Tag Archives: death

My love for children’s literature (or why I’ll choose Lemony Snicket over Stephen King any day of the week)

Well-read people are less likely to be evil.

-Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope

I used to be labeled as somewhat bookish and fear I carry that title without the reading history to back it up.  It’s true, I spent most of my time in childhood reading.  I was homeschooled for part of elementary school, nearly all of middle school, and half of high school, so I would often finish my work fairly early in the day which left me with the rest of the day to read.  I burned through books like crazy quite proud of the ratio of read-to-not-read books on the little bookshelf at the end of the hall.

However, I always wanted to be one of those people who loved classic literature.  After quite a few school assignments and several attempts at reading classic novels on my own, I have come the conclusion that many of those books are not really my thing.  I can read them, but I don’t enjoy most of them and usually find myself trudging through in order to check the book off on Goodreads or something.

As I am sure you know, when people say ‘It’s my pleasure,’ they usually mean something along the lines of, ‘There’s nothing on Earth I would rather do less.’ […]

The Penultimate Peril

Over the past few years, I haven’t read very many books partially because I have felt the crushing weight of adulthood telling me that I must grow up and learn to enjoy Chaucer and Plath and Tolkien and leave the children’s books behind.  My standard response has been to pick up a few children’s books here and there and read through them while stifling the pressure I feel shoving me toward books intended for adults.

I don’t exactly know where this pressure comes from.  I remember my mother telling me in high school that, “A good book is a good book no matter who it was written for.”  I think perhaps it comes from the constant struggle to feel more like an adult because I am 26 and I have a full-time job and a 401k and a food dehydrator, but I still feel as unsure of my future and my understanding of the way I think things should be as I ever have.  Maybe I think that adopting the reading habits of a Grown-Up Person will cement the fact that I am also grown because I like media that is made for adults.  I’m not sure.

What I have realized recently is that I like children’s literature for reasons more complex than it being easy to read.  I, like many adults out there, don’t have life all figured out.  I’m still experiencing new things, I still feel like a baby every once in awhile, and there are a lot of things about life that I simply don’t understand.  I also have a really difficult time expressing myself through any means other than the written word (and even that is hit or miss).  Many times, an attempt to discover why I am upset about something will result in a friend and I literally repeating the same conversation two or three times before I can figure out why I feel a certain way.  I don’t understand my own emotions sometimes (which, I gather, is somewhat common amongst adults).

I think this is the reason I love children’s literature as much as I do. Children’s authors are often able to pluck the words from my very emotions and plaster them on a page.  It’s the reason, in the wake of my friend’s death last year, I referred so often to Lemony Snicket.  Because, try as I might, there was no better way to explain what was going on, especially as I’d never had to process through real grief before.

It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed. If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it.
The Bad Beginning

Literature intended for children has to stop to explain the way the world works because the intended audience hasn’t learned that yet.  Authors must carefully weave tidbits of wisdom between layers of action and emotion because children are still trying to figure everything out.  Books intended for adults often leave some of this out, assuming that the readers have a grasp on the realities of life, that they have it somewhat together.

But, I’m still trying to figure a lot of stuff out. Stuff like…

Oftentimes. when people are miserable, they will want to make other people miserable, too. But it never helps.

The Wide Window

Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make — bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake — if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble. Making assumptions simply means believing things are a certain way with little or no evidence that shows you are correct, and you can see at once how this can lead to terrible trouble. For instance, one morning you might wake up and make the assumption that your bed was in the same place that it always was, even though you would have no real evidence that this was so. But when you got out of your bed, you might discover that it had floated out to sea, and now you would be in terrible trouble all because of the incorrect assumption that you’d made. You can see that it is better not to make too many assumptions, particularly in the morning.

The Austere Academy

One of the greatest myths in the world – and the phrase ‘greatest myths’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘big fat lies’ — is that troublesome things get less and less troublesome if you do them more and more. People say this myth when they are teaching children to ride bicycles, for instance, as though falling off a bicycle and skinning your knee is less troublesome the fourteenth time you do it than it is the first time. The truth is that troublesome things tend to remain troublesome no matter how many times you do them, and that you should avoid doing them unless they are absolutely urgent.

The Ersatz Elevator

Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.

The Beatrice Letters

So, I think I identify with children’s literature a bit more than adult literature.  Not because I’m childlike or naive or immature; but because I know myself enough to know that I don’t fully understand everything that happens in the world nor my own reactions to such happenings.  And sometimes, having someone else put into words thoughts and emotions that are fairly common is comforting.  Because who wants to feel alone in their reactions to the craziness of the world around them?

Advertisements

Dear Derek

Dear Derek,

I realize you can’t actually read this, but you were quite possibly this blog’s biggest fan, so it seems appropriate to write about you today.

You are gone from this earth.  For whatever reason, the Lord decided that taking you home was the right and proper thing.  And I’m not one to argue with the Lord.  I know His plans are wonderful and complete.  And I know that you are whole and rejoicing in the fullness of Christ right now and that, given the choice, you wouldn’t choose to come back.

But I’m still a bit selfish.  And part of me wants you back here…for fairly selfish reasons.

I would like to go on another somewhat ordinary, but always immensely fun, adventure with you and Melissa.  I would like to go camping like we discussed doing five months ago.  I would like to hear you say, “Hello…Baby.” to Augustine again right before you let him chew on your nose.  I would like to have the chance to tell you one more time that Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Carly Rae Jepsen are never, ever the answer.  I would like to hear you laugh at a bad pun, see you do your crab scuttle, and yell at Joe on MasterChef again.  And I would like to tell you how much I appreciate your friendship.

