Elementary School Potato Chips

As erroneous as it may be, in my head hearing, “Ella, you need to gain weight” is synonymous “Ella, please start eating lots of organic junk food.” So in yet another attempt to gain back the weight I lost in Europe, I sat down with a bag of Route 11 Barbecue Potato Chips this afternoon.

As a child in D.C. Route 11 Potato Chips were my favorite. But the company is fairly regional, and it’s rare to see them very far outside of the Shenandoah Valley area. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had them for upwards of five years. But when I went to West Virginia a few weeks ago, I snagged several bags at a deli to eat when I returned home.

Route 11 Potato Chips were once a elementary lunchtime staple, broken into small shards in a plastic bag that inevitably ended up smushed at the bottom of my brown bag lunch. I preferred them to cookies or sweets, and everyday in the cafeteria I would very carefully save them for last. I once even managed to get my parents to take me to the factory where we could buy their “exclusive” flavors like fried chicken and watch the workers toss the potato slices into the fryers. Needless to say, this afternoon I was very excited to eat the chips.

So at around two when I was ready for a treat to distract me from the endless headache of trying to submit college forms, I grabbed a bag and sat back down in front of the computer to snack on them as I worked.

In retrospect, I suppose that I should have known that I would end up crying. And sadly, it wasn’t that nostalgic now-those-were-the-days crying.

The moment I put the first chip in my mouth, I felt like I was eight-years-old again and absolutely miserable. Those chips tasted like the bullying and isolation of my elementary school years. They tasted like loneliness and desperation, like purposely slicing my thumb on a can so that I could go to the nurses office rather than spend twenty minutes sitting at a sticky table and staring at my Route 11 potato chips and a dry PB&J sandwich on whole grain bread while I got kicked in the shins and mocked. They tasted like hiding in the stairwell to avoid going back to class, like being disliked by nearly every one of my teachers, like sitting for hours in the nurse’s office because I got kicked out of the classroom for the second time that day.

Each bite tasted of the misery I have worked so hard to bury underneath my happy memories of playing with my neighbors. Lee, Zach, Joseph, Pippa, and Beth took that pain away every afternoon and weekend, and I try to focus on the hijinks I got up to with them instead of school. It works most of the time, too. If I box it away tightly enough, it’s almost as if it never happened. I’m determined that my childhood is going to be thought of as happy.

But the chips uncovered the pain–made it a reality again–and all I wanted to do was throw up. I wanted to have to kneel in front of the toilet, holding my hair back, and retch until the chips were all gone, and I could forget about the pain again. Just make it go away.

However, I made a promise to myself recently to be more brave, to do the things that are painful and scare me without flinching or backing down, so I finished that bag of chips. I ate every last bite of that sorrow, and I forced myself not to cry.

I rolled up the empty bag to throw out when I finished my forms, stuffed it out of sight behind the monitor, and got back to work. It was time to move on. I’m not in elementary school anymore, and I’m not going to let myself wallow in the past, no matter how acute those sensory memories can be. I’ve got strong mental duct tape to seal back up that unhappy memories box, and a new vow to never eat Route 11 Barbecue Potato Chips again. It’s going to be okay, I thought, Everything is going to be okay.

Eleanor and “French Math”

My mother’s side of the family is French and when I was young, we used to spend my birthday weekend/Memorial Day visiting with them. And while there were many aspects of these trips that I enjoyed, the visits were never very kid-friendly. I usually felt underfoot and like one of the adults was doing me a favor by watching me*. Then, when you factor in all of the adults speaking French and/or (though usually and) about France, relatives I didn’t know, and art/music, it was like being in a constant state of confusion.

And every year, things really came to a head when we went out to dinner on my birthday. It was a big affair that involved fancy clothing (often my arch-nemesis, the pale blue frilly blouse that had a habit of unbuttoning itself every few minutes and the flowered skirt that “I-was-absolutely-under-no-circumstances-to-spill-anything-on”), my very best table manners, and sitting across the table from my 100-year-old great-grandmother who terrified me.

