Mary Queen of Scots’ Beheading, The Commodores’ “Brick House,” and Other Odd Things My Parents Exposed Me To

Like most children, I was sometimes subject to offbeat parenting. And I’m not talking about anything “bad,” just the odd/abnormal things that my parents did with us.

I’ll begin with the less peculiar.

In kindergarden, while the other kids were bopping to The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, I knew every single word to The Commodores’ “Brick House” (I had also been fooled into thinking that “brick house” meant fat and not voluptuous.) and could sing The Clash’s “London Calling” with a very mangled British accent. In fact, I knew a lot of songs that referenced things inappropriate for a five-year-old, but like the way that lyrics of “Frére Jacque” are a bunch of sounds to most non-French speakers, I didn’t understand that:

“The clothes she wears, the sexy ways, make an old man wish for younger days

She knows she’s built and knows how to please

Sure enough to knock a man to his knees”

actually meant anything. And it wasn’t until I thought about the lyrics while singing it, when I was approximately sixteen, that I finally understood that it wasn’t about a guy in love with a fat lady. It suddenly made sense why adults thought it was hilarious when I would walk around the neighborhood singing it.

Here’s where it actually gets weird:

I was also into royalty, but not into royalty the way most kids were. I didn’t want to be a pretty princess or be the queen of an empire filled with unicorns, fairies, and dashing knights. I liked real royalty, specifically the British royalty (I also hated Disney films and the whole concept of needing boys to save the day (for both related and unrelated reasons), but that is an entirely different story). In addition, I was incredibly fascinated by war, and it wasn’t that I thought violence or guns were “cool.” I was just absolutely fascinated by the causes, effects, and strategy.

For this, you can blame my father. While my mother read us the entire Little House on the Prairie series and all of the Harry Potter books as they came out, the kiddie stuff just didn’t do it for my dad.

Instead, he decided that Winston Churchill’s “History of the English Speaking Peoples” was appropriate bedtime story material. Surprisingly, we enjoyed it. (Well, I loved it, and Pippa was willing to put up with it to a point.)

Every night, he would read to us from the volumes in a very good Winston Churchill accent and offer additional commentary on the history. It was all going splendidly, until he decided to read us the section about the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots. I was thrilled, but Pippa was horrified and, frankly, rightly so.

This is how the execution went down: After spending about twenty years in imprisonment, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded, by the order of Queen Elizabeth I, for treason. First, it took two to three hacks of the ax to properly decapitate her. Then, when the executioner went to hold her head aloft by the hair, her head ended up falling to the floor with a huge, bloody thunk and rolled around because no one knew that she had been wearing a wig. To top it all off, her little dog ran out of her petticoats (which were red to hide the blood), where it had been hiding, covered in blood, and refused to leave the dead Queen’s side.

Pippa didn’t sleep for weeks, and we had to switch to the history of WWII (it ended up being mostly about battle strategy and not the Holocaust or death, in order to protect six-year-old Pippa from having more nightmares).

Another thing my father was very fond of doing was introducing us to comedy. When I was six, with his encouragement, I memorized the Monty Python sketch “The Fish License” and performed it in its entirety, playing both roles, for show and tell. My teacher was greatly amused, and my classmates just gave me confused, wide-eyed stares.

Just imagine a six-year-old performing this in front of her bewildered first-grade class. I took big hops from one side of the rug to the other to represent the other character.

I could go on for a while with more weird details about my parents’ parenting, but I won’t bore you. If you’d like, you can leave a funny story of your own in the comments. I’d love to read them.

On another note, it’s amazing the amount of things I can do to skive off blog post writing. I just caught myself watching hair tutorials on youtube for thirty minutes, which is something I never do unless I’m getting Pippa ready for a big event. Yesterday, I read about white supremacists on Wikipedia and got very angry for about an hour when I should have been blogging. I manage to build up writing posts to be this big, arduous task inside of my head, but then the moment I sign into WordPress and start typing, it all comes so easily. It’s just enormously fun. Unfortunately, I manage to forget this nearly every night and go into avoidance mode where I will do anything to put it off. Let’s see where tomorrow’s procrastination takes us. I’ve got my money on ironing.

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

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4 thoughts on “Mary Queen of Scots’ Beheading, The Commodores’ “Brick House,” and Other Odd Things My Parents Exposed Me To

  1. My parenting story comes from when I was 18 months old. My parents were having a party. Every once in awhile, I would want a sip of whatever they were drinking. This was before the whole alcohol rots your brain, but it explains a lot about why I am the way I am. What the parental units didn’t know is that I had been going around to all the other party goers doing the same thing. No one noticed that it was happening until I started staggering. Suffice to say, I grew up listening to this story many times, not just from my parents, but also from their friends that were there that night.

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