Because I do.  Very much so.  And I never really expressed that.

You and Melissa have always been so very loving and welcoming to me.  I’ve always felt like I had a place in your living room.  The fact that you often uttered the words, “Are you leaving? Why do you hate us?” when I had to get home for the night (usually at ungodly hours after spending most of the day with you two, at which point I assumed I’d overstayed my welcome) only solidified that.  Your recollection for the absurd jokes the three of us shared was astounding and wonderful.  And your unwavering appreciation for the things you liked (even if they were things that seemed strange to others) was borderline inspiring.  I’m not sure I will ever have another friend who could love a good cigar and watching the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap with equal amounts of enthusiasm…and not be afraid to admit it openly.

Your love for Melissa and Augustine was admirable, as was your love for the Lord.  Over the past year, I’ve been astounded by your devotion to your family and your complete trust in Christ.  You are a true example of what it means to be a godly husband, father and friend.  And I will miss that friendship.

I am confident in the Lord and His plans.  I am glad that you are in His presence.  But I will miss you.

I love you, brother.  And I’m honored to have had the chance to spend time getting to know you.

Sincerely,

Chelsea


Dear Rhett Butler Salt Shaker (a requiem)

Dear Rhett Butler Salt Shaker,

I first saw you on the shelf of a thrift store with you counterpart, the Scarlett O’Hara Pepper Shaker.  I was initially apprehensive about buying you, but when I saw your 65-cent price tag, I felt it was too good of a deal to pass up.  You have been a part of my life ever since.

Until tonight.

The night was coming to an end.  I was about to turn in when I decided to grind some coffee.  If only I hadn’t been set on having a delicious, homemade, coconut-mocha frappuccino in the morning, you might still be with us.  However, I did grind the coffee and as I pulled the coffee grinder off of the counter to put it away, you became caught in its cord and fell to the floor, landing in a heap of shattered plastic and non-iodized table salt.

I feel a great sense of remorse in losing you.  If only I hadn’t been so haphazard with the coffee grinder.  If only I had put you away when I was finished using you earlier in the day.  If only…if only… My regrets run deep.

I’m not entirely sure how Scarlett O’Hara Pepper Shaker will react when I tell her the news of your demise.  You have been her constant companion for many years.  I imagine that she’ll say something along the lines, “Where will I go? What will I do?” which are questions to which I don’t have answers.  I also wonder what I will do with one less salt shaker in my life.  However, I have a feeling that, as you sit shattered in a garbage bag on the curb outside, your response will be a bit different than hers or even mine.  Your bitterness at being so poorly loved and so poorly taken care of is probably taking over.

In fact, my dear, I feel as if you frankly don’t give a…well, you know.

Sincerely,

Chelsea


Dear Plants, Flowers and Other Greenery

Dear Plants, Flowers and Other Greenery,

I am writing this letter to clarify why I repeatedly purchase you and subsequently kill you. I want you to know that these are not, in fact, my actual intentions. I love plants and flowers and greenery of most kinds. However, as I was watering my wilted basil plant this morning, my eyes fell to the dried-up, dehydrated and dead mint plant I had purchased only a month ago, and I realized that you probably think this is purposeful.

I cannot even begin to fathom the horror you feel when I walk through your section of the store.  I’m sure you’ve heard the legend about my herbicidal mania and the excitement I feel when I am able to torture and kill plants of every variety.  I can almost hear the quiet hush that settles over you as I walk the aisles, carefully choosing my next victim.  You know what will happen if I pick you, so I’m sure you do your best to look partially wilted or eaten up by bugs.  When I choose my next victim, the rest of you probably sigh in a mixture of relief that you weren’t picked and horror for whoever was.  You know the fate of the plant in my hands, and it isn’t pretty.

The above paragraph is a story which many of you probably believe.  I want to dispel that myth if at all possible.  Yes, I do repeatedly purchase plants, and those plants do end up dehydrated or over-watered or sunburned or eaten up by a variety of bugs.  However, none of this in intentional.  I actually do make an attempt to keep every plant I purchase alive for as long as possible.

I know the fact that I keep doing the same thing repeatedly probably makes it seem as if I am covering up my nefarious intentions.  The fact that I managed to kill an aloe plant, bring it back to life, and kill it again probably compounds the struggle you may face in trusting me.  But, I assure you, no harm done to any plant in my hands was purposeful.

Yes, removing an aloe plant from the soil in which it lived and placing its roots in a jar of water for two months may have seemed akin to the torture used to exact information from insurgents, but I promise I was just trying to revive it.  And, yes, placing a shade begonia on my balcony in Texas in the middle of July for days without water or any human contact probably appears to be the act of a crazed sadist, but I simply forgot about the plant entirely.  I wasn’t intentionally causing it harm; it was merely neglect.

That is what many of the plant deaths boils down to, Plants, Flowers and Other Greenery.  You are different than a dog or a cat who will bark at, sniff or claw the heck out of me if I don’t feed them.  You aren’t like a car with a Check Engine light or even like a shoelace which, when untied, will annoy me by flopping about until I tend to it.  You are silent and passive, waiting for me to remember to water you and give you appropriate amounts of sunlight, which is something I simply have a hard time doing.

This is no fault of your own.  You are just being true to your planthood.  I do take sole responsibility for every plant whose life my irresponsibility has claimed.  But, I just want to know that these deaths have not occurred because of a sick a twisted mind; they are simply the result of a girl who forgot them in their quiet ways.

Please don’t paint me as a sadist to your friends and children.  A poor soul who can’t seem to learn that she can’t keep plants alive, perhaps, but not one who enjoys the torture and death of greenery.

Sincerely,

Chelsea