My mother insists that she has never met anyone who has ever lived up to my grandmémé’s standards, and while I understood that it was probably true, I still was determined to be the anomaly. Of course, things never went as planned, and I somehow always managed to mess up and be swatted at within five minutes of sitting down. The swatting would be accompanied by some remark in French that I did not understand, and some adult would whisper in my ear what I supposed to say in response. I would manage to bungle the sentence, the adult would have to apologize for me, and the cycle would continue until I finally gave up on trying to be perfect and got incredibly antsy.

It was on my eighth birthday that my dad introduced me to what he called “French math.”

“Okay, Eleanor, so you know how you have to kiss everyone hello and goodbye? Now, I want you to add up how many kisses that is going to be. Remember Mémé, Grandmémé, and your great aunts each get four, and everyone else gets two.”

I’d work out the sum in my head, and then my dad would change it up so that I had to come up with the number of kisses for the people with blue eyes or everyone wearing black. Eventually, this turned into me making up my own rules for calculating kisses, and I’ve done it during every long family dinner since.

So the next time you find yourself stuck in a room full of French people you are going to have to kiss, you can pull out this trick and go wild.

Note: You can adopt it for hugs when you’re not with the French, but the level of difficulty and fun vastly decreases, so I’d suggest that you instead spend your time changing the lyrics of Yankee Doodle or plotting escape routes in case of an attack.

*Or often not watching, with the case in point being the time I nearly drowned in the pool when I was five because all of the adults thought someone else had an eye on me.

Numb Ella

I find myself not caring when a few of the colleges I’ve applied to have said no. Perhaps this is just because I always file away the big things that hurt, jam them into boxes, and shove them into the attic crawl-space, never to be looked at again.

“Don’t think about it, Eleanor. It’s gone,” I tell myself, “Let it go.”

And so I make myself numb and move on. The rejection, the funeral, the sickness, the disaster passes while I look on with steely eyes and my jaw set.

The hospital nurse is surprised that I’m cracking jokes while she hooks me up to a machine for yet another test. It’s been twelve hours in the emergency room, and I’ve been strangely calm the entire time. I read about the North African Front in WWII and another tank blows up while she attaches a cord to a sticker on my ankle.

My mother is shocked that I can get through a magazine spread of children dying from a suicide bomber blowing up a café. I don’t bat an eye and comment on the framing of the shot and look up aid organizations in the region. I send Doctors Without Borders five dollars and continue reading about the attack.

Pippa is disturbed that I don’t do much crying when people die. “What’s wrong with you?” she asks, and I find myself asking the same question. It’s a free pass to be inconsolable, and I never take it. I restock the napkin holder and search for more ice, instead.

The elementary school nurse is surprised that I have been stung several times by a hornet and reacted by walking into her office, holding out my arm, and announcing, “I think it was a hornet this time. Can I have some ice?” without shedding a tear or hissing in pain. I go back outside immediately.

You just disconnect, float above it all, and never, ever think about it again with an ounce of vulnerability. I let myself fly into that second place that isn’t here and lose myself in the quiet.

But I’m not entirely deadened to emotion, that certainly is clear. I save it all for the trivial, selfish stuff. I get depressed about nothing, spend time staring at walls and lying in bed. I have panic attacks and freak out about imagined gas fumes. I cry about writing essays. I am often consumed by shame and self-loathing. Cecelia’s phone can tell you just how often I reach out to her when I’m upset. And I am also one of those saps who bursts into tears during Water.org’s videos about bring wells to impoverished people or during Matthew’s proposal in Downton Abbey.

Sometimes I ask for the balance to be switched. How much more social acceptable, easier, and moral it would be to react so extravagantly to life changing things. Let’s bring it back to zero, re-calibrate, and begin again. Please, God? If not for me, for the people I affect?

