Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Interview with a Mouse

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!)


Kelly said...

Somehow I think you'd come to find the yellow of our aluminum siding quite repulsive...

Lovely answers to lovely questions. I really love these Q&As!

DaniGirl said...

Oh my goodness, my girl, but you can write the most amazing posts!

I adore that yellow colour, by the way, and your explanation of why it suits you. It's like you were inside my brain, right up to and including the picnic near the abyss.

(If you're not innundated with requests, I'd like to be interviewed too!)

Bon said...

my kitchen is just that shade of yellow, and i find it my favourite room in the house.

and i never wanted a boy, either, until i knew Dave. actually, even then...i wanted girls, achingly, and still do...but i began to see that i could love a son once i chose Dave as father. it makes a difference.

and i had to laugh, kind of sadly, at the Blue Castle and the irony that though Montgomery got away to Muskoka to live her life eventually, the very provincialism of this place that drove her mad and yet tied her is exactly what her books are now used to uphold and reify here on PEI. i think she's rolling in her grave out there in Cavendish...

Redneck Mommy said...

My daughter caught site of your header and asked why I like to come to visit your blog. (She is very fascinated with the blogging addiction I have developed.)

Quite simply, I love coming to your site to read your words about your son.

He is so very different than my Bug was, and from my Fric and Frac, but I see glimmers of my son in yours.

Your words about him make me misty eyed, and so profoundly grateful to have had my Bug for the time I did.

Thank you.

And I love yellow too!

slouching mom said...

Your color answer was so thoughtful and lovely.

And I'm taken with that photo of your son -- his small, secret smile.

NotSoSage said...

It occurs to me how lovely these are when the interviewer and the interviewee have what appears to be a connection and an understanding of the other.

What a beautiful homage to Bub in that last answer.

Mamalooper said...

Would love to be interviewed...

Great answers, my dear!

cinnamon gurl said...

Ooh beautiful answer about Bub!

And now I want to be interviewed by you too, but I've just been interviewed by Beck... I'm so greedy! Can a person do it twice?

bren j. said...

The yellow with the elephant! THAT is the yellow I wanted in the bedroom we just painted. Oh well.

I'd be up for an interview too but I'm scared the questions my be too deep for my seventh-month brain. :)

Mad Hatter said...

I could spend an eternity reading your writing about Bub. It is so glorious.

For me, the colour is orange but it is used in the ways you describe yellow being used. An orange T-shirt under denim overalls is like a happy pill. So much so that my husband calls it a sue-niform.

Kyla said...

B&P, you are such a thoughtful, lovely writer. Your words about Bub are priceless and beautiful.

Karen said...

My LP is a bit like Bub and that's why I fell in love with your blog, cause you express so well your love for that boy.
If you interview me I will tell you about my favorite color and how it became a preschool eating plan for a little happy in my day...or whatever you choose to ask.

Beck said...

My heart! What a sweet, sweet boy.
Almost our entire downstairs is painted various shades of yellow, so apparently we love it, too.
If I hadn't already been interviewed, I would have loved to have been questioned by you. But I was.

Lawyer Mama said...

I'm a red girl, but I love yellow too.

Your answer about Bub was just perfect. I've been thinking a lot lately about the epxectations we have for our children and how unexpectedly different, but perfect, they always are.

theflyingmum said...

This was so brilliant, so revealing, an absolute joy to read.

kittenpie said...

I love this little lovesong to Bub!

Mimi said...

I have had yellow rooms in bsmt apts. Thank heavens for yellow.

And what a tribute to Bub!

Mouse said...

This has been so fun! I love your answers--while none were big surprises, they told me just a bit more. And the color answer confirms our compatibility. Green is my favorite color, but yellow took its place for some time when I was younger.

Lisa b said...

That first Ulinski painitng really shows what you describe so well about yellow.
Beautiful answer about bub.

kgirl said...

Your sweet words about Bub made me tear up.

I would love to be interviewed by you, but I'm whoring myself all over the blogosphere, so I suppose I'll be content to read your other interviewees.

Denguy said...

Yellow has been my favourite colour ever since I was a little girl--er--boy.

Jenifer said...

What lovely thoughts about Bub. Today has been one of my darkest days in a while and yet still I would not change a hair on Rosebud's head.

I think you have had many requests, but if you have the energy you add me to the "pick me" list.

Fave colour is blue, I'm all about water. Just imagining rolling waves brings me down a notch.

lornadoone said...

I've been reading your blog for about a month or so now, and I really like your writing style. Your post on "Freebies" even spurred a post on my own blog! I would love to be interviewed by you, but I understand if you don't really know me well enough at this point to do that.

Pieces said...

I just love the way that you wrote about Bub here. This is a great interview--great questions AND great answers.

flutter said...

Oh, the things you've said about your boy...so intensely beautiful. What love.

Lady M said...

I would call it imperial yellow - powerful.

Poppy said...

"I cannot imagine that, given the chance, I would change a single thing about that boy."

I'm very new to your blog but having read it in its entirety I knew the above would be your answer. Bub is an amazing little guy, with an equally amazing mommy. You're both so lucky to have each other :)

jen said...

your answers are lovely. the yellow is perfect.

the boys vs girls, familiar.

ewe are here said...

Lovely answers. Especially where you talk about the wonderous person that is your son.

And I now look at yellow differently; I didn't used to like it much. But now? Cheerful. And I think it's my son's favorite color -next to orange!

Haley-O said...

Oy, your son is so cute! And, I, too, love that shade of yellow -- so vibrant and alive. :)

Luisa Perkins said...

Well, that was FABULOUS. Thank you. And I find it difficult to believe that you are a Blue Castle fan as well as a Dorothy Emily Stevenson fan. Although they DO go together. Speaking of DES--do you have a favorite? The Mrs. Tim books? Amberwell?

I'm intrigued by the interview idea. Do you have time?

bubandpie said...

Luisa - Some of my favourites are Listening Valley, Sarah Morris Remembers, and The Young Clementina. I really like Mrs. Tim - especially the first one, and Mrs. Tim Carries On (I love all the wartime books - can you tell?). I'll add you to my interview list - it may take awhile, though.

TrudyJ said...

What a great interview -- I particularly like your first yellow picture. Good shade. When we were married my husband basically liked any colour (for home decorating) except yellow. Yet a few years later, strangely, almost every room in the house was painted some shade of yellow. Clearly I won that round.

I'd love to be interviewed but it looks like you have quite an extensive list already!

MOM-NOS said...

I'm a late-comer to the game and it's probably presumptuous to make a request as commenter #34, but here I go anyway. If you're not totally tapped out of questions, I'd love to play.

Joeymom said...

Can I play, too? This looks like a wonderful idea!