ones that raise the red flags. I love the way he approaches language as a scientist, studying its workings before consciously making them his own. I have been and continue to be so fascinated by his process of language-acquisition, the very palpable way he has made each leap, the sense of surprise in his attitude as he realizes that words contain useful information! or that playing with other children can be fun! What I adore most, perhaps, is how self-contained he can be, inwardly focused on a toy or a puzzle while toddler-chaos storms around him.
I never wanted a boy (my grade-ten timeline notwithstanding); I always knew I wanted girls. But after I met my husband, I had a glimpse of the kind of son I might want to have, an intensely inward-looking fellow with a deep need for competence – someone who might accidentally grab a stranger’s hand at the grocery store and then be overcome with an invisible and yet crushing sense of embarrassment. And that’s the son I have, the boy Bub is slowly becoming.
The other day our neighbours were playing in their backyard and Bub hovered hesitantly at the back door, wanting to join in and yet constrained by something – it’s impossible to say exactly what. The only way he would agree to come out was sans boots and with the door hanging open. Three times he emerged, announced, "I’m coming to see you!" – and then fled back indoors. After a minute or two, he would return with the same announcement. Finally on the fourth try he relaxed enough to get on the swing (where he even permitted me to put boots over his muddy socks). Before long, the seven-year-old girl who lives next door was in our back yard, sitting at a picnic table while Bub showed her his book, the one that accompanies him everywhere right now. He was visibly gratified by her attention, shyly proud, as if he senses already that social interaction is appealing, irresistible even, yet laden with subtle dangers.
I cannot imagine that, given the chance, I would change a single thing about that boy.
(Do you want to be interviewed? Let me know!)