But of course that never changes. My brain came wired a certain way. I was a glum child, prone to tears and insecurities, more likely to play by myself in the corner than hang out with other children. There are infinite memories of wandering around classrooms and playgrounds at recess, lost in my own thoughts, creating narratives describing what I saw or creating stories about lives I imagined living. Why chase people across the asphalt when you can sit under the slide and pretend to live on the Prairie in 1870.

There’s my school picture from when I was four: sad faced and looking sightly away from the camera, arms folded on top of a book, the page open to a picture of an owl swooping down on a mouse. The memory of being told to smile, but instead staring past the photographer to the other children running about and playing, wondering what it would be like to join in, but knowing all the same that I wouldn’t. One more day of walking in circles, thinking and waiting for something extraordinary to happen.

I tell Cecelia that I’m feeling sad right now, and I suppose I am on some level—the allure of lying down and enjoying the silence of my bedroom is tantalizing, a sure sign of something being wrong—but I feel just fine. I’ll have heard from all of the schools within a week, and then I’ll begin to plan.

For now, I’ll think of ways to decorate a dorm room and pretend that I’m the main character in the novel I’m writing, a girl who is always like the animated, foot-in-mouth, passionate about everything Ella. I’m so very tired.

Tomorrow, we’ll go on a rollicking adventure where I’ll be the bouncy, extroverted Ella I’m half of the time. We’ll be goofy and happy together. I promise.

On another note, I learned today that lucid dreaming isn’t something that everybody does. I’ve been aware that I am dreaming and capable of waking myself up or changing the dream ever since I can remember. When I talk about waking up screaming and punching, it’s because I’m sort of physically fighting my way awake, not because I’m suddenly in a panic.

Ella and Leigh Grow Up

I went to Leigh’s this afternoon to hang out before she jetted off across the country to college. She’s lived far away for over a year and a half now, and I have to admit that it feels weird when we spend time together while we’re home. Not a bad weird, mind you, there’s just a stark difference in the people we were before she left and the people we are now.

Today, Leigh and I talked about Kony 2012, the World Bank, and diversity in STEM at her university. I don’t think that any of these subjects would have come up previously, even when we were finishing up high school. Then, conversation would be about the people we knew, performing arts, or school. And earlier while we were in middle school, we would have been running about with dolls or planning our “Knight School” (Perhaps I’ll write about Knight School in a coming post, as the whole idea and its execution was, in retrospect, equally hilarious and ridiculous.). We were so innocent and juvenile in middle school, fiercely holding on to childhood when everyone else was beginning to think about boys, clothes, and makeup. We vowed to wear black on our thirteenth birthdays to protest becoming a teenager and would loudly object if anyone used a swear word or was remotely crass within our earshot.

But over time and especially in the last two years, we’ve grown up. Our voices still sound the same, Leigh’s bedroom still has the same Gone with the Wind poster near the mirror, I still don’t swear, but we’ve lost the childish impulse to yell “llama” or blather on and on about American Girl (Leigh performed regularly in their musicals for close to three years, and I got to use her discount when purchasing stuff for my dolls—a friendship perk which I embraced wholeheartedly.). We’re calmer now, more mature, able to talk about meaningful things, and that makes me happy.

There was always that part of me that worried that as I grew up, I turn into someone younger me would have hated. Maybe I would be too rebellious (though to twelve-year-old me that meant swearing, staying up past midnight, and wearing too much black—and I’ve indulged in the second almost every night for years now) or too serious. Even worse, I might lose interest in all of the things I formerly loved. But none of that happened.

Younger me would admire older Ella and Leigh. They talk just like adults and really understand the implications of current events, but still burst out laughing if they catch each other’s eye when someone has unknowingly referenced some old inside joke or humors memory. We may no longer play with dolls, but we look back on those days fondly, and I don’t think a day will come when we won’t get over excited or obsessive about books. I really look forward to the coming years, as we continue to become real adults, with the security of knowing that the things that matter will never change.

French Grandmothers, Vintage Clothing, and Me

There has been much excitement in our house this evening.

First, my father is spending more time winning than losing when playing FIFA, leading to a drastic decrease in the amount of cursing coming from the family room. (Darling Pippa, we did a fantastic job with his Christmas present this year.)

But mostly it’s because I have new–or should I say old–clothes, and I’ve been enthustiastically been playing dress-up for hours.

It would be one thing to just post a picture of the clothes and shout, “Hey! Look! I have more fancy vintage! And this is a terrible iPhone picture of me wearing it!” But everything is so much more exciting when the back-story gets told, so here is the very long-winded explanation:

My mémé, grand-tantes, and grandmémé are/were the sorts of women who wear custom clothes made in Paris and London and dress for dinner. They believe in elegance, class, and criticizing, in French, seven-year-olds who can’t scoop up their peas without getting a few on the tablecloth. Tee-shirts belonging to thirteen-year-old must be steamed if they get wrinkly in a duffel bag, and you’d have to be insane to think about so much as going to the bathroom before making your bed. They can also tell from over twenty feet whether or not you’ve used hospital corners. (Not that I’ve leaned any of this from experience, of course) chafes at the rigidity, but I enjoy it immensely. They amuse me and annoy me, but they’re like no one else I’ve ever met, and I love them dearly for it.

Their wardrobes are amazing–a wonderful collection of fashion from the 1920s onward. There are woolen coats from the forties, sleek cocktail dresses from the sixties, and long Laura Ashley skirts from the eighties. There are more clip-on earrings than you can imagine and one of my grand-tantes, Yvette (Amusingly, all of the women are either Yvette, Victoire, or Camilla, which leads to much confusion, though this generation seems to have thankfully broken from that tradition), will happily supply you with the story of how every item of her outfit was selected, if you so much as mention liking her shoes. (I can tell you about most of her pairs of black pants, thanks to an off-hand comment I made three years ago while we were sailing. It was a fascinating forty-five minutes, I assure you.)

And occasionally, I get given some of their clothing. When I was younger, there were children’s clothes: Merimekko frocks and dresses with matching bows.

Poor Natasha. Pippa was overenthusiastic about that cat when she was little. To be fair, though, I was probably the one who directed her to hold the cat and pose for this picture.

Anyone who has ever been forced to wear big bows like these, will surely be able to commiserate over how much they would tug at your hair, often ripping it out, but still manage to slip down to your ears at least twice during the meal.

Pippa, our cousins, and I are professionals at amusing ourselves at parties intended for adults. At this one, I believe we hid under a table and tried to decide who was wearing the best shoes. Well, that, and making funny faces at the photographer.

And, of course, who doesn’t let their six-year-old wear a hat from the twenties, fur, and a sixties cocktail dress, pinned up so that it won’t drag on the ground?

Isn't she glamourous?

It’s odd what you often remember from events. I’m quite forgetful when it comes to food, but I will remember the clothes. I can tell you in great detail what it felt like to wear that pink dress in the first photograph, just how stiff the fabric was, starched so profusely so that it would be impossible for me to wrinkle during the car ride, and the way that the back of the dress stood straight up on its own when I sat.

Cecelia is forever mentioning the way that I can recall what other people were wearing, and I have to consciously remind myself not mention the last time somebody was wearing something, so that I don’t make them uncomfortable.

But back to my mother’s side of the family and clothing.

Around the time that I was fourteen, I really started to appreciate fashion. It was interesting and exciting and not something designed for kids’ dress-up parties or boring events.

Old clothing has stories. Dresses get worn to dinners where husbands are met or while traveling across Greece to study architecture. Maybe it was what one of them was wearing when World War II ended or when the USA won the hockey gold metal in the 1980 Olympics. When I put on some of their clothing, I feel like like I’m becoming part of a history that doesn’t just begin and end with traveling from a factory to a store to my dresser.

Unfortunately, I am the smallest female, both in height and in width. My mémé is nearly six feet, and an eight-inch height difference is quite a bit. But I’m handy with a sewing kit or–in a pinch–safety pins, so I’d happily wear whatever was given to me.

Perhaps whatever is a bit of a strong word in this case, as there is a puce green velvet blazer, which I have no idea how to wear. And my mother also refuses to let me leave the house if it looks like I’m wearing a “costume,” a rule that I am forever trying to disobey.

I mean, I understand that wearing a calico prairie-style dress from the seventies isn’t really grocery shopping attire and wearing a white Puritan-style bonnet with it makes me look like the Amish met Laura Ingalls Wilder, but it’s not like I’m baring my midrift or wearing a lime green wig (both ideas I had for school outfits when I was ten). And maybe wearing a felt hat to babysit a six-year-old is a little much as well.

But isn’t clothing about having fun? I love wearing flannel nightgowns that come up to my chin and down to my ankles or gingham matching pajamas to bed and skirts from the fifties to school!

Sadly, I have heard, “You are not leaving the house until you look normal,” too many times to count, and Pippa loves laughing at me when I decide to pretend that it’s a different decade. And when I am intentionally dressing up for an event, I tend to go overboard with trying to make things look period (cue 1940s victory rolls for a dance marathon that took about two hours to perfect.) Then, of course, there was the theme day in middle school when I decided that it would be hilarious to dress up like the 1880s instead of the 1980s, because “no one specified what century!” and everyone laughed at me for wearing petticoats I had fashioned out of white eyelet peasant skirts.

So when my mother announced that she had some new clothing for me from her latest trip down south, I practically squealed. And by practically squealed, I mean that I got very excited. I prefer to leave squealing to pigs and easily excited Justin Beiber fans (I get the feeling that they’d be the squealing type).

Of course, my mémé had not only carefully re-ironed everything after it had come back from the cleaners, but had also packed it with tissue paper in sealed bags, so as to keep it as neat as possible.

I now have the most amazing cream colored white blouse, with beautiful lace detailing, and a long flowered dress with a Peter Pan collar and a sash. Plus, my mémé is also sending two coats from the forties and another hat! I’m a very, very, very happy girl. My mother promised that I could finally get some of my other vintage skirts taken in, as most of them are around a size six and I’m a double zero, so my wardrobe will be expanding even more!

I wanted to get proper photographs of all of the outfits I put together, but both digital cameras were dead. Instead, enjoy a terrible picture my Dad took with my iPhone. You can’t see any of the detailing on the blouse, the interesting waist on the skirt, or my shoes, but it’s better than nothing. You can also tell that I am busy trying to give my father instructions while he’s taking the picture, hence the strange expression.

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

Ella and Virginia

This weekend, I drive south.

I’m not sure what it is about rural Virginia that attracts me, but it does, and I find myself missing it all the time.

There were county fairs as a child, riding tired ponies in a circle for five minutes while parents snapped photographs, big slices of ham to eat, watching the very odd spectacle of sheep-showing, and tiny pieces of hay stuck in my hair. We visited battlefields, famous houses, cemeteries, farms, antique fairs, and restaurants. Dad gave history lessons.

Pippa threw up on me in the car.

I threw up in a parking lot after eating a hamburger.

Once, we spent a day going to the Route 11 potato chip factory where I ate my weight in fried chicken flavored chips. I discovered barbecue and hush puppies and there was no turning back.

Of course, there were the hikes up mountains, catching the Appalachian trail for ten miles or so, and defiantly sitting down on logs and refusing to budge another inch, only to get back up and march uphill for another two miles looking as sullen as possible.

I began my first in-depth study of regional accents.

And then it was gone.

We moved and weekends spent exploring life outside of the city were over.

Sure, we go back from time to time. A year and a half ago, I spent a week working with my church in true Appalachia, repairing trailers (This was the time when I fell through the floor, but that’s another story for another day.), which was amazing, but not the same as the luxury of frequent trips into the area.

But for three days, I’ll get to feel a little bit like nothing has changed, that I’m just on another weekend excursion into one of my favorite corners of the world, and that will be wonderful.

In other news, my ability to make typos is particularly embarrassing when it is in a post about teaching. In my defense, however, I’d like to point out that I was extraordinarily tired at the time and wasn’t fully mentally present.

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

Words Do Not Always Mean What I Think They Do: In Which I Say Some Very Strange and Embarrassing Sentences

The readers have spoken and with a majority of 39.13% at the time of this post “Words Do Not Always Mean What I Think They Do: In Which I Say Some Very Strange and Embarrassing Sentences” has won. So let the embarrassment begin!

As I’ve said in previous posts, I make naive assumptions a lot. Especially when I was younger, I created my own, very sheltered world where absolutely nobody would ever do anything like use drugs or be crude. Those sorts of things only existed on the page or screen. And as the sole inhabitant of Ella’s Sheltered World, I just let everything that didn’t fit into this schema fall by the wayside.

I middle school, I was shocked to learn that “suck” and “screw” weren’t words that you could throw around like “darn” and “gosh.” And it wasn’t until last year that I learned that “screw you” actually has meaning behind it. Of course, both of these things were discovered when I said them in front of a lot of people who should not have been hearing things like this come out of my mouth.

To continue, there were several funny incidents beginning at the age of nine when I would use the words behind Harry Potter spells to refer to things. “Engorgio” got me into a lot of trouble during a Christmas party, though it was laughed off by the adults who knew that I had no idea what I was saying.

And it wasn’t until I was around fifteen that I learned that “breaking wind” had nothing to do with wind resistance, which made for a very strange remark in a science class.

There were also the typical childhood confusion with song lyrics. In the song, “Home on the Range,” there’s a line that goes:

“Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

Well, I thought that “seldom” was a discouraging word.

And it wasn’t until I saw Roger McGuin in concert at sixteen that I learned the my favorite Bob Dylan song, “My Back Pages” did not include the line:

“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that cow”

and instead was supposed to go:

“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”

I’m surprised that I didn’t figure it out sooner, as “cow” made little to no sense, but I continued singing it with that butchered line for over sixteen years (or however long it was once I learned how to sing).

Then, there is the matter of me failing to understand innuendoes, and standing around obliviously and interjecting with weird comments while people are talking about things like sex or drugs. I always seem to assume that people are actually talking about something else that’s far less sensitive and vulgar, and end up entirely confused.

The list could go on and on, and I’m sure that if I pressed my parents and friends, they could list all sorts of specific examples of things I have said or misunderstood over the years, but it is getting quite late, and I am incredibly tired. I’ll add them below as people remind me of them.

In other news, apparently there was some big awards show tonight. Tomorrow, I will feast my eyes on all of the pretty dresses! With the exception of The Oscars, I can never really get into the televised awards shows–too many over-the-top performances and often boring hosts, and people like Katie Perry and the actors of Glee don’t exactly interest me.

I also hang out at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, where I can be found reblogging pretty images, funny .gifs, and the occasional liberal article.

Young Ella and the Unfortunate Outfit

I recently discovered this picture of me from elementary school.

And I have to wonder, why on earth did I think that this was a good idea? My mother’s sneakers, my soccer socks and shorts, various bizarre necklaces, a vintage negligee*, pink feather boa, literal rose-tinted glasses, and blue bow clip. I have memories of actually wearing this to school and running around at recess trying not to trip over the toes of the too big shoes.

Though I must admit that as crazy as this outfit was, I’m very blessed to have parents who were okay with me wearing it out of the house. It was rare that I was ever constricted creatively, and it’s always fun to look back at the insane things I managed to get myself into.

*Thanks to my grandmother and great-grandmother, I have a lot of (very conservative–we’re talking ones that go down to your toes) negligees from the early twentieth century. They make excellent wall art or fit wonderfully in Pippa’s closet where I occasionally drag them out and wonder what to do with them. I have determined that whatever I did in that photograph is not a good look.

The Reason Why My Mouth Hurts When I See Whisks

With a whopping 67% of the vote, “The Reason Why My Mouth Hurts When I See Whisks” won this week’s reader-selected topic.

Now, this story would make sense if I were a toddler or even under the age of six. Alas, when the whisk incident went down, I was ten, which makes it a bit embarrassing and even more amusing.

For Christmas 2003, one of our neighbors gave us a beautiful Christmas card and an ornament. It was a very nice, thoughtful gift–the stationary was thick and glossy, depicting Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms, face aglow at the wonder of his birth (though quite frankly every new mother I’ve ever met has looked that much in awe and in love with her baby), and the ornament was a very small whisk, hung on a thin red ribbon, a reference to how much my mother loves cooking.

My mother was thrilled, propping the card up on the windowsill in the dining room and immediately hanging the miniature whisk on the tree. I was almost equally as excited. Sure, the card was lovely, but that wonderfully shiny whisk was just the right size for my American Girl Dolls’ hands, large enough to look a little strange and unwieldily in the way that all whisks do, yet the right size to make eggs or flour light and fluffy.

The moment my mother left the room, I snuck over to the tree and untangled the ribbon from the branch. This whisk was clearly destined to be mine. I selfishly fondled it in my hands for a moment, tracing my fingers over the twisted metal.

And then, I did something unexplainable.

I put the whisk into my mouth and bit down.

I was long past the age of putting things in my mouth to figure out how they worked. I wasn’t even teething.

Perhaps it was the shiny steel or how deliciously devious I felt wedged between the wall and the tree. Maybe I was hungry.

But whatever the reason was, I had abandoned all common sense. Whisks, even miniatures ones that almost fit, do not belong in mouths, and you most certainly should never bit them.

As I released my jaw, I discovered that the whisk was stuck. A tine was jammed between each set of my front two incisors–top and bottom–making me unable to open my mouth. I tugged at the handle, but it was no use. That whisk wasn’t going anywhere.

I may have just made an incredibly stupid decision, but I was not entirely lacking in intelligence. I knew that if I left my hiding place and sought help, everyone would know that I had been trying to nick the ornament, and I would get in trouble. So I tried to dislodge it again. And again. And again. It didn’t budge.

After five minutes of fruitless tugging, I began to cry. Having a whisk stuck in your mouth is painful. My teeth were being shoved apart, and my gums were throbbing. I was suddenly sure that I was going to be stuck with a whisk in my mouth for the rest of my life. The kids at school would call me whisk-head or something else ridiculous, but not ridiculous enough not to make me upset. My life was over, and I was going to have to starve to death behind the Christmas tree. I wondered if the pine scent would hide the smell of my decaying body.

A few more minutes of silent sobbing later, I gathered what was left of my courage and ran into the kitchen, crying and pointing at my mouth. My parents were shocked to see their ten-year-old daughter, who earlier that day had been sitting upside down on the couch reading Fast Food Nation, with a whisk stuck in her mouth and bawling like a banshee.

Thankfully, I was not subject to any questioning while they helped me dislodge each of the metal tines from between my teeth. Even though over eight years have passed, I can still feel that horrible scrape of the metal against my enamel as my mouth was slowly released. It was a horrible, disgusting feeling, not only because I knew that I had most likely caused permanent damage to my front teeth, but also because everyone was going to know just how stupid I was. And I was so determined to be finally be taken seriously and be allowed to sit at the “adult table” at dinner parties*.

When I was finally freed from my tine-y prison**, I ran down the hall to the bathroom to look at my teeth. They remained perfectly straight, still guaranteeing me entry into the no-braces-ever club, but there was a noticeable, albeit slight, space in between my top two teeth and another one, even smaller, between my bottom two incisors. My gums were, surprisingly, not bleeding, but looked red and angry all the same.

The ornament was washed and placed back on the tree within the hour, dangling from a branch, reflecting the white glow from the fairy lights almost too innocently. I glared back, willing it to look at least a little guilty for hurting me, though the entire experience had, admittedly, been my fault.

The next day, when I walked into the kitchen to make myself breakfast–two glasses of orange juice and all of the oatmeal I can consume, please–I noticed one of my mother’s people-sized whisks mixed in with other cooking utensils in crockery next to the stove. I raised my hand to my mouth and winced as I briefly had a flashback of the pain, the panic, and the terrible scrapping. Later that day when I saw the whisk, I winced again, and it repeated every time I looked at the ornament or the unoffending ones in the kitchen.

These unfortunate whisk flinching and flashback moments have not decreased over the years, and every time I think or see a whisk, my mouth briefly hurts with phantom pain. Christmastime and seeing that ornament again only makes it worse. This year, I succeeded in jamming it back into its box before anyone had a chance to hang it on the tree, which has made the holiday season considerably more enjoyable.

So there you have it: another example of why you should never be greedy and nick ornaments off of a tree.

An alternate take-away from this post is that Ella is sometimes very foolish.

Or we could all have a laugh about ornaments and the silly, silly things we did as children.

Do you have any funny Christmas stories? Feel free to tell them in the comments!

*Ten-year-old Ella, one day you are going to be eighteen and still be forced to sit at the folding table in the sunroom. However, you will be allowed to stay up as late as you want and talk with adults starting when you’re about fourteen. So stop complaining and go eat the pint of blueberries you hid under your bed again.

**Hahahaha. Puns, I can make them, you guys! Puns! (I should start writing these posts sometime before ten p.m. when I start to get giggly.)

I’m putting up another poll for next week’s reader-selected post down below. A lot of people want me to talk about food, so I’ve added that as an option as well. Hopefully, I’ll get my post about going to see John and Hank Green up before the end of the weekend. 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.

Five-Year-Old Ella and the Time She Got Caught on a Fence and Ripped Through Her Underpants

As I am feeling particularly goofy tonight, I thought that I would tell a funny story.

When I was a child, we had a backyard that could be accessed via a very tall (close to seven feet, if memory serves me well) wooden gate. But for the longest time, I could not figure out how to opperate it. So instead of going through the house to get into the backyard, I would climb up our neighbors’ chain link fence, grab hold of the top of our fence, and very awkwardly drop down into the yard, hopefully avoiding a hydrangea bush.

Unsurprisingly, this very bizarre and inefficient method never worked very well, and I had a tendency to get stuck in the process. Now, pretty much any five-year-old will panic in this situation, but I would also start to flail, in an attempt to get free. Normally, I would tumble down fairly easily and go on my merry way, but I once got caught by the hem of my dress on the top of the chain link fence, and somehow ended up hanging upside down, suspended by my dress and underpants.

When I finally fell face-first into some ivy, I discovered that while my dress did not appear to be harmed, I had somehow managed to rip through my underpants. However, we’re not talking a little rip around the hem, here, they actually had ripped horizontally through the crotch. It looked like a weird sort of loincloth.

Amusingly, because I was only five at the time, I just got up, walked through the house, and went to play in the backyard without mentioning the rip to anyone or changing my underpants. I cannot remember how I ended up getting rid of the underpants–whether I tried to toss them or bury them in the backyard (Person who purchased our house, please do not dig under the pine tree in the corner, or you’ll be very, very sorry. Also, there is a dead cat in a trash bag under the butterfly bush, who was layer to rest with a proper Christian funeral, complete with a eulogy, so you might not want to mess with that, either.), like I did the time I ripped and bloodied a shirt while messing about with a curtain rod and slate roofing tiles.

I wish I could say that this was the last time I ever got caught on a fence, ripped through a pair of underwear, or fell on my face, but alas it is not. Fortunately, with the exception of a very unfortunate experience in the pond at summer camp, none of these repeat experiences have been very awful.

Note: When deciding whether or not to hurdle over a fence, it should be taken into consideration that fences are often higher than they look. This especially applies to the one in the yard of my beach house. I do not know this from experience or anything.

In the spirit of democracy, and because I’m very curious to know what my readers think, why don’t you scroll on down to these three polls and vote.

 

 

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.